What have you done today to make you feel proud?

Jerome and Sedona:

The day started out pretty roughly, and there was a lot of tension within the group. We all had to wake up at 5AM to leave Prescott and head out to Jerome, and the drive there was treacherous. The roads were all in the side of a mountain, and were extremely windy. Thus, everyone was tense, stressed, and scared.

On top of that, Jerome/Sedona was our longest day, at a little under 16 miles and was ALL hills. Wait, scratch that–mountains.

Nevertheless, we carried on with our day, finishing only a couple of miles in Jerome and then heading on to do most of them in Sedona.

When we got to Sedona, we were already hurting and still had about 14 miles to walk. However, when we got out of the car (we started from the top of a mountain, where the airport is) we were awed by the view. It was absolutely gorgeous. I sat on a rock and just took some mental time to center myself and take it all in.

We started out and within 20 minutes we realized just how difficult the day would be. We were also walking to one of the steepest hills in Sedona to get to the Church on the Hill, a Catholic Church that is up one of the STEEPEST hills I’ve ever climbed (even hiking!!).

While walking up the hill, I was reminded of how Ehlers Danlos impacts my life. About half of the way up, my peroneal tendon popped. Just snapped. I felt a big pop and immediately had a lump on the side of my calf.

But you think back to why you’re walking, take a few minutes to wrap/brace your injuries, and carry on.

At 4pm we had a meeting with the Mayor of Sedona. He was very supportive of our journey and it was amazing to have someone have a positive and affirming conversation with us, especially after having such a difficult day! When we were done we continued walking. However,  we all just got so drained. By the time 6pm had come, we had all been up for over 12 hours, walking enormous hills and having mentally draining conversations. One by one, walkers dropped off, unable to continue without dehydration or serious injury. So, I, along with four others, finished the last 3.5 miles, the others right there with us in spirit.

Those last few miles were so difficult and I formed at least three new blisters in that time. However, when we finished, we realized the magnitude of what we had done–we were faced with the longest day (in terms of mileage) and hardest day (in terms of terrain/elevation) and finished.

At the end of the day, we all sat in silence in the car. Drained, both mentally and physically. We put on our congratulatory song, and as the music slipped out of the speakers and the artist asked us “what have you done today to make you feel proud?” I could see tears coming out of the corners of individuals eyes.

Flagstaff:

Today was our trip through Flagstaff, and I walked 12 miles with blisters covering the balls of both feet and a torn peroneal tendon.

The day was slightly shorter at a total of 14.2 miles, and the weather was GORGEOUS. I actually even wanted a sweatshirt in the morning!

As the day carried on, though, we realized how difficult those 14 miles would be. It was shorter, most definitely, but we all were feeling the pain that has built up over the past couple of days. Walkers with broken toes, blisters, strains, pulls, etc. And, much to our dismay, the HUGE hills were still following us.

What kept us going was the positivity. Our positivity and the welcoming waves, honks, and chants from townspeople driving by or walking by. People stopped us to ask us about our journey and wanted to hear our stories. And for 10 people hurting in places they ever new existed, it meant so so much.

One of the high points of my day was when we finally reached the midway point of our walk–49 miles. It obviously called for a celebration! So, we stopped on the side of the road to sing and dance. Bon Jovi, of course: “Woahh, we’re half way thereee!”

The high was short lived, unfortunately. After lunch we continued walking, and that is when I remembered how much I am personally sacrificed. Going up the big hills, my peroneal tendons hurt so badly. I pulled my sunglasses down over my eyes and the tears just fell while I was walking. The pain was terrible. But, time after time, and hill after hill, I kept persevering and finished every step of the day.

Those are the moments where the pain and hurt of the past come into your mind and provide you with strength to move forward. At frequent intervals, we all want to quit. Give up. Our feet are swollen. In random places we are either bleeding, oozing, bruising, or hurting. We are emotionally and mentally drained, often walking on five or six hours of sleep. We are moody, we are exhausted, and we have all either cried or wanted to.

Those are the moments I step back. Think of everything I discussed on Monday–and so much more. The arguement used for the monumental decision for Prop 8 in the past week was the same exact arguement (almost word for word) that was used in Loving vs Virgina to legalize interracial marriage. We think of our injustices and how we are oppressed and then take a moment to remember the communities that were oppressed in the past.

Interracial marriage was illegal until 1967. That’s not that long ago. When my mother was born, interracial marriages were still illegal. 1967. Forty-one years later, an interracial man was elected to presidency. If the decision is upheld when Prop 8 reaches the Supreme Court, every state in the US will have to allow same sex couples to marry.

But just because we have equal rights does not mean hearts and minds will change. That’s why we walk. To create change in the hearts and minds of people. To share our stories and find a bridge where everyone recognizes the value of human dignity. Straight, Gay, Bi, Black, Asian, White, Disabled, Abled.. We are all people. We all desreve the same dignity, respect, and rights as the person standing beside us.

At the end of the day, we think back to “I Believe” by Blessid Union of Souls.

“I’ve been seeing Lisa now for a little over a year
She said she’s never been so happy but Lisa lives in fear
That one day daddy’s gonna find out she’s in love
With a nigger from the streets
Oh how he would lose it then but she’s still here with me
‘Cause she believes that love will see it through
And one day he’ll understand
And he’ll see me as a person not just a black man

‘Cause I believe that love is the answer
I believe that love will find the way
I believe that love is the answer
I believe that love will find the way
Love will find the way

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