My idea of space may not be what others mean by the idea. For me, space is not clearing out everything from my life, seeking quietness and solitude. Space is being around people, doing what I love, and having the freedom to think without other demands harrowing me. The day after the specialist appointment where I was finally handed permission to sort through the trauma of my spinal cord injury was one such day. I spent the morning writing and getting organised for what promised to be an intense long weekend. This Friday was a warm day, perfect for an afternoon drive through countryside, on our way to Victor Harbor. I, of course, was not driving. A good friend and fellow co-worker was at the wheel. We were both quite tired for very different reasons, so the drive to Victor was spent drifting in and out of conversation, both at ease in silence, yet happy to talk if that is what the other preferred. Dinner was an extension of the same. We sat in a cafe, overlooking Encounter Bay, both reading, not talking. Because we could. That was the space we both needed.
We made our way to Victor Harbor for a purpose. We had the privilege of spending an entire long weekend doing what we love. We came to Victor Harbor for what we call CV Conference; a weekend for delegates to explore gospel ministry as a vocation. My part in the weekend was to coach and co-lead a small group of delegates. This doesn’t sound too onerous in words, but what the weekend demands is a lot of talking, relational work, being ready to listen, as well as being prepared to challenge. Nothing up the front, thankfully. I wasn’t dreading this weekend, but I was tentative. So many questions were quietly gnawing at me. Would I be able to keep my routines? Will I have enough energy to make it through a day? How will I go with having to walk distances around the conference site? How am I going to answer the questions from delegates that are bound to be asked? How will I go with the awkward silence when some delegates may not be willing to ask why I now have a walking stick? I could keep going. But I won’t. I still don’t know what is worse. The conversations that are so polite because people don’t want to directly ask about the elephant in the room, or the blunt questions. This was going to be a good test to see if I truly have learnt how to manage myself well.
However, any slight concerns that were forgotten when we walked into our accommodation. The conference team had put us in a cabin set up for people with disabilities. This made life a little easier and I’m very thankful for the thoughtfulness of the team who planned to accommodate my ‘new normal’. I had to make peace very quickly with the fact that I wouldn’t be eating as many meals with the conference. I just couldn’t keep the pace of mealtimes and sessions. I also knew that managing myself well for the sake of participating at the conference for the long haul meant that I needed to keep to my strict diet. I also had to accept that I couldn’t sit in the conference sessions for the entire time, even though I tried at first. Making these conscious decisions, and choosing freely to adapt, I realised just how far I had come. Before all this happened, I would have pushed myself to the edge of my boundaries, and beyond. I now accept that I do have limits and I have learnt how to respect them, rather than fighting. I was still spent physically and emotionally by the end of the conference. I doubt though that I would have been present the whole conference if I had tried to sprint through from the beginning. And so I found the answers to all my unspoken questions during the weekend. By respecting my limits, I had the patience and capacity to answer the questions, to raise gently the unasked questions, to have the temerity to keep going and not to shy away from being in such a public space.
So getting into the car at the end, there was a sense of satisfaction that I had forgotten. The satisfaction of playing my part without hindrance. Meandering our way back to Adelaide through Port Elliot, we contentedly entered that space again; driving in silence, sometimes talking, eating lunch with books open, overlooking the sea. Even this space is about respecting our limits. Knowing what we need to do now so that we can do tomorrow well.