The weekend of September 27th I was able to attend the Vertically Retreat in Park City, Utah. It was hosted by Sarah Foley (Vertical Blonde), who is the creator of the Disability Icon workout program that I’ve been a part of, which I discussed in my post My Fitness Journey with Disability Icon.
The weekend started with a 7 am flight out of Jacksonville, Florida, with a three-hour layover in Detroit, before landing in Salt Lake City. This was my first time flying in a wheelchair, and I did the trip solo, which was a huge accomplishment.
It felt amazing to travel across the country completely by myself (and with Lassie) and it gave me so much confidence. The airport experience wasn’t that much different from a typical flight. I got to breeze through security and I was the first to get on the plane.
To get onto the plane I have to transfer onto an aisle chair, since the aisle of a plane is so narrow, and then transferred into my seat. I took everything off of my chair that I could, my backpack, the cushion, the leg strap, etc., and crossed my fingers that they didn’t destroy my chair while loading it up into the plane (they didn’t!).
It was also Lassie’s first time flying, and she did amazing! I got really lucky with all of my flights except for the last one home and had an empty seat next to me so that she was able to spread out. She slept through the majority of the flight, and only got scared as we landed because it was so loud, but honestly who doesn’t! On the last flight the plane was completely full, but Lassie had gotten so used to having her own seat that she just spread out on the people in my aisle… luckily they were dog people and didn’t mind :)
Delta has a small room in every airport designated for service dogs to use the bathroom, complete with a patch of fake grass and a fake fire hydrant. During my layover in Detroit I took Lassie to this room so that she could go potty. It didn't smell very good but it did the trick!
When I landed in Salt Lake City, me and my roommate for the weekend, Karli, were picked up and driven to the resort in Park City. The first night we had a cocktail party where we finally got to meet all of the girls in person along with all of the guest speakers for that weekend.
After the cocktail party, I decided to be spontaneous (with the influence of Karli) and that’s when we cut my hair! It was nerve racking, but it was fun and I’m so happy it’s finally one length. I'm still trying to adjust to short hair... but that's a topic for another time...
We started Saturday and Sunday with workouts facilitated by Jake Havron, then listened to different speakers throughout the day about healing, finances, and female sexuality.
On Sunday we had a photoshoot with the unleaSHE Campaign, where we had the opportunity to write four negative and four positive words that we think of ourselves on our backs. While doing the photoshoot, they took us through an emotional process where we would think of and try to portray how those words made us feel, and then they would wipe away the negative words as you released their hold on you.
It was a cool experience and I'm happy I did it, but I wasn’t able to dive into the emotions as much as I had hoped. I had a hard time getting into the right mindset (I was having a great weekend and didn't really want to make myself feel sad!), but it’s allowing me to recognize the things that I've let have a hold on me and to slowly release that weight from my shoulders.
One big accomplishment from this weekend is that I finally did a floor transfer on my own!! We were all down on the floor working out one morning and I knew it was the perfect opportunity to watch everyones floor transfers and get some pointers.
When it came time for me to try to get up off of the floor, I attempted the transfer that I've been taught in PT and have shared some videos of my progress. I was so close, but still not quite there.
Everyone could see how close I was, and so one of the girls talked me through the way that she gets back into her chair. With everyone surrounding me and supporting me, they cheered me on as I FINALLY completed a floor transfer completely on my own!
It felt amazing to accomplish this goal, and with everyone watching and cheering me on. At the beginning of every round of Disability Icon, Sarah has us set three attainable and measurable goals for ourselves, whether they're related to fitness, nutrition, confidence, whatever. I've set probably six goals for myself throughout the program, from lose thirty pounds to wear a tank top to participating in more outdoor activities, and I realized that weekend that this was the last of my goals that I needed to reach.
I thought it was really cool that I was able to accomplish the last of my set goals while I was on this retreat, especially since Sarah was the one who had encouraged me to set ambitious goals for myself.
On the retreat we also had the opportunity to spend some time hanging out, getting to hear each other’s stories, and just building a stronger community of women in wheelchairs!
My favorite part was the community that has lasted more than just that one weekend. I’ve been in touch with a lot of the girls since, and hope to make plans to meet up again soon!
I'm so thankful I was able to take a few days off school, fly out to a new place, meet new people, and experience new things, completely on my own (and in the middle of the semester)!!
It was an experience I'll never forget for the independence, freedom, confidence, and community it allowed me to feel.