Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 39 — Ugh, the spirit is willing but the flesh is so weak!

I woke up feeling like death this morning. I wasn’t particularly sore, luckily, but I was just feeling generally drained. The distance and emotional roller coaster of this trip is finally beginning to take its toll–it was definitely tough dragging myself out of bed. After getting up, moving around and drinking some OJ, I managed to shake out the cobwebs a bit, but I definitely was operating on less than 100% today. Yes, the longer drive was tough, but I felt pretty good after it and the lack of pain in the shoulder and neck this morning indicate to me that the drive wasn’t too bad. While it seems easy to blame the lack of energy on the epic drive yesterday, I think the drain is more of a collective toll of the trip. It has definitely been a long month and my energy level has definitely been pushed to its limit.

But, I haven’t done enough…I must keep going…I will keep going. I refuse to stop until things are better, I owe it to everyone stuck without transportation in this province. I knew when I began this trip that it wouldn’t be easy–in fact, that is kind of the point. The reality is that driving your wheelchair across the province is not feasible. It is dangerous. It is complicated. It is tiring. It is painful. It is a trip I have spent the past year planning, where most people would travel the same distance with maybe a week of forethought. The Mobilize March is not the solution to our transportation woes. The disabled population cannot be forced to drive and wheel ourselves around our communities–it will literally kill us, much like this trip has picked away at me: at my body, at my spirit, at my energy. I grow tired and need more and more sleep to get through this, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

You see, when I sleep, I often dream and while some of these dreams can be quite nice–of times past and distant friends–there is a recurring dream I started having about a year ago. While the specifics of the dream vary, the overriding premise is that I come across a friend with a disability who is drowning in a pit of quicksand. I circle the pit, attempting to pull them out but no matter what I do I cannot extradite them. The protagonist of this reoccurring dream often changes, although last night it featured my friend, little Natalie. She was calling out for me to help, her little tires kicking up dirt as the pit lurched upward and clung onto her. I would stretch my arm as far as I could, trying to grab hold, and like always I wake up just before our fingers touch.

I am literally being haunted by the strife being endured by thousands of disabled individuals across this province and all I can do is weep silently as I fall back to sleep. Sometimes I just feel so powerless to help. All around me, my friends are being forced to live half-lives because of the lack of transportation. Every day I do nothing to make things better, they die a metaphorical death both in real life and in my dreams, swallowed into a giant sandy grave. Trapped in their homes, in our homes, locked away from the public eye is not living…this is how we treat criminals in our society, we imprison them! What is their crime? Our crime? What have we done wrong? Do we deserve this treatment? Absolutely not! And I cannot sit by and allow this injustice to play out every single day across the province. Countless times on this trip I’ve been told change is coming “soon,” which often means in several years. There are 365 days in each year, that is at least 365 more days that we cannot be a part of this society. “Soon” means wondering how to get groceries for another 8760 hours. “Soon” means waiting another 525,600 minutes for a ride that may never show up. These problems are so huge and I am so small–what can a rural boy do? Honestly? Sometimes it’s so overwhelming I feel like these giant vices are clamping down on my chest, literally squeezing the air out of my tiny body. I feel like I’m letting everyone down.

But there is something important about my dream. The fact is, I wake up moments before reaching their hand, moments before pulling them out of this trap and I think that’s significant. In some bizarre way, my subconscious is sending me a valuable message, one that energizes me each and every day of this trip. Much like the transportation problem, being stuck in quick sand is a dire problem with two simple choices: do something and save your friend or do nothing and watch them sink. That is the choice we all must make: life or death, action or apathy. Sure I could sit around and say the quick sand is too strong, too deep, too tough for me to fight, or I can take action. I can fight and struggle and do everything in my power to save those who I love from its horrible talons. When put in those terms, I think the choice becomes crystal clear. Why would I ever sit by and watch this happen? It is for this reason that I must continue on, no matter how hard or tiring it may seem, because in the end it could make the difference between life and death.

Just like in my dream, this march is a life line cast out to anyone who is stuck. I may not be the strongest guy around, this trip has definitely proven that, but I promise you that I will never quit fighting, I will not give up, and I will not leave you stranded, despite the fact that we have all grown quite accustom to this standard of living.

That is what we all must do. We need to stop wasting time, worrying about how big the problem is or how complicated the solutions may be and start getting down to work. All I ask is you reach out and give me your hand. Reach out and offer your hand to anyone around you who is stuck.

In the end, I think this trip is my way of taking the hand of my trapped friend and doing my darnest to tug them out, and Natalie, I promise I will not letting go!

– Jeff

By Jeffrey Preston

Born with a rare neuromuscular myopathy, Jeff has spent his life dedicated to advocating for himself and others with disabilities. With a PhD in Media Studies from Western University, Jeff's research focuses on the representation of disability in popular and digital culture. Jeff is currently an Assistant Professor of Disability Studies at King's University College @ Western University in London, ON.