This website got its name back in the middle of 2014 for two reasons: 1. I was posting about the seemingly monumental task of recovery ahead of me, and 2. a few friends used to call me ‘The O’. I wanted to do a play on the name, but nothing seemed right. The Odyssey was too self-serious. The Opportunity didn’t make sense. The Ordeal wasn’t on the table.
Then ‘Overcoming’ came to me while driving back from a swim. It felt just right.
“Overcome: succeed in dealing with a problem or difficulty.”
“Overcome: defeat or prevail.”
Less than a year after my injury, and I knew I had a very large difficulty I had to deal with successfully. I had to prevail, to return to the Theo that I knew, the one I had always been. I was not going to let the limitations brought about by paralysis become me.
“TheOvercoming” felt like a perfect way to describe my journey back then.
It doesn’t anymore. Things have changed.
For a while it worked perfectly. I viewed what I was doing as overcoming limitations, overcoming the physical obstacles and the uncertainty about what would happen, overcoming the temptation to despair about my future while enduring the challenges of my present.
I never used words like “beat paralysis” or “defeat the enemy” – I never felt like I was battling a foe, even though that is a very common portrayal of recovery. It wasn’t ever that way for me.
But I did feel like there was an outside force, paralysis, which I was striving to prevent from becoming a part of me. Remember, I was hanging on to the old Theo. Allowing paralysis to be a part of me would be ‘giving in’.
It seemed pretty black & white: Theo Overcoming vs. Theo Paralyzed.
I can’t say exactly when this black-and-white understanding began to change, but there was a major turning point in mid-2017. After attending a workshop in Chicago on an esoteric subtopic of dance theory (separate story!), I wrote about how my time exercising on the floor is really what taught me to move again. I called it “listening to the wiggle,” because that’s what I look like when I experiment with new movement patterns. I admit, it looks goofy.
But learning to make my own movement happen did something much greater. I wrote at the time: “Learning to move through paralysis by listening to the wiggle has put me in touch with a more fundamental part of myself – one where my physical Disconnect is transcended by an internal recognition of the wholeness that still exists in my body.”
"Wholeness that still exists in my body": I was beginning to understand kinesthetically, instead of mentally or emotionally, how I was still a connected being. Thanks to my routine of floor-based exercise which I began then (and continue now every day), I was learning to move new parts of me while also beginning to think of them as truly part of me, not an outside force I had to overcome.
Now, I am a student again, one week into the next chapter of my life, and I no longer feel I am overcoming. I finished that phase, and am already on to the next!
I am not hanging on to the old Theo, and I’m no longer constantly striving to overcome obstacles to get to that old 'me'. I tried that, but found something else. Something much better. I’m pretty darn happy with the new Theo who took the time to figure out what he needs, and who is now working toward what he wants.
Every day now on campus I remind myself of how happy I am, to be where I am, when I say, “Nice to meet you, I’m Theo, and I’m so happy to be here.”
I am ending with a big THANK YOU to all my faithful readers & followers & responders who have cheered me along at every stage. Your support and encouragement has meant so much. With this transition back to school, and with my other projects gearing up early this year, I am closing this blog. After 3.5 years and 75 postings, it saddens me to do this. I’ll post again a couple times before I return to MIT, but not at the same frequency. In the meantime, you may find regular updates at Instagram.com/theostfrancis