Have you ever met someone who, without even trying, changed the way you perceived yourself? Until today, I’ve never had such an encounter, not in this profound and positive manner. And to be frank, I’m astounded by the emotional growth I’ve experienced in a mere six hours. I know, I know…such things are bursts of energy, not a lasting, change. 

But I’ve had a mindshift, and it’s everlasting. 

I met Aimee Copeland this afternoon. But can I tell you, I felt her presence before she introduced herself? We had an appointment to meet at the Chattahoochee Nature Center near Atlanta. She was already there, waiting outside, when I arrived. It was as I first walked toward her, that I felt it. “You must be Danita”, she said. Think what you will, but I promise you, a very confident, strong, warm, sincere and sweet spirit greeted me in the space between she and I…in advance of that verbal greeting. My friend Dani was with me, and she experienced the same. 

Perhaps her name is familiar to you. Aimee had a zip-line accident about five years ago, and as a result, lost limbs, and nearly lost her life. Given the same situation, most of us would have succumbed to defeat. But something didn’t allow Aimee to give up. I believe it was that spirit I witnessed today. Inner strength. Faith. Hope. Love of life. 

Aimee has started a foundation, the Aimee Copeland Foundation.  She has a plan to create a nature park accessible to people with disabilities. She understands how difficult, if not impossible, public parks and gyms are for people with disabilities. As a psychologist and athlete, she also understands how detrimental a life lived solely indoors is to our emotional well-being. (Maybe someone will be able to help her out…She’s looking for land on which to build her dream. Donated land would be awesome!). 

What was the purpose of my meeting with Aimee?  Yoga. 

For several years, I’ve been losing the ability to walk unassisted…the residual effects of a battle I had with Goliath. I’ve tried to hide it. It feels like another assault, it feels personal. I’ve been embarrassed by the falls and stumbles. I’ve felt the red hot sting of humiliation in asking a stranger for help out of a chair, or an arm for steadiness…otherwise risk losing my balance and falling like a skidrow drunk. I’ve sat in my car at Dellinger Park, praying, trying to will my legs to have the balance and strength they used to have, to walk the hills and trails. Or make laps around the track. I’ve cried privately to God, knowing that barring a miracle from Him, I’m going to eventually be in a chair. I’ve been able to maintain hope for improvement, but lately I’ve felt a bit defeated. Believing it was time to accept my destiny and give up unrealistic expectations. 

Then today happened. I met this beautiful young woman…Aimee. Beforehand, I knew she was in a chair. But upon meeting her, I did not see her chair. I didn’t see her prosthetics. I saw life. I saw and felt a vibrantly beautiful life. Hope. 

I did yoga with her. Outside. In a public place. On video. And I wasn’t embarrassed. I wasn’t hyper aware of my imperfections. I did not feel inferior.                                                  It felt good to be outside, moving my body again. I left there today feeling like I can conquer the world, as long as I do it in small portions, consistently. 

Thank you, Aimee. That giant has not defeated me after all.