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  • "What is wrong with me?" I wondered as I stared up at my friends.

    As they bounced like toddlers on "the world's largest moon bounce," I stood on the cracked pavement and watched. When they were done, when they'd finished climbing and bouncing, they crawled down and I ran at their sides to the next obstacle in the course, something inflatable and safe, something designed with children in mind and expanded to include adults where I stood, watched and waited with sinking spirits. I couldn’t do it. I couldn't do any of it. I couldn’t even handle a moon bounce.

    "What is wrong with me?"

    When I honestly considered the question, I knew the answer. MS. Esclerosis múltiple. I had a progressive, degenerative disorder that had played with my balance for as long as I could remember. The question might have been better suited toward my signing up for the "Ridiculous Obstacle Course" in the first place. Had I honestly thought it sounded fun?

    At 7:30 Saturday morning, surveying things like the Moon Bounce, Tarzan Swing and Wrecking Balls, "fun" wasn't the thing I envisioned. I felt something closer to terror. I was terrified by the big fun toys.

    When we started running at 9, I thought I'd be fine. I would give it a try. My team was excited but not all that serious. Nobody planned to win a medal; there weren't any. There was foam. I just didn't expect so much bounce with it.

    I managed the first obstacle, the Tightrope Traverse (which was more of a slack rope that wiggled and jiggled with the steps of those before and after) with few problems at all, but the jog down the inflatable ramp felt too unsteady. I tried climb up to the Tarzan Swing but bounced right back down. I climbed a wall. I skipped the giant balls and jumping from one to another, and then, I took the foam-covered slip and slide.

    "F@&$!" I screamed after slipping, sliding and crawling followed by falling at the end of the tube.

    My friends raced over to pull me, foamy and foaming from a damp pile on pavement.

    I was done.

    Unfortunately, it wasn't the end of the course, nowhere close. It was probably number five of the 20 and I'd already skipped two.

    I considered leaving. I was just a few blocks from home. I could just go there, but I'd signed up with friends. One left her purse in my living room. I couldn't just leave her.

    Instead, I ran from obstacle to obstacle with the rest of my team, dodging potholes and determined to stay upright in the flat, easy part of the race. Then, I walked around big, bouncy things and watched my team swing and slide, bounce, fall and wade. Then, I ran with them to the next big, bouncy thing to do it again.

    The more obstacles skipped, the worse I felt. By the time we reached the finish line (through which I couldn't pass, bouncy and slippery as it was), I felt downright wretched.

    "A photo?" offered a bright, young assistant.

    I tried to decline but my team insisted.

    "I didn't do anything," I said as they pulled me in.

    I hadn't done anything. I couldn't do anything. I was terrified of giant bouncy things and inspired by kids' toys.

    I had failed.

    Hours later, after lunch with my friends, baking and napping, at a party, I found myself recounting the morning to others.

    "I felt like such a loser," I said. "It was supposed to be fun and I couldn't do any of it."

    "Fun?" a friend asked. "I don't think that sounds like fun at all. I think it sounds awful. Katie thinks it sounds awful. Nobody here would ever sign up for such a thing."

    And I laughed.

    She was right. I couldn't moon bounce, but that didn't matter. I couldn't play the viola, yodel or juggle flaming chainsaws either and I'd turned out just fine.
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