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When Passions Collide

Editor's Note: Shelley Ann Morris is an AEBC member who lives in Ottawa, Ontario, and works at Volunteer Ottawa as a Recruitment and Referral Services Coordinator

There are two things that I am very passionate about--music and good health.
Although I’m not a musician, I have a deep appreciation for song. I was raised on jazz--classics like Louis, Ella and The Duke. My father is a huge fan, and that provided the soundtrack to my formative years. As I grew, so did my musical tastes. I discovered the jazz that I myself liked--fusion, acid and smooth jazz, which are my mainstays when I am studying or working. One of my favourite uncles was a classical music fan; his legacy includes an appreciation of classical music. We made several trips to the National Arts Centre and excursions to record and CD stores. One of our traditions was to see The Nutcracker at Christmastime.

A look through my iPod or CD collection is like a trip to anywhere! When I’m exercising, it’s straight ahead classic and 80s rock, 90s grunge and today’s alternative. My collection is also filled with plenty of rhythm&blues/soul, electronic/dance and adult urban music. I like my share of pop music, world music, and there are country songs that inspire me too.

Ottawa hosts many music festivals. I feed my musical addiction by volunteering at our Jazz, Blues and Folk Festivals. This allows me to get my fill and not have to spend a fortune on tickets! Volunteering at the festivals has allowed me to see many of my favourite artists and discover new ones. There’s nothing like being outside on a hot summer day, eating junk food and listening to good music. When the warm weather and the positive vibes work their magic, you know that you are living in the best place in the world!

I’ve been involved in an organized fitness program for the last 20 years. In 1990, an aerobics program was initiated at the CNIB in Ottawa. I jumped in enthusiastically and started seeing benefits right away. Unfortunately, our instructor moved to Toronto. Undaunted, I began fitness classes at the Dovercourt Recreation Centre. Along with low-impact aerobics, I added step, spinning, yoga and strength training to my regime. I’m an avid swimmer and feel as at home in the water as I do on dry land. What started out as weekly participation in an exercise class soon developed into a lifestyle that included a love of sports and fitness. I have conquered the CN Tower’s stairs 16 times, and run several 5K races and one 10K race. Recently, I was chosen to be one of 13 blind Canadians who will train for and participate in Won With One--a triathlon program. This is going to challenge me like I have never been challenged before! Being involved in sports and fitness has added life to years. I am 48 years old and never better! Growing up, I was always encouraged to make the most of my abilities regardless of restricted vision.

How do these passions collide? Next summer is going to be a challenge. My first triathlon takes place right in the middle of Bluesfest. I’ll be pulled in equally opposite directions. There will be the opportunity to attend great live shows, to meet and volunteer with like-minded people and enjoy some great food. At the same time, there will be the adrenaline rush of building up to race day and the excitement of completion and participating in a brand new adventure with people who, like me, refuse to listen when someone tells them that blind people can’t/shouldn’t do sports. We’ll be showing others that we can, and will give 100% effort. Through the triathlon, I will have the opportunity to be at my best both physically and mentally. There will be a balancing act, as I’ll have to maintain the discipline required to perform well--no binging out on junk food or missing workouts and training sessions. There will be a weekend or two that will take me out of town during my beloved festival season to compete.

Come music festival season, I not only fall right off the health wagon, it usually runs me over! In 2011, sin and salvation will battle for hegemony. Can I keep the balance?

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