I want my body back.
This is all I can think about as I blink back tears in the dark and quiet of the night. I always feel a pang of guilt for admitting it out loud. But I need to take a moment and allow this longing for my old self without shame.
Do you have a favourite place? Somewhere that holds a special place in your heart? A place you return to knowing it will look the same and feel the same every time you go there as though it stays frozen in time during your absence? The first time I came here, I was sixteen years old. It quickly became one of my favourite places.
There is a quiet knock on my door. I convince myself it’s nothing even though I know you’re out there. But, you see, you’re very controlling and the last time you came in it took me years to fully recover. I’m going to try and ignore you – pretend you don’t exist – but I’ve dealt with you enough times to know you don’t leave on your own accord and will manipulate me until I take a stand. Even from the outside you have begun to entangle me in your own version of my reality.
Grief has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it. It finds you even when you should be happy; it finds you even when you should be celebrating.
It was announced this week that I have been named this year’s Vancouver Mom Top Blogger! Needless to say, it was a very exciting – albeit overwhelming – Monday for me. Actually, saying I was overwhelmed with the response to the news and all of the comments and messages would be a serious understatement. Insecurity tends to take over me when the spotlight shines in my direction. Saying “thank-you” feels overdone and insufficient but I find myself unable to come up with anything more creative and hope beyond hope that nobody thinks I am inconsiderate or aloof. I spent the day second-guessing my responses while also trying to give myself space to feel proud of the accomplishment. By the time the kids were in bed and I had a moment to reflect, I was left with a feeling I couldn’t quite name. But I’ve got it now. The feeling was guilt.
I went to the grocery store today – thrilling, I know. But I don’t go often. It usually either falls on my husband or we order online for pick-up or delivery. But the dog was out of food this morning and we didn’t have anything planned for dinner, so I figured I could make a quick stop. It may sound silly but grocery shopping makes me anxious. Between the high shelves, navigating carts and getting everything back to my car, I prefer the online method of grocery shopping much more. However, this trip would be easy. We only needed six things of which only one I expected to be too high (damn dog food). No need for a cart – I would just use a basket – and I could even do self-checkout. It would be simple; It should have been simple.
We all go through periods in our lives where we feel like we are dealing with one difficult situation after another. It isn’t always end-of-the-world type stuff. Sometimes it’s just the fact that your family has been sick for seemingly forever and another ear infection is on the horizon. And sometimes it’s a lot more than that. Either way, it can feel like you’re stuck inside a never-ending storm. Whenever I find myself in this mindset I’ll joke that I should really catch a break because I have a spinal cord injury after all. I can laugh about this now but there was definitely a time I felt quite confident this should be true. I’ve said so many times that an injury like mine makes you realize life doesn’t stop. People choose to move on after injury/illness/loss as best they can because they find out pretty quickly that life will move on without them if they don’t get on board. I think that sometimes the more difficult realization is that the realities of life don’t stop for challenges. No matter the reality and no matter the challenges.
March 10, 2018 marks two years of life with a spinal cord injury. Two years that have passed in that familiar fashion where days are long but months and years are short. I know many people who say that one day I will lose track of the years, but I know myself better than that. I find dates orienting and acknowledging the time that has passed, grounding. When I think back to how I felt this time last year, at one year post injury, it amazes me how much my perspective has shifted. I now find myself more comfortable and confident in this body that – for so long – felt strange and unfamiliar. And a wheelchair that once felt foreign now feels like an extension of myself. While two years in the grand scheme of a lifetime is relatively short, those years can hold within them potential to be significant. With all of the changes that I have experienced, I would be amiss to say that these two years haven’t left a lasting mark.
Sometimes you expect certain moments in life to trigger grief or anxiety. I like to think each individual knows themselves and their journeys well enough to foresee how some situations might bring up difficult feelings. But sometimes it is unexpected and it doesn’t matter how well you know yourself or your journey. Sometimes, you are simply blindsided.
The canvas before the paint. The stage before the performance. The staff before the notes and the page before the words. All of them blank. All of them empty. All of them with limitless possibilities. There are no blank slates in life – only new journeys in the midst of the old ones. Journeys that encompass everything we have been until that point in time. But every new adventure holds within it choice, potential and the ability to change. In those early moments of new beginnings there is a resemblance of a blank, empty slate. It’s not as free and clear as art waiting to be created but it is vast with possibility. But whether the journeys are straightforward or complex, they become who we are.
In an effort to pull both my house and me out of our Christmas hangover, we spent most of Sunday attempting to get organized. We went through all the junk that, over the holidays, accumulated on the counters and then got shoved into drawers in a hurry before company showed up. We sorted through the never-ending piles of paper that seem to come from every corner of our lives. While it always feels refreshing to de-clutter, organizing and purging does have its downsides. During this process, I always seem to come across little reminders – difficult reminders – of my accident, of life before, or of what has changed. This round of organization wasn’t any different, however along with the reminders, I found there was also a spotlight on how far I have come. It is the second time lately my attention has been drawn to this and it has resulted in a lot of mixed emotions. But after the process was over I was left with a smile on face because of the very last item that I found.