I’m restless. Restless inside my mind and this body—within the constraints of my wheelchair. I want to get up and move. To stretch, climb, jump and run. I’m convinced that the increased spasticity that’s taken over my legs—causing them to seize and shake uncontrollably—is my body’s way of giving physical representation to my inner angst. I’m struggling to find the positive spin. My mental health is not on the up-and-up and, while my depression has been in remission for a long time, it is shifting. And I am struggling.
Give this paraplegic a wrist injury and watch the catastophizing begin.
I don’t mean to brag, but I’m really good at the catastrophzing game. I can go from All is well in my world to My entire family is dead in a ditch in the span of a few seconds. Or, more relevantly, You need to rest your wrist for a week to My independence is gone forever and my life will never be the same without pausing to consider a more realistic outcome. I’ve spent decades (yes, decades—plural) perfecting my anxiety skills and this little wrist problem was the perfect catalyst to put them into practice.
We decided to dress up for New Year’s Eve. Ok, that’s not totally true. I decided that we would dress up for New Year’s Eve and played the “Please do it for me card” to get everyone else to agree. After spending a week in pjs and sweatpants—wait, who am I kidding? After spending most of 2020 in pjs and sweatpants—I needed a reminder that we could still put in the effort, shake off the dust and get, just a little bit, fancy. Even if it was only to go to our kitchen table.
The first Halloween my daughter could walk was the last Halloween that I could. She took to the neighbourhood for trick-or-treating as a mermaid—accompanied by her brothers: the fisherman and the scuba diver. My mom crocheted her mermaid’s tail out of a bright green yarn and I looped tulle through the bottom of it, giving it a tutu effect. She wore a matching hand-made toque and a purple long-sleeved shirt—because, Canada—with knitted flowers in place of seashells.
I have lived through seasons of immense grief. Existed within the loneliness that loss, anger and frustration often brings. Haven’t you? I think we’ve all experienced periods in life where we wake up in the morning, heavy with the responsibilities and pain of our current reality. The well-intended offers of sympathy feel hollow. They result in our feigned appreciation as we retreat into our unstable existences and our well-meaning family and friends proceed with their lives as usual. But right now—in the grief, uncertainty and frustration of this Covid-19 pandemic—we are not alone.
I shut the bathroom door behind me. My daugher’s voice was in my head saying “take rainbow breaths Mommy. They help you relax”. I attempted to take her advice—which is really my advice—while fumbling with my toothbrush and the seemingly empty tube of toothpaste. But the truth is, sometimes deep breaths achieve absolutely nothing. Nothing that is except momentarily delaying the inevitable which—in this case—was me, sitting alone in the bathroom, crying as I brushed my teeth.
My kids want to go skiing. And my husband wants to take them. Me? I organized the gift cards for Christmas presents and I keep checking our calendar along with the weather to help find a day where our schedule and the environment align in magical harmony. I want them to experience the freedom and beauty of the mountain. I want them to expand on their athletic abilities. I want them to have the opportunity to stand at the top of a run, look around themselves and feel not only the enormity of the world, but also of the privilege it is to be a part of it. But—if I’m being totally honest with you—there is a part of me that wants them to absolutely hate it because I can’t do it with them. I’m Jealous. There, I said it.
Daylight hadn’t reached our backyard. But a blanket of untouched snow—the first snowfall of the year—couldn’t wait for the break of day. By 7:30AM—the time we would usually be getting out of bed—our kids were all ready for school. They were layered up in snow gear and were outside rolling giant snowballs. Ian and I watched them out the french doors of our bedroom and couldn’t resist calling it an unofficial snow day. The cheers came one after another from outside as brothers told sisters and sisters told brothers, “No school!”. They were excited but I was left feeling indifferent due to my love/hate relationship with snow.
Everyone’s doing it—sharing the moments that shaped their lives over this last decade. But how do I? How do I summarize an entire decade? A decade that changed my existence in the most amazing and heartbreaking ways. I was filled with purpose, broken and rebuilt more than once over the course of the last ten years. In amongst the years of celebrations and storms there were many moments of calm and simplicity—clarity—time to breathe in between the chaos. But those moments seem to hide in the wings as the highs and lows take centre stage. So while I have experienced and learned more than I could ever fully express—or adequately summarize—in a single blog post, there are moments of significance that seem worthy of reflection.
When I opened my eyes, Ian had already left for work. The early daylight that crept in through the cracks of the blinds let me know I was on borrowed time—my alarm would go off any minute. Having crawled in at some point after midnight, my daughter was asleep beside me and with the rest of the house quiet, I lay awake wondering if my boys—my perpetually early risers—might actually need woken up for school.