How do you know it’s Autumn? Outside the changes are everywhere. Fall knows how to make an entrance with its vibrant colours, falling leaves and endless Pumpkin Patch This Way signs. And while I am one of those people with a deep-seated love for pumpkin spice and scarf weather, for me, the realization the season has changed is far more subtle than the altered landscape and seasonal menu at Starbucks. It’s in the air—and inside of me.
September is Spinal Cord Injury Awareness month and for whatever reason, I’ve been struggling to say anything about it. With dozens of accounts posting about everything SCI from daily realities and accessibility to fertility and equal rights, I have mostly remained silent—struggling to offer a fresh perspective. But to provide some insight into my current frame of mind and resulting hesitancy to share, I’m going to tell you this: I’m feeling privileged. And because of that privilege, I’m questioning the validity of my voice.
Six months after my accident, my son started a new school. I knew nobody—truthfully, I wasn’t certain I knew myself yet inside this new body and new reality. My son was understandably nervous to make a change, but I was terrified. Many people who experience sudden disability say it shows you who your true friends are. They lose people. That never happened to me. Everyone I loved, showed up for me and my family. I didn’t want to meet anyone new. I was different now—obvious—a bit of a mystery, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to unravel all of that with strangers. And any parent can tell you that the drama within the social circles of the adults can sometimes rival that of the children. So to say the least, my anxiety was heightened as my son and I both found ourselves in new territory.
Imagine you could re-write your life.
Would you do it?
Would you remove your struggles and omit all of your sadness and pain? Would you remedy every regret—every bad decision? Would you take more chances—different chances—or try harder? Would you sift through your life, altering details and discarding parts of your history onto the cutting room floor until ultimately editing all of the pieces together to create your one perfect story?
Don’t give up now
your best kiss
your hardest laugh
and your greatest day
are still yet to come.
But what if they aren’t? What if everything in my life was better before paralysis? Maybe I had my best kiss, my hardest laugh and my greatest day—all of my best memories—before this injury became a part of who I am. How could I possibly have a best-of-anything-moment now that I have this disability? Everything was better before.
What if I believed all that?
Can you send me a picture of your feet?
Confused? So was I. The first time I got a message like this—yes, there have been multiple—I had no idea why this person wanted to see my feet. But I didn’t like it and, of course, did not oblige. In fact, I blocked them. And I blocked the person after that and the person after that and every person since. While I knew sharing my paralysis journey publicly would leave me open to a higher level of scrutiny, I never once considered it might subject me to a wave of sexual objectification and introduce me to a world where disability is fetished in such a way that it dehumanizes and exploits individuals. And yet…here we are.
A woman came up to me in Starbucks the other day. She smiled and asked, Are you Codi? The sarcastic side of me always wants to respond with Was it the glasses that gave me away? But as my husband has pointed out, people may not see the humour and instead simply think I’m an asshole. So I smiled—mostly at her, but partly because of my husband’s lecture running through my head—and I said hello.
It was three years ago, on March 10, 2016—in this very spot—I became a paraplegic. Today, it looks nothing like it did on the day of my injury; there is zero indication that this was a place of a life-altering accident. The dirt has been replaced with carpet. Drywall and paint covers the exposed cement foundation and the staircase fills in the dark emptiness of a basement-in-the-making. But one thing remains—framed in with wooden trim—and that is the hole I fell through.
I’m officially half-way through my challenge with True North Strength and Fitness and Westcoast Nutrition and the first six weeks has disappeared incredibly quickly. I’d love to say time flies when you’re having fun but I think the more accurate representation would be time flies when you’re busy taking care of a family while attempting to eat well and get to the gym three times a week. The time-management struggle is real. However, taking this time for myself has absolutely been worth all the extra scheduling and calendar confusion. At the mid-way point in this challenge I have had good weeks and bad weeks and wanted to share a little update.
We all have aspects of our lives that we can and cannot control. Sometimes—at least with me—we forget that some things are within our power. While attempting to control my injury would be about as successful as trying to control the weather or my firecracker of a 4-year-old, I can actually control how I protect my body—how I fuel it and how I strengthen it—and I have not done that. It is time for me to stop making excuses. Starting this week, with the help of Sasha at True North Strength and Fitness and Michelle at WestCoast Nutrition, I’m going to make a change.