I have dreams where I can walk again. Sometimes it’s like the injury never happened. Other times I simply stand up from my wheelchair like it’s no big deal, walk to where I need to go, and then sit back down in the chair that stayed beside me as though attached to my body by an invisible force. But even in my unconscious state, I always know it’s fantasy. Because somewhere inside, I always say to myself “Don’t get too excited, it’s just a dream.”
Living With SCI
The dog heard the truck pull into the driveway before I did. She ran to the boys’ room, hopped on the bed and put her paws up on the windowsill. Her tail whipped back and forth as she looked frantically from the kids outside to me, and back again, as if to say Look Mom, our people are home! I yelled through the open window “Hey guys! How was your day?” My son turned to look at me. There was no, Hi Mommy or My day was fine. Instead, he scrunched up his face and said “Why are you wearing makeup?”
I was shocked into momentary silence. Granted, I didn’t wear makeup often anymore, but had I neglected my makeup bag for so long that the sight of me with a bit of eye shadow and blush on my face was startlingly out of the ordinary? I recovered quickly and smiled. Then I lied. “I just wanted to put some makeup on.”
Tick. Tock. Tick Tock. The ticking of the large clock above the couch in our family room is usually drowned out by the noises of our home—one of our kids playing piano, a dog barking at someone walking down the street or the shriek of a little sister not getting her way. But sometimes, when the house is empty and quiet, I hear it and feel uneasy. It’s the incessant reminder of every second that passes without pause or consideration for the events that unfold within its unrelenting grasp. Did you know it takes less than one second to fall 10 feet?
The house was still and quiet in the dark of an early morning. The vibration of Ian’s alarm enticed me out of sleep before the song ever started. He brushed my face gently with his hand, “Codi, are you going to get up?”
I shook my head and murmured my displeasure at needing to be awake at 6:15 on a Saturday morning—every Saturday morning. I felt a brief heaviness overcome me, not of exhaustion but of guilt. The self-inflicted sort of guilt all parents feel when they choose themselves—or anything—over their kids. But I’ve been at the parenting game long enough to know I wasn’t about to win the World’s Worst Mom title for missing one soccer game. Okay, it was the third game in a row, but still!
Regardless of how I was feeling about it, my daughter was still sound asleep beside me and had made it very clear the night before that she did NOT want to go to soccer in the morning. I thought I would let the beast—uh, I mean my little girl—sleep. Satisfied with my decision I closed my eyes.
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.
There was a playground a block away from the rehabilitation centre. Like most kids, our boys couldn’t find their socks in the morning but could spot a park from a mile away. One afternoon when they came to visit, they begged for us to take them. I was hesitant—I thought about letting Ian take them on his own—but I went. I expected to feel left out—what use could I be at a playground?—but I wasn’t prepared for the harsh realization that hit as soon as we arrived.
10 weeks to the day after I injured my spinal cord—on my 29th birthday—I left rehab. And what did I want more than anything? A bath. A bubble bath with a book or Netflix was my happy place—my self-care. It was where I retreated to almost every evening in the fall and winter after my husband was home from work and I was no longer solely responsible for the three little people in our home. It gave me space to take a breath, recharge and feel like a person beyond “Mommy”.
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.
As I sit down to write this, I have a choice: give you the highlights or give you the truth. I want to go with the highlights—it would be much easier to go with the highlights. It would be much easier to give you the inspirational you have no limits #yolo version of my weekend (note for my mom: YOLO = you only live once). But I can’t give you the highlight reel because the highlight reel feels dishonest. Because in the less than 48 hours I spent away this weekend, I experienced awesome highs and terrible lows and the most confusing part of it all is that spinal cord injury was at the root of everything.
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?