It’s the end of January—the month so many people feel is never-ending. While I’m fairly certain it’s rare for anyone to be living their best life in any given January or February, these two months carry weight for me. This is the time of year I reflect on what were my final weeks before my accident. They weren’t extraordinary by any means, but they were real, simple and honest moments of our everyday lives.
Marriage & Family Life
Have you ever cried after sex? How about in the middle of it – bringing the entire sweaty, messy thing to a crashing halt? I cried last night. It wasn’t the first time – I’m sure it won’t be the last – but it was the first time in a long time and it caught me off guard. Sex after spinal cord injury isn’t something I’ve talked a lot about. I’m not sure why, as it seems I’ve talked about everything else. But for those of you hoping this is some sort of paraplegic’s guide to sex, I’m sorry to disappoint – may your Google search take you to a different corner of the internet. This is a little about sex, a little about loss, a little about adapting and, quite simply, another little piece of my story.
Spinal cord injury awareness month is still on my mind. My last post talked about the aspects of SCI that I struggle with the most: bladder and bowel control. But I was thinking about what awareness really means and how shining a spotlight on only the challenges can draw focus from the accomplishments and the awesome lives people with SCI are living – it can skew people’s perceptions. And while I think it is incredibly important for everyone to understand the struggles and barriers that someone with a spinal cord injury comes up against, it is equally important to understand that so many of us choose to face those challenges because we still want to live our lives – spinal cord injury and all. There is happiness, adventure and so many amazing things still possible and bringing awareness to SCI means showcasing that as well.
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.
“Wisdom begins in wonder” – Socrates
Every parent celebrates upon hearing their little one’s first words. But parenthood takes a dramatic turn for the wine cabinet when a child learns the word “why”. The relentless questions reveal the outer limits of our patience and, all too soon, our own knowledge. Once children figure out that the answers exist somewhere, “Can you google it then Mommy?” becomes another question in their repertoire. Their stream-of-consciousness method of questioning could be turned into the world’s most lethal drinking game but, I try to remind myself of the quote above that suggests we don’t learn by being complacent, we learn by being curious.
Standing isn’t something I have done much of in the last 2 years. I imagine the shock value in that opening statement is minimal – I am paralyzed after all. But the equipment does exist to make it happen. I recently was able to have a trial standing frame in our home and my boys were incredibly excited to see me vertical (my daughter had been with me on previous occasions when I tried it). However as soon as I was up, I wanted to come down. I was hit with an unexpected and unsettling feeling as I stood next to my sons for the first time in over two years. They of course thought it was “so cool” so I held my smile until the novelty wore off. They retreated to their Rubik’s Cubes and books while I was left standing there without the ability to quickly retreat into anything.
Summer vacation has arrived! With minimal time to catch my breath over the last few weeks of school, I was definitely ready for a little break in the schedule. I’ve always loved summer. I have forever been a big fan of the long days, warm nights and relaxed attitude towards the everyday that comes with the season. But there is now a sense of dread intertwined with the excitement that I feel as summer approaches.
“He’s her lobster”. If you’re a Friends fan, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you aren’t a Friends fan, well, you should be. But, surprise! Phoebe was wrong and lobsters don’t actually mate for life. What do mate for life? Beavers, penguins and lovebirds (obviously) just to name a few. As humans, we don’t always find ourselves on this list but sometimes we connect with another person who takes the fear out of making a lifelong commitment. You survive together when it’s harder than you ever imagined and you thrive together when life is good. Navigating my spinal cord injury (SCI) while keeping our marriage together has had its challenges, but I never once truly doubted if we would last. He is my lobster penguin.
Raising our children to be accepting of all types of people has always been a top priority for me and my husband but it was never a personal battle until after my injury. As two young, Caucasian, able-bodied, straight people we were never in an obvious minority. We never felt singled out for attributes we had no control over and we blended in to our community without effort. Then, all of a sudden, I found myself in a wheelchair and we didn’t blend in as easily as we had in the past. With stares coming from numerous directions, our determination to raise accepting children only increased. But how? How do you integrate something into their little lives if it isn’t something you see very often? How do you teach something without pointing it out and bringing attention to it? Then my children – and every child I’ve met since my accident -taught me a thing or two about acceptance.
I’m holding a grudge against Easter and I’m trying to decide if it is justified or dramatic. Spoiler alert: writing this helped me figure it out. Everyone always says that the firsts will be hard when dealing with grief – especially holidays and traditions. And that first year was definitely quite brutal. Every holiday, birthday and season brought about change in how I could partake in the celebrations and events that have always been highlights in my year. But Easter was significant. Easter came just a couple of weeks after my accident and ‘different’ doesn’t really even begin to describe how that first holiday post-injury went down. And even though this last Sunday was the third Easter since my accident I still had a really hard time planning and preparing for it. I still struggle to find the holiday spirit that, in the past, came so easily.