As I sit here at the beginning of May, I feel like I should be refreshed and ready to start something new. Instead, much like the weather here, I am left with a winter hangover – cloudy and dark while attempting to brighten up. I’m struggling to comprehend that April is over and, like so many other people, I feel like time is passing by too quickly.
Time has a strong hold on all of us; a universal language that the world needs in order to function. It controls our lives more than anything else. We put it on a pedestal and give it more credit than it deserves. We say that time can heal but that is simply not true; saying this just promotes the idea that we should sit around and wait for wellness when in fact it takes hard work and harsh truths.
Time does nothing but exist.
Seconds tick by in a relentless fashion – steady and constant without pause or consideration. And although time is persistent and uncaring, it is precious. And in the end, this spinal cord injury has robbed me of time. Minutes become hours that now belong to this injury and not to me. I lose time with my family, time with my friends and time for myself. But in an effort to escape the dark emotions looming over me, I am trying to be grateful; I am choosing to be grateful.
There are people in this world every single day that run out of time. I’m lucky that I am not yet one of those people. Had my accident happened 50 or 60 years ago, I very likely would be. It wasn’t until the latter half of the 20th century that people with spinal cord injuries were given a reasonable chance of recovery. Until then, a spinal cord injury was considered ‘an ailment not to be treated’.
Think about that for a moment. The injury that I sustained would have been left untreated. I would not be here writing any of this blog to you in any sort of capacity…because I would not be here, in this world, at all. I would have had an accident and been left to die, most likely, from an infection. Time’s up.
In that paragraph alone there are so many things to be thankful for: my life, science, knowledge, curious individuals who make progress in all areas of the world…just in one little phrase. But what I’m finding in reality is that when I find something to be thankful for, I also find something to mourn. It feels as though I’m stuck inside of a Newton’s Cradle just constantly switching between conflicting emotions.
When I’m proud of myself for conquering something new, I’m also annoyed that I was put in the situation of having to conquer it. When I’m grateful to have more time with my children, I’m also sad that it is time spent differently. There are few things in my life that are unchanged and most activities come with a reminder of how it used to be and, with that, a sense of grief. However in the spirit of being grateful, I can think of one activity that always makes me feel exactly as it would have before my injury and that is a family ride in the car. It can make a mama crazy when everyone is buckled in with nowhere to go…and it does! But some of my favourite moments that we have had as a family since my accident are in the car, choosing songs one at a time and singing along with more passion than what is necessary for our audience of zero. It is loud and silly and nobody needs to use their legs. In all of that – it feels normal. I’m grateful for that.
A tactic I use when I have no other tactics left is ‘it could be worse’. Sometimes this feels selfish because for some people, it is worse. But I cling on to the abilities, experiences and time that I have; the things that did not get taken from me. Yesterday, I felt tears sting my eyes when I took my daughter’s tiny little necklace and did it up around her neck for her. I know that it seems like such a simple task; it is something most people wouldn’t think twice about. But losing function in your legs makes you understand and appreciate the functions that remain. And in that moment of doing up her necklace I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude – for the abilities that I still have (at that moment my hand function) and for the fact that I am not just a memory; I am thankful I am still here to make memories. In a world where heartache is present on every newsfeed and every headline speaks of the unpredictability of life, I will never forget the privilege of having more time.
Maybe time is just a unit of measure but it implies so much more. I am thankful for every second that ticks by that I am present for, but I want to live my life in the moment instead of hoping for more of them. I want to surround myself in love and show the company that surrounds me that I am interested and existing in the present with them. I want to build memories now so that when life takes those unexpected turns we all have something to hold on to and find resilience in. I want to give time less authority and be more purposeful in everything that I do. I want to refresh.
And look at that…the sun finally came out today.