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.
I’ve always been afraid of the dark (I slept with a light on in my room until I got married). There is something about the middle of the night that swirls my anxiety like nothing else. Those hours where your corner of the world is dark and quiet. Where life exists but it is subtle and difficult to spot. At 2:00 in the afternoon, a passing car is easily ignored. But at 2:00 in the morning it evokes questions and skepticism. A problem can seem much less significant at 3 p.m. than at 3 a.m. when distractions are few and reflection overcomes. Before I had children, I very rarely saw the hours between midnight and 6 a.m. Three kids later, those overnight hours were much more familiar but were spent tending to the needs of little people. It left little time to contemplate much other than the task at hand and calculating how much sleep I could still potentially manage that night. But without the distraction of a child – and nobody to blame for my conscious state – those middle-of-the-night hours make me uneasy once again and the inability to sleep brings up more feelings than I can keep track of.
When the attempts you make to sleep are in vain, thoughts begin to take over. Thoughts that turn to fears or imagined stories of how my life could be different. Some nights I play my accident over and over in my head wondering how in the hell it all actually happened. And some nights I go too far to get back to sleep on my own. The tears well up and no matter how much I try to breathe and stay calm, they begin to fall. They fall silently, without pause or consideration of the lasting impact they will have on my night. I reach over for Ian because in these moments, feeling alone just amplifies everything. Even half-asleep, he comes closer.
There is an attempt to ask me what has happened while also knowing all too well what is going on. The tears on my pillow start to dry as they now fall onto his chest. He does nothing but hold me and breathe. I can hear his heartbeat, steady and comforting. His breathing isn’t laboured or distressed like mine; it is even, calm and reassuring. I look a little beyond him and see that our daughter has crawled into our bed at some point and I get a quick reminder of what is good. I think of my boys, sound asleep down the hall and for the first time I feel like I can take a breath. The dark of this night becomes a bit less terrifying. There is good. We are safe in our little corner of the world. We will make it to tomorrow.
Perspective usually comes with the light of morning. There is so much beauty at both dawn and dusk. But with the sunrise I feel hopeful at the day’s youthful beauty and with the sunset I can’t help but feel trepidation of the dark that will set in and commence the death of another day. Will I sleep tonight? Will I immerse myself in those painful memories? Will I get lost in fears that come with those late hours where sleep is expected but out of reach? Even the imagined path is harder to see in the dark. I suppose I will just have to wait it out. I will know the answer when I am, once again, safely in the morning light.