Bathing suits. The worst, right? I loved them as a teenager – I had a borderline obsessive collection of bikinis all meant to show off my adolescent figure untouched by pregnancy, breastfeeding, age or the unexpected. But three children – three c-sections – a few too many extra pounds and a whole lot of negative self-talk later, bathing suits became the enemy.
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.
I went to the grocery store today – thrilling, I know. But I don’t go often. It usually either falls on my husband or we order online for pick-up or delivery. But the dog was out of food this morning and we didn’t have anything planned for dinner, so I figured I could make a quick stop. It may sound silly but grocery shopping makes me anxious. Between the high shelves, navigating carts and getting everything back to my car, I prefer the online method of grocery shopping much more. However, this trip would be easy. We only needed six things of which only one I expected to be too high (damn dog food). No need for a cart – I would just use a basket – and I could even do self-checkout. It would be simple; It should have been simple.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I was never destined to be a world class athlete. I wanted to run at a reasonable pace around my neighborhood, keep up in a backyard soccer game, hike a few local trails with friends and buy an inexpensive bike from Wal-Mart to join in on those family rides around the block. Maybe I’d attempt some home workouts now and then. Maybe we would have all tried skiing together eventually. The point is, I liked being active and outdoors as long as it was relaxed and simple. I never did much that required a lot of equipment; I was happy with a pair of good runners and a yoga mat. But then there was that fall – and this spinal cord injury – and getting reasonably active got unreasonably complicated.
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.
We all go through periods in our lives where we feel like we are dealing with one difficult situation after another. It isn’t always end-of-the-world type stuff. Sometimes it’s just the fact that your family has been sick for seemingly forever and another ear infection is on the horizon. And sometimes it’s a lot more than that. Either way, it can feel like you’re stuck inside a never-ending storm. Whenever I find myself in this mindset I’ll joke that I should really catch a break because I have a spinal cord injury after all. I can laugh about this now but there was definitely a time I felt quite confident this should be true. I’ve said so many times that an injury like mine makes you realize life doesn’t stop. People choose to move on after injury/illness/loss as best they can because they find out pretty quickly that life will move on without them if they don’t get on board. I think that sometimes the more difficult realization is that the realities of life don’t stop for challenges. No matter the reality and no matter the challenges.
March 10, 2018 marks two years of life with a spinal cord injury. Two years that have passed in that familiar fashion where days are long but months and years are short. I know many people who say that one day I will lose track of the years, but I know myself better than that. I find dates orienting and acknowledging the time that has passed, grounding. When I think back to how I felt this time last year, at one year post injury, it amazes me how much my perspective has shifted. I now find myself more comfortable and confident in this body that – for so long – felt strange and unfamiliar. And a wheelchair that once felt foreign now feels like an extension of myself. While two years in the grand scheme of a lifetime is relatively short, those years can hold within them potential to be significant. With all of the changes that I have experienced, I would be amiss to say that these two years haven’t left a lasting mark.
Sometimes you expect certain moments in life to trigger grief or anxiety. I like to think each individual knows themselves and their journeys well enough to foresee how some situations might bring up difficult feelings. But sometimes it is unexpected and it doesn’t matter how well you know yourself or your journey. Sometimes, you are simply blindsided.
Confession. I don’t know how to put my wheelchair together. I mean, I understand the general placement of everything (big wheels in the back, small wheels in the front) but that’s about as far as my wheelchair maintenance knowledge takes me. When my legs were my main form of mobility I didn’t need to worry about nuts, bolts, lubricant and flat tires. Now, maintaining my mobility equipment requires a little bit more effort and know-how. At least that’s what my husband keeps telling me.
“We’ve been sold the lie that disability is a Bad Thing.” – Stella Young
It never ceases to amaze me how one short phrase can evoke such a strong emotional reaction. When I read the above quote on my Instagram feed the other day I was overcome by a lot of feelings. But high on the list were disbelief, annoyance and anger. I don’t think that I am often speechless, however when I tried to explain what I was feeling to my husband, I came up blank. Over the next couple of days, the phrase crept in and out of my thoughts: “We’ve been sold the lie that disability is a Bad Thing.” Really, a lie? Call me crazy but I don’t think it’s a great thing. I wouldn’t even say it’s a good thing. No, I would definitely say that disability is a bad thing; I would say that disability sucks!