So it has been about ten weeks since my accident that resulted my injury, and cessation of normal life for a while. It might be a few more weeks until I am walking again. The past month or so, I have been working on my physical rehabilitation with the goal of walking by mid-March. The weather has been so nice that it has been driving me crazy to be stuck inside and not able to go hiking. I have been spending some time outside a little in the wheelchair, watching the kids or brushing the dogs, just enjoying the outdoors. (I even tried to take it around the block for a spin, but that proved much more difficult than I anticipated).
I’ve also spent quite a bit of time reflecting on what happened, why, and what I can take away from this. These are the ways I have grown and the things I have learned from this experience the past couple of months:
) The world has much more good in it than bad: sometimes it is easy to dwell on the scary stories we see in the news, and we lose sight of the fact that human nature is inherently good. You might start to believe that all human beings operate in their own self-interest without consideration for what is fair or right. However, if you actually interact with people while you are on crutches or in a wheelchair or otherwise injured, you will see, through the actions of others, that humans are overwhelmingly good. I have been amazed at how many people go out of their way to open doors, carry things, help me get situated. Complete strangers show compassion in unexpected places. My friends have made extraordinary gestures. If the 80/20 rule applies in this situation, I would say that 80% of people go out of their way to help another person in need, and that is truly touching to see.
2) Compassion for the ill and wounded: I am hoping that if nothing else, this experience has taught me how to better care for other people, maybe someone in this same situation or a situation with similar conditions. Maybe this is the primary lesson – maybe I would need this empathy to help a loved one later on in life through a debilitating illness or injury.
For about five weeks, I could hardly get around besides moving from the bed to the couch to the bathroom and back again. I was bored out of my mind. I truly appreciated just having someone spend some time with me. There were simple pleasures, like sweet treats brought or sent to me by friends and family, a particular lotion or comfortable outfit, some new movies to watch. The fact that my little family unit here at the house suddenly had to cook for me, to bring me food and drink, to help me with pillows and blankets was something I appreciated. What if I didn’t have these people? J was amazing as my nurse and aid – helping me get cleaned using a shower chair, making sure I had what I needed at hand, helping me get dressed, cleaning my wounds and changing my bandages – I really had to rely on him and maybe someday he will rely on me in the same way, and I hope I can be as calm and patient of a caregiver as he was.
3) Understanding of what it is like to be handicapped: I think I am going to look at the world in a different way now. It is so easy to kind of look past people with handicaps without really dwelling on how hard their life can be, in terms of dealing with just even the day to day challenges of getting cleaned, dressed, toiletry and bathing, cooking and eating – the basic aspects of life as a human. Getting around, participating in the same activities of life as other people presents even greater challenges. While I was out of work, they built a handicapped ramp to get into my building, and installing rails in my bathroom there. Thank God, that would have been impossible to navigate without. Dealing with bathrooms in restaurants, getting in and out of other buildings, enjoying the outdoors in the same ways I used to have all presented their own challenges.
4) Virtues of online shopping: this last one is one Jason probably wishes I didn’t figure out. He probably didn’t mind that I did all the Christmas shopping this way, and he hardly had to get out to the stores to get anything. There were additional temptations, though. I realized through this process that if I wanted something, it was only a click of a button away, and it made it so much easier for me to spend money on it. Also, because this door had been opened (the “Christmas Gift Gateway?”), online ads were suddenly more compelling to me. On the other hand, though, I learned the dark side of online ordering, which actually probably worked in our financial favor. I learned that it is probably better to try on clothes at the store than buy them online, that having a product in hand is probably better than having it delayed or get lost in shipment, and that you can’t judge the quality of a product from its picture online. Three dresses, three books, and three delayed gifts is all it took to teach me these lessons, which now act as a sort of vaccine against making more online purchases. However, I did get exposure to some awfully interesting sites, like Amazon and Etsy, that I have gotten a little obsessed with.
5) Take the time while you have it: because you never know what might happen. In some ways I thought I had been being good about this, but as I lay in my bed weeping about the things I wanted to do with my children that I couldn’t now, I realized I wasn’t soaking it all in. I think I am better than some at making plans about what I want to do, and carrying them out, but there is a lot of room for improvement in there, too.
6) Appreciate the little things: like being able to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom without a big production, like being able to make your own meal, or go out to eat to celebrate a birthday, like laying on your left side to snuggle with your honey at night. There were a lot of little things I was taking for granted, but I will be savoring every one of them from now on!
That’s probably not all; I am sure I will think of more later. I am also making another kind of list – the list of things I want to do when I get better again, the things I am looking forward to when I am finally cleared to head back to my normal life. I am looking forward to sharing those adventures as they unfold in the near future.