See Part 1…
I wondered if the survivors being interviewed on talk shows were doing their best to meet expectations? Or was it that they were shell-shocked like I was and drew upon thousands of interviews before them citing the correct answers. “Yes, I look at life differently now. I am grateful. The world has opened up and I no longer take anything for granted.”
My world shrunk and I couldn’t wait for the day where I took things for granted again. I couldn’t jump out of bed or climb out lazily if I wanted to. As soon as it was time to get out of bed it was with purpose. I had to grab my liners, slide them on to my stubby legs, stick them into fake ones, then pull and tug on the gel sleeves that held my legs in place. I showered on a bench, using my arms and hands for balance. It took a while to feel secure, precariously perched on a bench, slippery with water and soap. Heading to a destination that I hadn’t been to before unnerved me. Would there be stairs? If there were, was there a railing to hold onto? Would I be able to squeeze my wheelchair into the washroom? Would I hold people up behind me when I stepped onto the stairs? I moved so slowly. Everything was painstakingly paid attention to, my brain working as hard as my body. Even turning over in my bed was something to adapt to. It took effort to shift my body until I found a comfortable spot. Feet, I discovered, weren’t only for walking or running.
It was all the little things I missed so much. One of my favorite positions to sit in was cross-legged or curling my feet under me. I was constantly battling cold feet. I would never be able to sit like that again, nor would I rub my feet to warm them.
When I got out more I tucked two collapsible canes in between the cushion and the arm of my chair. I went to a book store, one of my favorite things to do, searching for that perfect book, when I realized I couldn’t squat down to look at the books on the lowest shelf. I stood in that aisle, leaning on my canes, overcome with loss. The next day I asked my physiotherapist if I would ever be able to squat, the kind of squat where you’re down on your haunches, if that was a skill you developed over time? But, I already knew the answer. I don’t have ankles or the balls of my feet to roll onto and prosthetic legs that come to the knee don’t bend.
I didn’t have the patience or the stomach to feel sorry for myself a lot, but at times my life felt like one never-ending obstacle course.
I wasn’t get-down-on-my-knees grateful to be alive, but I was here. I didn’t have control over much, but I had power over the choices I made. I got out of bed each day. I stuck to my schedule. I tried everything set before me. I said yes more than no. I smiled more than I cried. I laughed, because a lot of life is funny. I got angry, but didn’t get trapped by bitterness. I called myself a survivor. I was honest. I had that going for me. I wasn’t always ready with the perfect answers for peoples’ questions. Things were bad enough without me faking my feelings. That was my gift to myself. Honesty. I had hope, too. From the moment I was pulled from the wreckage, hope lived. Hope persisted and was my lifeline. My world couldn’t exist without it.
I chose, and in my choices, my world grew from narrow and limited to meaningful.