from narrow and limited to meaningful – part 2

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.

15 thoughts on “from narrow and limited to meaningful – part 2

  1. christy

    And you know what? You writing this down for all the world to read? I consider a gift for us. So unbelievably moving, Heidi. Really, it’s staggering. The fact that you were able to find humor, and weren’t overcome with bitterness. And that you are remembering it all so vividly now – but of course you are, right?! Silly me. Anyway, just awesome Heidi. As in the awe inspiring kind of awesome. That you are, my friend! (Please go to Blogher!!!!)

  2. Michael Pahl

    Heidi, I have never met you, I shared a few years of growing up with Scott and he directed me here. I cannot thank either of you enough. I have mostly lived my life by the thought that it will be too short no matter when it ends. But it’s beautiful sometimes to be reminded of real human emotions, of loss, of trying to behave a certain way (I always felt that way about death, that my reaction had to be a certain way), of just what it means to be alive and not what the daily grind has on your plate for one little day.

  3. anna see

    yes yes yes! wow wow wow! heidi, i love how this came with time, not as some canned talk show like pearl of wisdom. it was a process. bless you, my friend!

  4. Kate Coveny Hood

    Oh my god – I hate my computer. I just typed up a really lovely comment (if I do say so myself) and somehow deleted the whole thing with – well, I don’t know what. Suddenly it disappeared. Now I’m annoyed. So – to sum up: good stuff! inspiring! you make me think! what is up with those survivors always saying the same thing? I never really thought of that before… real or scripted? maybe a little of both. some other stuff I can’t remember now… The end.

    1. heidi

      I read this on my blackberry standing in line and laughed. I like “good stuff!” and “The end.” Don’t you hate that? The comment just disappearing. Where does it go? Thank you, Kate. You’re a delight!

  5. rod

    Heidi, Heidi, Heidi!!! So honest. So well written. Thank you so much for sharing this and being so vulnerable. I can’t wait to read the next installment!

  6. linda sue

    Oh Heidi! I never would have thought about the squat ability of ankles and balls of feet- Never would think to offer some one on collapsible crutches help retrieving something from a lower shelf- Thank you for that insight! You are so incredible, you know! You were in my dream the other night- walking with me on a four inch ledge! I was terrified- you were not! LOVE you!

    1. heidi

      I read this earlier and my eyes welled up! How lucky I am to be in a dream with you! Your dream got to me this afternoon…it’s still getting to me. Powerful, Linda Sue.

  7. jessica bern

    You are right Heidi, we do have choices. When I deal with my ex it is my choice whether or not to let him ruin my day. I love you and every post you write, every damn one of them b/c I always walk away with a lesson learned.

    Have a happy Thanksgiving.

  8. IntenseGuy

    Hi Heidi, I’ve been away for a month (or more) but I am now reading your story once more – I saved it until I could take the time to absorb what you had to say – and this entry makes me glad that I did so. Like the others, I’ve never given much thought to “the lowest shelf” – As I get older and stiffer I find the reach takes more effort – or that I simply sit on the floor taking care not to kneel for long and struggle to get back up… but to not be able… I guess I am half reminded of my short Mom, who at 4′ 10 can’t reach the upper shelves struggling with supermarkets and bookstores and the like…

    Hmmm… we humans have a remarkable ability to adapt and we are inventive… but in order to invent or create – those with that talent need to “know the need”. And you’ve spoken it. Perhaps now that someone will “make it so” – for the too tall, short, and those not so limber.

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