Milestones — we all have them. Graduating from high school. Buying a first car. Maybe getting married. All those little things that mark “progress” through life. Today marks a unique milestone in my life, one of those milestones I imagined reaching at some far off point in the future, but not necessarily believing it really would happen. Today marks my 5 year anniversary of living life as a paraplegic post-spinal cord injury.
I’m not exactly sure what it is about that length of time, but it carries more weight than any of the past yearly post-injury anniversaries. I was google-ing 5th wedding anniversaries and it seems as though that’s the year where you seem to transition from newly weds to “you-should-have-this-kind-of-figured-out” weds. Also learned during that google-ing session: you know how there is a particular item/material associated with every anniversary year? Silk, crystal, china, pearl — all that kind of stuff? Well, guess what year 5 is…. Wood. It’s wood. Boy did that give me a chuckle. Oh the irony, but back to my point.
Five years is one of those imaginary but very real “line in the sand” kind of time frames. It’s a length of time that carries with it certain expectations, expectations about what you should be able to do, what you should know, how you should carry yourself, how “moved on” you should be. Five years means when someone asks you when your injury was or what your story is, you can’t say “Oh, I haven’t been in my chair for very long” because actually, you have.
It’s a surprisingly long period of time, and yet it has gone by rather quickly. Well, I guess looking back it feels like it went by quickly, but there were definitely months where that wasn’t the case. A flip through the journal I kept as I processed through so much loss in the early stages of my injury is pretty sobering…
“Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. I hurt so much, and in ways I never thought possible. I can’t wrap my mind around what I’m going through, and I don’t even know where to start. “
Even though those thoughts were written so long ago, I remember the fear, the anger, the stress, the utter exhaustion that accompanied each and every pencil stroke.
“I pray for God to give me strength, to help me work through all of this, but sometimes I don’t know where He is. I don’t know where to go for comfort.” Continue reading