It’s always exciting to get a new pair of shoes. I should know, I only buy shoes once every 3 years (and that’s not even exaggerating…). Although, just for the record, when I was walking I was one of those people that would go through a pair of tennis shoes ridiculously quickly — I tend to be pretty hard on most objects/clothing, something that didn’t exactly thrill my mother, but anyways back to new shoes.
You slip your foot into that brand new shoe, feeling the unworn sole and stiffness of the heel yet to be broken down or molded to the shape of your foot. You lace up those crisp and bright laces, noticing the total absence of scuff marks on the shoe toe from the occasional stumble. I’m pretty sure it’s hard to not feel a little extra special the first time you “go out into the world” with those shiny new shoes, all sharp and pristine. It’s like they add something different to whatever you decided to wear that day. But then again, they are different. And they take a bit of adjusting to. After all, they haven’t yet reached good ole faithful status.
Okay. so what’s the deal with the shoe talk? Well, I’m attempting to make this relatable — at least in some small way — so that was an attempt to quote “frame your thoughts.” Why am I bothering with that? Well, I got a new wheelchair. Yea. Brand new. No scratches. No handle bars (I upgraded :D). Higher side guards (so maybe I’ll be a tiny less filthy when it rains/snows). Fresh paint. Brand new wheelchair.
It’s a pretty big deal to finally have these new wheels in my possession, and I guess that’s for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s been a bit of an adventure going from getting fit/measured for a chair to the chair actually being order to then finally receiving the chair. To make a really long story short, I started the process in October and here we are quite a few months later. Now I have no intention of bad mouthing the company I was working with. Actually, through a unique combination of personal connections, phone calls, and letter writing, I ended up having lunch with the CEO and sharing my experience and discussing opportunities for improvement. It’s really cool when companies are actively seeking and truly trying to be better, and it’s pretty awesome to have the opportunity to be apart of that process (even if there may have been a lot of frustration within a rather busy med school life along the way…).
Another reason my new wheels are a big deal — this is my first wheelchair order outside of the hospital back when I was in my acute, inpatient, super clueless stage. I’m a lot more familiar with how my body works and doesn’t work, things that I like and don’t like in a chair, and what chair features can make my life easier or harder. So yea, there are a lot of perks to being “not in the hospital” and this being chair #2. But at the same time, this is chair #2 and that carries with it a bit of extra baggage.
I’m proud of the woman I am and the person I’ve become. I’d say I’m rather accepting of my injury and love teaching others and challenging bias and stereotypes. I’m keenly aware of how little has changed in regard to my anatomical functionality as I approach 5 years post SCI which is a generally pretty good indication that things probably never will. Intellectually, I know these things. I’ve never had expectations of walking again or even wiggling toes, I already got my miracle — I’m still alive. Yet, when you get your second chair (regardless of how awesome it is), it makes everything even more real than it has been for the past 4 years. I know, don’t ask me how that’s possible, but it is. I guess ultimately, getting chair #2 is a bit of a strange bitter sweet combination, but I do plan on fully embracing the sweet in that combo. Plus, it’s an awesome chair and I think I look pretty good sitting in it 😀 Not like I need anything else to make my head bigger…
But back to the shoe analogy — so we talked about the new shoes, but you still have those old shoes. So what do you do with them? Throw them away? Maybe look at them with a sense of nostalgia and then throw them away? Bury them in your closet “just in case” you need them in the future? I was the closet type, I can’t help it, I get attached to things that have a lot of memories associated with them (I promise I don’t hoard, you can come visit my reasonably clean apartment (when I don’t have an exam) and see for yourself :D)
Considering how much chairs cost, my lime green machine will not be going to the dumpster. Beyond that, I’m pretty sure I’d really struggle to part with it, I mean we’ve been through a lot together. The first day it came to Craig and I sat in MY chair and not a hospital loaner. The first plane ride we took. The first time I took off my tipper bars because I didn’t want to be “lame” and subsequently flipped over backwards not too long after. Then there’s all the miles and travel we did for my Ms. Wheelchair America adventures and then moving to Chicago and starting med school.
But the again, I think some of the most profound memories aren’t locations or things I did in that chair, but how I’ve grown and changed as that chair became a part of my identify and as I came to accept and embrace that. The number of tears I’ve cried over needing the thing at all. The frustration of different transfers from chair to bed or couch or car at various stages of my injury. But also the thankfulness to have a piece of equipment that allows me to engage and interact with the world in extremely meaningful ways.
You know, that kinda sounds like a relationship, and in a lot of way I guess it is. You learn the intricacies of how it works, what makes it roll best, how to fix it when it breaks and your in it, your in life together.
I think it was easy as an abled bodied person to look at a wheelchair I would walk past and see it as an object, something in the way, something people are forced to use and couldn’t possibly be grateful for or find enjoyment in.
Now, I know that’s definitely not the case. I look at a wheelchair, I look at MY wheelchair and see a lot of things.
I see memories.
I see countless opportunities.
I see a future — my future, filled with things I doubt I can even imagine.