Struggle is not a dirty word!

When did struggle become a dirty word? It seems people are afraid to say they had to work hard for something, or that there were obstacles. Everyone is always competing for best and prancing around like some proud peacock. “I barely had to do homework and got 4.3 GPA.” “I don’t even have to work out to look this good.” “Everything in life just comes naturally to me.” [Insert condescending laugh here.]

But why is any of that something to brag about? And why do people think they can talk big and not have the world see right through it? What’s wrong with things not coming naturally? What’s wrong with falling? I would think the person who falls and picks themselves up only to finally succeed is the bigger person.

I admit my faults (and I have many!). I am terrible in math and had to have a tutor in high school to help me through Algebra II and Pre-calc. He barely hung in there through physics though. I played softball throughout my childhood and sucked at running, so I learned to hit the ball far, or to do a mean bunt, so I had a smidgeon of a chance to make it to first base. I took the LSAT twice to get a good enough score to make it into the law school where I really wanted to go. In that same vein, I took the bar twice. I’m not ashamed at that. I’m proud of myself for not completely falling apart when I didn’t pass the first time (despite almost every single one of my friends passing) and studying hard enough to make it through the second.

I feel like not admitting struggle or failure or hardship makes those experiences seem dirty. And that in turn, makes it harder on other people who aren’t perfect. They feel even worse about themselves if they screw up.

You may be wondering what brought along this rant. I’m just tired of looking to people for inspiration and them trying to pass everything off as easy. I watched a Youtube video of a girl folding up her wheelchair to put into her car so I could learn how to do it. She claims it was the first time and she glided right to her car, bing bang boom, put it away smoothly in 1 minute. The first time I tried, I ended up a sweaty, tire-marked, crying mess because it was frustratingly difficult. Now that I’ve been doing it for several weeks, I’ve gotten the hang of it, though I usually still end up sweaty and tire-marked. Those things seem unavoidable. But, I felt like I wasn’t good enough because I couldn’t do it as easily as her. And after my own experience, I question whether that really was her first time. If it was, kudos for her. But why phrase things that make other people feel bad if they can’t do it as well?

The one that really irks me is Amy Van Dyken-Rouen. I keep seeing interview with her where she claims that she’s not really had any mental breakdowns because she is just so happy to be alive. If that is true, then I am 100% genuinely happy for her. But, I 100% genuinely do not believe her. Being in a wheelchair sucks. Having your mobility taken away from you sucks. Learning how to function in a world meant for people on two legs sucks. Is it all bad? Of course not! But to not admit that it sucks is a bold faced lie!

I think that I am a pretty positive person. I think that I am able to look at situations and find the good in them, generally speaking. But to say that having your world ripped away and completely changed in a matter of moments is not hard just doesn’t seem believable. And pretending otherwise does a disservice to people who do struggle. When I was in the hospital, after spending a week in ICU, the psychiatrists came in and wanted to give me anti-depressants. It was normal for them for people to freak out. In fact, I think they were worried because I wasn’t depressed. (I tried to explain the difference between suckyness and depression, but all they ever responded with was “Pill?”) What worked for me was having the most amazing priest in the history of priests come by my room several times a week to let me just vent and cry. And then I would be ok and return back to physical therapy and my attempts at positivity.

When I got home from the hospital, adjusting to daily life was hard. Having to rely on care takers to get me places was hard. Having to rely on the hubs to help me shower or go out in public after he had a long day at work was hard. I felt like such a burden. And that is difficult for an independent person. That’s difficult for any kind of person. But I worked through it. Now that I have my independence back, I struggle with my wheelchair. And I still struggle through PT. And I still struggle with simple things like putting my pants on. A few weeks ago I fell to the floor in a public restroom while trying to transfer from the toilet to the chair. That was tough. (And so incredibly disgusting!!!! I’m still washing my hands just thinking about it!)

This isn’t a pity party. This is just meant to show that life isn’t easy. Life is full of struggles. And when people try to play it off like it’s easy for them, it makes the rest of us feel bad. That’s what creates depression. There’s no shame in admitting that things are hard. There’s no shame in saying “Yeah, that sucked, but I’m getting through it!” Maybe being truthful makes the better person.

Target, I’m baa-aaack!

Yesterday was a huge day for me. It started out like any other normal day. I woke up and went to my office to meet my assistant to do some office organizing. [I feel like the hubs would interject here: “None of that is normal! You rarely go to your office when you don’t have to, and you hate to clean.”] I can’t argue with either of those points, but will continue on nonetheless.

It started out as an average, normal day. After I took off from the office around 10:30 (see, I hate spending too much time at work), I headed home. But then I remembered that I needed a few things from Target. “Do I dare go by myself??” I asked myself? See, I got my new wheelchair a few weeks ago. It’s AMAZING! It’s so much lighter and easier to maneuver. And I can get it in and out of my car by myself. It’s not the most graceful thing to witness. In fact, the other day, I actually trapped myself in my car because a front wheel got stuck on my push peddle. I mean, it was really wedged in there! After about three minutes thinking “this is where they’re going to find my remains!” (do you know how hot a garage in a heatwave in the desert can be???) I was able to get it unstuck. Ok, I was in my garage, so worst case, I’d be stuck until the hubs got home. And I had my phone, so I could have called someone for help. And it really just took me a minute to calm myself to figure out how to unwedge the wheel. But, those few minutes were not fun. Oh, and I’m always getting random bumps and bruises from clunking myself with the frame or the wheels. But again, it’s only been a few weeks! I really thought it would be smooth and easy. I watched a Youtube video of a girl claiming it was her first attempt at moving it into her car and it was seamless. Either she is full of…it or I’m just not as skilled. Maybe a combination thereof?

But I digress. Target. Ah, sweet Target. My home away from home. My Utopia. My Nirvana. The place that is likely to bankrupt me. Target. I decided to try it out. So far, I’d only gone to places where I knew I’d be ok if there was a problem. My office (my assistant is there, or I know the building manager could come help). The court (I know a bunch of bailiffs who could come help me out. I wouldn’t ask a fellow attorney. They’d leave me to rot and then try to steal my clients). Physical therapy (5 O’Clock Shadow would first ask me which muscles I felt working and talk about core strength. But then he’d eventually help me out). Those were the only places I’d gone solo. So going to Target was a little intimidating.

I parked at sat in the car for a minute, knowing that I could do this. Plus, I like to sit in the car for a few minutes to see if any people scowl at me disapprovingly. Then when I get my wheelchair out, they feel bad. Driving a car is the great equalizer. People can’t tell that my legs don’t work. Is that game mean? Probably. But, it’s the little things in life to get you through! I got my wheelchair out, no problem. Flew through the parking lot. I realize that sometimes I go so fast that people have to hurry to keep up. Having no one around means I can really open it up! In the store, I balanced a basket on my lap and cruised around the store. This was the first time in over a year that I had been in a public place (other than court- which the first time was Monday this week- or the pool for PT) completely by myself! It was amazing! It was liberating! It was a weird feeling. I guess I’d gotten so used to having people around that it was almost bizarre to be alone. But a great bizarre. The kind of bizarre that lets me believe that things are getting back to normal. Perhaps a new normal. I’m not giving up on walking again. I truly think it will happen. But, if it doesn’t, then I now truly believe that I will be OK. I can get back to doing things I used to do, just in a new and slightly modified way.

If I can shop at Target on my own [Hubs would here interject: “UGH!!!”], there isn’t anything I can’t do anymore!