Keep pushing ahead!

Thursday marked a huge day for me. Momentous. Amazing. You get the idea. It was big. It was another return to normalcy for me.

Before the surgery in 2013, I used to love taking cases on Catalina Island. Yes, the sleepy little island community has a one room court house and people do commit crimes there. Excuse me. They’re accused to committing crimes there. They’re mostly low level crimes revolving around drinking. I know I’ve talked about Catalina and my love of it before. I remember talking specifically about how stoked I was to go back there the first time. Well, I’ve check-mated that stokedness. (What, is that not a word??)

I had my first overnight solo trip since the big day occurred last August. I figured that there’s no time like the present to push myself. I’m walking better. I’m driving all over by myself. Why not try going to Catalina by myself? Plus, they changed the morning boat to 6:15am which means I would have had to leave my house at 3:45am. Um, yeah. I think I’ll cruise over the night before.

Most of the hotels there are old, multi-level, not so wheelchair friendly. But, there are a few that could work. The first one, that I was excited about, was booked when I called. Whoops. Did I wait too long?? I called the night before to book assuming there weren’t that many people in need of an ADA room on a random Thursday in their off-season. Guess I was wrong. Then I called two other hotels and they both had rooms available. I decided on one (it was $20 cheaper and well, I’m cheap) and booked it.

I left work on Thursday and drove down to Long Beach for the ferry. The cool thing is that I wasn’t even nervous. I practically grew up on Catalina. I know it pretty well. And the young guys who work on the ferry are so helpful to me. I knew that I’d be ok. The interesting thing was that when I was in line to get on the ferry, a man in line came over to ask if I needed any help getting on the boat or with my bags. I politely declined and informed him that the guys who work there always help me and that I would be OK. I thought that was super nice of him to offer though! The boat ride over was peaceful and uneventful (read: no dolphin sightings and no big swells). When we docked, a random lady in a really nice suit (yes, I notice those things because you can’t beat a beautifully made suit! In fact, my goal in life is to be so successful at my job that I can have all custom suits hand-made for me by some old Italian man. Not sure why he has to be Italian. It’s just the way I’ve always pictured it) asked me if I needed any help getting off the boat. People are so nice! Have you ever noticed that we focus on the bad things people do and not the nice ones? If you think about it, most people are nice. At least, in my post-trip confidence boost glow, I’m all happy on the human race.

I rolled over to the hotel and checked in with ease. In fact, after I checked in, I noticed that I beat some other people from the ferry to the hotel. I do tend to roll pretty fast. Why not?? You can’t beat the thrill of the wind in your face.

My room was so nice! Very easy to access and get around. I may or may not have fallen once when trying to transfer to this cool lounge chair. If my mom is reading this: definitely may not have happened. To everyone else: whoops, I did. But the rest of the night was pretty status quo: rolled over to a little pizza joint to grab a slice (man, my Italian roots are really coming out in this post!!), hung out near the bay for a minute (but it was cold and drizzly, so that was only a minute), did work and talked to a client for a while. The next morning I rolled on over to my favorite courthouse in California (it was literally one block from my hotel), did my business and before I knew it, was back on the ferry going home. Nothing scary or worrisome. All very easy and great! The kind of thing that makes you want to keep on trying new things!

I guess that’s the goal in life: to keep moving forward, keep progressing, and keep pushing yourself to try new things!

One year later

One year ago today was the day that changed my life. Was it the worst day of my life? No. I still consider that to be March 27, 1991. That was the date of my first major back surgery, and the date that my grandpa died. Despite the fact that that surgery saved the ability for my young self to walk and regain a normal lifestyle, that was the worst day of my life. One year ago today, I lost the ability to walk. It sounds weird to phrase it that day, but I think it’s appropriate. It’s not gone completely, it’s just hiding somewhere within my inner being. According to 5 O’Clock Shadow, my nerves are like a congested freeway and we just need the lanes to open up for the traffic to go freely. It may seem weird when people break things down like that, but that’s where my comprehension level is. When it has to do with medical issues and my body, my brain turns into that of a 10 year old. I can wrap my mind around that. Other PTs try telling me in their scholarly fashion “nerves regenerate at 1 millimeter per month and so far you’re showing excellent growth patterns.” My eyes will glaze over. Freeways and traffic I can relate to! I grew up driving in the traffic mecca of the world: Los Angeles. Traffic I get.

I keep thinking back to last year. I wonder if there was a precise moment when my legs went limp. This time last year I was under the knife. Had it already happened? Was it happening around now, as I sit hear one year later, eating left over pasta from last night’s dinner and typing this blog? If the doctors had ended the surgery now, would I have been able to skip out of the hospital? It’s a weird thing to think about.

I don’t know how to feel today, other than amazed at the fact that it’s already been a year. Am I sad? Indifferent? Optimistic? I don’t know. Is it possible to be all of the above? Obviously I’m bummed. I don’t think anyone hopes that one day they’ll get to have a permanent seat from now on. Though, to be fair, that is a perk: I never have to worry about finding a place to sit in public. But am I that bummed? It’s not like life is over. I’ve still been able to work, although it definitely took some figuring out as far as logistical planning goes. But, I’ve actually had my best year yet at my firm. So that wasn’t impacted. And I just got back from an amazing two week road trip with the hubs (more on that to come in a different blog). So I can still travel. I’m still able to swim. I can drive now. I have a new wheelchair coming any day now, so I’ll be 100% independent. I plan on ordering an attachment for said new wheelchair which will turn my wheelchair into a tricycle, so I can go on walks easier with the hubs and the dogs. Then there’s the weekly pain in the butt sessions with 5 O’Clock Shadow which keep me hopeful for the future. And the therapy I do at home helps me keep fighting to be back on my feet. So, is life really so bad?

This past weekend was my baby niece’s second birthday party. I watched other people running around playing with her, or carrying her and that made me sad. There was a pony ride involved and I couldn’t help her. I can honestly say that not being able to keep up with her or do all the things other people can with her has been the hardest part of this whole thing. But then I look for the positive: at her birthday party, I was like home base. I was seated in my wheelchair in a particular area out of the way of all the playing children, and she knew I was there. She would periodically make her way over to me with a toy or a blanket.

Maybe being non-mobile isn’t a terrible thing. Maybe it’s taught me that it’s ok to sit down for a while. That you don’t always have to be moving about. It’s definitely taught me patience. I know how frustrated clients can be when it seems things are taking forever and they don’t understand why. It’s taught me empathy for that frustration. It’s taught me to be resourceful and how to figure things out. This past year has taught be to get over my stubbornness and to ask for help. That’s it’s ok to need people. It doesn’t make you weak to not be able to do something 100% on your own. It’s definitely taught me to trust and who I can trust. It’s taught me who is truly there for me and who my real friends are. It’s taught me to meet challenges. It’s taught me that gravity can be really fun when rolling down hill and the wind is in your face. It’s also taught me that gravity can be really scary when rolling down hill and the wind is in your face. It’s taught me that sometimes life just sucks for no apparent reason and you just have to keep rolling.

One year ago today was the day that changed my life forever. And I don’t think it was in a bad way.

Swell-ing

Today’s positive thought.

Another unfortunate side effect of my current situation: swelling in my extremities.  (That’s not the positive thought, obviously)  Apparently when you don’t move, your body gets swollen.  Something to do with circulation and fluid.  All I know is that if I sit in my chair for a few hours, then my feet get super swollen.  They’re so bad that my shoes leave imprints on my feet.  They start hurting.  And for someone with numb feet, that’s saying something.  My physical therapists told me to lay down with my feet elevated every now and then.  That’s all find and dandy if I’m home alone or with the hubs or my folks.  But, I can’t really do that if we have company over.  (“You don’t mind if I lounge on the couch while you’re talking, right?  Oh, and please ignore me if I fall asleep as one is accustomed to doing when lounging on the couch.”)  And I especially can’t do that if I get stuck for a few hours in court.  (“Excuse me your honor, but do you have a sofa in your chambers?  My little piggies are swollen and I need to raise them for a bit.  You don’t mind if I take my shoes off, right?”)  It’s just not the easiest thing to deal with.  It’s not the worst either.  It’s one of those in-betweeners that is just annoyingly sucky.

What I didn’t realize right away was that it’s not just my feet that get swollen.  (No, it’s not my mid-section.  Though, I would love to blame weight gain on swelling.  “I’m not getting fat.  It’s just lack of circulation.  Now pass me the fries!”)  My hands have gotten swollen too!  I only know this because when I came home from the hospital, my rings fit.  After a couple days, I realized that my ring finger was turning purple.  My engagement ring almost didn’t come off.  And I hadn’t been able to wear it since.   Luckily my wedding band had been one size bigger so it fit.  So it sat waiting for me for months.  I tried moving my arms more, massaging my hands, drinking more water, anything to get the swelling down.  I would sit in my chair flailing my arms and air boxing.  Didn’t help.  I finally caved and went to my jeweler to have it re-sized.  I was putting that off as I’m hoping to be mobile in the relatively near future.  But I missed my ring too much to wait any longer.  Even though they charged a ridiculous amount of money, (here comes the positive thought) it was worth it to finally slip my beautiful ring back on my non-beautifully non-manicured finger.

Now, people may think that this isn’t a big deal.  To many people, it might not be a big deal.  To me, it’s huge.  So much of my life has been turned upside down by this surgery.  I haven’t been out on my own in public since the beginning of August.  I can’t take a shower unless someone is home.  A lot of my normal clothes don’t fit because it’s so hard to button your pants while sitting.  (Ok, that and the fries I suppose.)  Strangers have been driving my car while I can’t.  Going to meet friends somewhere?  That’s out.  Riding my bike?  That’s clearly not happening.  We had to take the doors off of the bathrooms for me to get in.  Life is not at all what it used to be.  And it’s definitely not what the hubs signed up for.  So, my being able to finally wear my ring is a sense of normalcy that I can restore.  And for the mind, that’s a huge deal.  It’s swell, if you will.

Plus, it’s really sparkly and sparkly things make me happy.  The end.