Sometimes I forget that I am handicapped. Sometimes I forget my legs don’t work. The doctors say that’s a good thing. The whole mind-body connection thing. If my brain thinks it enough, it will start making the connections. I’m not a doctor. But I am a believer. So I’ll go with that.
Yesterday, as I parked at the courthouse, my assistant went to get the wheelchair from the trunk. I sat there in the passenger seat, putting my coat on. For a brief moment, I thought I was going to get up and walk. I didn’t really think about it. That was my natural impulse. I was actually sad for a second after I realized my wheelchair was coming around. But, it’s also motivation. I’m going to get there. Eventually. Eventually….
Another instance occurred last night. A new client called to retain my legal services. She has a case and needs a defense attorney to represent her. Not a problem. I’m a defense attorney. I can represent her. Oh, and her case is Friday. Not a problem. I will rearrange my work schedule to make that happen. The case is in the Catalina branch court. Avalon. Catalina Island. An hour boat ride away. A two hour drive to the boat. I told her no problem.
The hubs mouthed to me “How?!” I mouthed back “I’ll figure it out.” That seems to be the motto of this whole journey. I’ll figure it out. In the hospital, my aunt told me I had to erase “I can’t” from my vocabulary. My aunt is a physical therapist and pushed me the way only a family member can: relentlessly, unforgivingly, lovingly. The problem is that it’s hard to forget “I can’t”. Sometimes “I can’t” feels like “I’ll never” or “I used to, how can I not now?” Sometimes “I can’t” feels like loneliness. Like despair. Like a never ending black hole.
But, “I can’t” becomes what you make it. And that can change daily. For me, I’ve made the conscientious decision to turn “I can’t” into “I’ll figure it out.” I love a good puzzle. A mind game. A challenge. Problems are something you can figure out. For me, my legs don’t work. But I will figure out how to get them going again. It’s hard to get into the car? I’ll figure it out. It’s hard to put on pants? I’ll figure it out. Turn it into a game or challenge and I am intrigued.
A year ago, I loved taking Catalina cases. They were like little vacations for me. I’d drive out on Thursday afternoon. Take the ferry across the sea to the tiny island. Spend the night. Go to court the next morning. Catch the ferry back. It was such a nice escape from the heat of the desert. I didn’t have to worry about anything. Now it’s a bit trickier. I’ve been turning Catalina cases down. Until yesterday. It just hit me that I don’t want to be punished because of my wheelchair. I love Catalina. By George, I’ll figure out how to make it work!
I called my friend Kiki and asked her if there was any way she could get out of work on Friday. She said she really had to go. I said “Too bad, cause I was hoping you could take me to Catalina for court.” “Now wait a minute!” was her instant reply. Suddenly her work schedule became a bit more nebulous. She consulted her husband who backed her decision to skip work to help her needy friend. I’m thanking her by way of lunch and the ferry ticket.
A year ago, figuring things out was easy for me. I’m good at multi-tasking and planning. I’m good at rearranging and finessing. These days, figuring things out means I am dependent on people. And I hate being dependent upon people. (Well, except upon my family. But that’s a different story.) I hate asking people for favors, or owing them favors. But luckily Kiki is the kind of person who does things because she is a good friend. Not because she’s wondering what she can get from me down the road because of it. That’s a rare quality in a person.
There are still days that “I can’t” will get me down. But I will continue to get out of bed. I will continue making great efforts. I will continue trying my hardest. Because to me, “I can’t” will never become “I won’t.” And on that note: Catalina, here we come!