Heels (or flats) to 2015!

I started out to write a typical new years blog. You know, talking about what I learned in 2014 and what I was looking forward to in 2015. All the things I was going to accomplish. It was going to be inspirational and motivational. The only problem is that it just wasn’t coming. All I could think of was “I want to walk” as a goal. But since that’s been an ongoing goal since August 13, 2013, that seemed kind of obvious. And easy.

I could make not quitting on 5-0 my 2015 goal. I wanted to not go to PT so badly today. I just wasn’t feeling motivated. The hubs said I could cancel if I wanted to, but that that was on me and he would not endorse or encourage that. (My mom is going to have a little chat with him if she reads this- not going is never an option on the table. She will take back her momentary lending of my rehab to the hubs if that behavior keeps up.) So, we went to Starbucks after I got done in court and then took my lazy butt to PT. I’m still not sure if that was a good decision or not. To say that 5-0 worked me today would be a gross understatement. To say he killed me would be an understatement. Let me put it this way- if my abs could jump out of my body and run away, they would. He’s gotten it into his head that merely walking isn’t good enough anymore. Now he’s focused on form. So rude, right?! The man asks so much of me. The good news is that I’m putting more pressure on my legs, so my legs, hips and abs are all dying. Well, he says that’s good news anyway. I think the good news is that I’m not putting as much weight on my arms, which means they don’t kill and hopefully will start shrinking a bit. I seriously am about to Hulk out of my suit jackets. Not cute. I suppose the good news is that I handled it like a champ. 5-0 has been playing really good music lately. My new favorite jam “All of Me” by John Legend came on and gave me a second wind.

So, tonight while I was repairing my sore muscles in a hot bath and debating whether I was going to ever have enough energy and mental power to get myself back to PT, I was flipping through a magazine. In the magazine was an article about how this writer grew to love heels after passing out due to 5.5″ heels or some such thing. She went on and on about how she used to hate flats and how now she appreciated this one famous model who wears flats. And how groundbreaking that model is.

Before I became paralyzed, if you had asked me what my biggest problem with my disability (I would have laughed at calling it a disability. It was more just my slight issues at the time.) was the fact that I couldn’t wear heels. I know that seems silly. Back then I walked with a limp. I couldn’t run and couldn’t walk long distances. Standing for too long was kind of tough. Balancing? Forget it. Yoga was not my friend. But none of that was terrible. I could walk. I could dance. I could walk. Oh, I said that already? I guess in retrospect that was kind of a big thing. My one complaint though: no heels. I’ve never been able to wear heels. At high school dances, all my friends would wear cute little heels. And I was relegated to flat sandals. In my single twenties when I tried to pick up guys at bars, it was flats. In Winter it was knee high boots which I could rock with a mini-skirt like nobody’s business! But they were still flat. My girlfriends in their stiletto boots were always cuter and sexier than me in my flats.

When I recuperated from surgery in 2006, I became obsessed with What Not To Wear. The message from Stacey and Klinton was always the same: women should wear heels at all times. They always went into explicit details about slimming and toning effects of the high heel. And about how it made a woman look sexy or more professional. Though I channeled them every time I went shopping and tried to tune out the shoe comments, it always rang through in my mind. There was also the fact that finding cute flats at the time was near impossible. The shoes I was forced to wear looked like something my grandma would have laughed at. It was a good thing I was always more of a tom boy, and learned how to dress up tennis shoes. And when it came to dating, I just hoped they wouldn’t notice my shoes. My love of dive bars made it easy to wear flip flops or tennis shoes on dates to play pool and drink beers.

The hardest shoe dilemma came when I entered the professional world. Despite all of my mother’s best efforts at pep talks, it was hard to not be envious of all the other female attorneys strutting down court corridors in their suits and shiny high heels. I often tried to hide my feet so no one would notice my lack of power heel. I loved pant suits as they better hid my feet. My suits were impeccable, and my briefcase on point. But I was always self-conscious about my footwear.

One of the best days of my life was when I discovered the Cole Haan female Oxford shoe. Not only could I wear them (i.e. they stayed on my clumsy feet and I could walk!), but they came in Rainbow Brite-esque shades. Blue with pink soles and laces. Gray with purple soles and laces. Red snakeskin with a gold sheen (USC colors- go Trojans!). So many amazing colors that looked great with a classically colored suit. If I’m wearing a black suit with a white shirt, who’s going to complain about my pink Oxfords? It’s become my thing! I specifically remember one day when I was waiting for a bus in Downtown Los Angeles to take me from the train station to the court, when a bus driver literally pulled over a bus to stop and ask me where I got my shoes. That was one of my top 5 favorite things to ever have happened to me.

But what is more important than the shoes themselves (is there even such a thing?!?!) is the feeling I get when I wear them. I’m not embarrassed of my shoes. I’m excited and confident. During a trial 2 years ago, my favorite client used to say to the bailiff “Check out my attorney’s kicks!”. Never did I think that anyone would brag about my style in footwear!

So now, reading this article about this girl finally trying to be OK with flats, like it’s a terrible thing, is pretty upsetting. The fact is that many people can’t wear certain things which society tries to impress upon us as being normal. Or sexy. Or the way to be. And it’s not OK to make us feel bad because we can’t. People are all different. If you love heels and feel better wearing them, then rock them! And if you love wearing flats, or, like me, are forced to, then rock those too!

So here is my self-motivating 2015 message: this year I vow to accept myself, flaws and all. And I will rock whatever I do. Or wear.

Happy 2015!

Fighting vanity

I’m at the point in my recovery where I’m hyper critical of things that I shouldn’t be concerned with exactly.  Though, I think the girly-girl in me (Ok mom, stop laughing.  I’m not always a tomboy.) always focuses on things that aren’t important.  When I was in the hospital in 2006, they wanted me to start walking and I was mortified to think that I hadn’t shaved my legs in 2 weeks.  I’m Italian.  That’s not pretty.  The night before my walking therapy was to begin, my sister went out and bought 3 different razors (she wanted to be sure that she got one that I liked) and actually shaved my legs for me.  How’s that for sisterly love??  But, even though I should have been focused on the bigger picture of walking, I was worried about a more superficial aspect.  I am humble enough to admit that that’s a shortcoming.

But, it can also be a good thing.  For example, after that same hospital stay, I cut my hair to a little bob (it had been almost down to my waist) and donated it to Locks of Love.  I thought that as vain as I was being in my recovery, I couldn’t imagine a person struggling with cancer and hair loss who felt bad because they didn’t have hair.  (I have such thick hair they probably could have made 2 wigs out of the hair that I donated!)  So I tried to turn the vanity into something positive for someone else.

I’m going into all of that to explain that I look at this video that was taking this morning at PT and all I think is how pushing your shoulders up to support body weight is probably one of the most unflattering things that a person can do!  I should be looking at the fact that my steps are the best steps I’ve taken since August 2013.  Or the fact that I went 20 feet farther than last week and am at 250 feet or so.  Or the fact that I promised Drill Sergeant Jr. (she’s the one with me in the video) that I would walk two full laps with no break by her last day in the clinic (which I didn’t realize was next week- good thing I love a challenge!)  But nope.  I’m thinking how I don’t want to share this video because it’s so unflattering.  But, I’m dedicated to sharing my recovery, so here it is.  Don’t judge.


Yesterday was a milestone.  Well, let me take you back a bit to put this all in perspective.

It was two weeks ago, Sunday.  I was sitting at home with the hubs when we decided it was time to do a little PT.  I strapped on my braces, grabbed the walker and went outside.  Decided a little fresh air working out might do me some good.  I wasn’t really sure how far I was going to go, but just set out.  I walked.  And kept walking.  And kept walking.  Well, I took two little seated breaks in the midst.  But the point was, I kept going.  When all was said and done, I walked about 200 feet!  With good controlled steps!  This was definitely the farthest I had gone since this little adventure began on 8/13/13.  Normally I’ve been walking about 30-60 feet on a good day.

The day after I had my marathon walk, I went in to see 5 O’clock Shadow.  I told him about my long walk and I think he was skeptical.  I did my warm-up, kill-me-now exercises.  Did you know that standing is actually harder than walking??  Yeah, who knew!  So then came time for the walking, and I walked across the room with pretty good gait.  But then I was pooped.  Then I think 5-O was definitely skeptical.  I tried to explain that I was just tired from the mileage I got the day before at home.

This week, I had another Monday morning session.  (Sidenote: I need to stop going in on Monday mornings to see 5-O, or I’m going to have to change his name as it seems Monday is shave day. I told him I was extremely disappointed and lodged a formal complaint. I’m not creative enough to give him a SECOND name!) I purposely didn’t walk as far on Sunday to preserve my strength for Monday’s session. We started out with the same warm-ups. He made me want to kill him by making stand. He pointed out that it is actually possible to sit too straight and told me he actually wants me to slouch a little, because what I think is slouching is actually the perfect amount of straight. Another “who knew?!” moment was had!

Then came the moment of truth. It was time for me to walk. I started out with a good walk. I made it to my normal stopping point with ease. Pressure on my legs, mostly off my arm. Smooth gait. Totally showing off for a therapist he was training who happens to know Drill Sergeant. Hoping that word will get back to Drill Sergeant about how good I’m doing now, because I was a hot mess when I was working with Drill Sergeant back in the hospital. He was a good sport (and by that I mean total mean jerk, hence the name) and I want to show him that I really did listen to what he said despite what my blubbery tears may have indicated.

So I made it to the mirror which is my normal stopping place. And then I angled the walker. “Oh, you’re making the turn?!” 5-O said as he pushed the walker behind me. “I’m making a circle. All your other patients do it, so why can’t I?!” I retorted. “I think you should!” he replied. About halfway through the circle of the whole clinic I said “Why am I showing off and pushing voluntarily?? Now you’re going to make me do this every time!” I despaired. “Probably!” 5-O laughed. By the end, I was exhausted, sweaty and my arms throbbed. About 2/3 into my walk, more weight went onto my arms and I was swinging my legs a little more than a controlled gait. But I still tried. I still focused. And most importantly, I made it!

I normally don’t talk too much about my clients on this blog. But, I have a new one who I will call Persistence. He is persistent in his determination to prove his innocence. He is persistent in growth as a person. He is persistent in his questioning everything I do (which he claims is to just help me, but I think secretly he’s persistently testing me, to which I reply “bring it!”). The reason I bring him up is that he inspired me to keep pushing through. Some days I’m too tired to fight for my walking. Some days I’m just bummed out by the situation. Some days I just find it easier to roll around than try to get upright again. But, as I wanted to give in to the fatigue and sit in the wheelchair that 5-O had behind me, I thought “If Persistence doesn’t give up in his fight, how can I give up in mine?”

So I made it to the end and sank into my wheelchair at the exact place from which I started. All in all, it was probably a 100-120 foot walk. The look on 5-O’s face really made it all worth it too! He was super proud of me, and I’ve said it before and will say it again: I respond really well to positive reinforcement. The bad thing is that he’ll probably make me do it every time now. But I accept that challenge and give myself a couple weeks until I’m doing two laps!

Plateaus (or beating good enough)

My doctors have always told me to expect plateaus when it comes to my recovery. They said that it’s completely normal to have upward changes in my ability and then for a while I’ll flatten out and stay there for a while before starting to gain again. They said this as a way of encouragement. They didn’t want me to be sad or disheartened when I didn’t see improvements. They knew how I live for improvements, no matter how miniscule. I monitor my abilities (or lack thereof) so closely that I am usually able to perceive any change, no matter how slight. It’s those changes that motivate me to keep trying.

What my doctors didn’t realize is that I am lazy. Give me any excuse to not have to try, and I will take it. Yes, I want to walk. More than anything in the whole world I want to walk (mostly because I want to drive and regain normality). But, I’m also very lazy. I am still hoping that I will just wake up one day fixed. Afterall, I went to sleep and woke up broken. Why can’t it work in reverse?

But my doctors gave me an out. A reason to not push it. I would stand for 35 minutes (a target I hit 2 or 3 weeks ago) and then I sit down. Blame it on the plateau. I’m not doing any longer because there’s a plateau. I walked to a spare room in my house, about 50 or 60 feet (Note to self: measure so I know, cause that’s important!) and haven’t walked any further. Plateau again.

Somehow, plateau became synonymous with “good enough”. Am I saying there aren’t plateaus? No way. There are for sure plateaus. There are times that I try my absolute 110% hardest and I can’t do any better. But, if I’m not trying my hardest, and settling for good enough, then it’s not a plateau. My mom pointed this out in her honest-in-a-way-that-only-my-mother-can-be way. She told me the other day that I was giving up. And why was I not trying harder. I met this comment with my normal eye roll, shrug and “You don’t understand mom!” (Yes, I do revert to a twelve year old when I have no real rational argument.) She replied “No, I don’t understand. But I see what’s going on.”

This conversation started because my dad’s birthday is coming up. His birthday request is to have me to come to their house- a place I haven’t been in 10 months, because there are 4 stairs to get to the patio on the side of the house. He’s only asking that I get to the patio, because inside there are much more steps that there’s no way I could conquer. He’s asking for me to try to figure out the 4 steps. And the narrow bathroom. I think I owe it to the man to try to figure out those problems. This started the conversation with “I can’t.” My mom said that she knew this request by my dad would be like a carrot on a stick in front of a horse. At first I resented that comment because it almost seems like I want to be in this wheelchair or like I’m not trying. But, as my stubbornness left me, I was forced to realize she was right. (I HATE ADMITTING THAT!!) I had given myself solace in plateau when really I was hiding in good enough.

So this weekend, with the metaphorical dangling carrot in front of me, I pushed myself. I have 2 things I have to master: bathroom and stairs. I focused on bathroom this weekend. Because the doorway is 22 inches and my wheelchair is almost double that, I’m going to have to walk. So the hubs and I practiced. I strapped on my braces, wheeled to the doorway of the bathroom, got up on my walker and went for it. I walked the 7 or so feet to the toilet, turned around and managed to sit. When I toilet is only 16 inches off the ground, and you have pretty much no leg control, it’s hard to sit gracefully. Our biggest concern was to try to go easily enough to not shatter the porcelain. But I did it. Using as much control as I could muster, and relying a lot on my arms, I sat. It was the first time I sat on a toilet from a standing position in 9 and a half months. First time I sat without my wheelchair being directly next to me. That is a weird thing. But also a completely motivating thing! Inspiring even! But, before I could revel in that, I had to practice standing up. Standing from 16 inches with no leg control is even harder. The hubs held the walker and I tried to lift myself. Attempt 1. Fail. Attempt 2. Fail. Attempt 3. Fail. My arms just weren’t strong enough to get me up high enough to swing my legs under me. I was trying to contain my frustration. The hubs asked if I wanted my wheelchair. Every part of my brain was screaming “YES!!!” But, then, that damn dangling carrot of my dad’s party was there in front of my eyes. I had to do this. Attempt 4. Success! I was finally able to figure out how to maneuver myself so I could get halfway, muster some energy for a second push into all the way. And I did it! And then, just to push it, I walked all the way back out to the family room (about 50-60 feet). During the walk back, I didn’t even need to sit once. I took two little rest breaks, but was able to stand the whole time. Another first! I felt like Rocky at the top of those steps doing a victory dance!

So, I still have those pesky stairs to figure out. But, I figure worst case, I can always lower to the ground and scoot up the stairs on my bottom. Or I can be carried in my wheelchair like an empress being carried in a chariot. That’s the easier part to figure out. And that’s the task for next weekend. Because now I have realized that I can’t let good enough and plateau become the same thing. And I need to push as much as is humanly possible because the plateaus will come naturally. I can’t fabricate them out of laziness if I’m truly dedicated to getting back on my feet.  And I have to remember that the euphoric high that comes along with accomplishing new goals  is better than giving into (or fabricating) plateaus and good enough!