It’s today. The one anniversary that rolls around every year and adds one more number to the years I have rolled around. On this day, every year, we go away and do something together. It helps me keep my focus on my blessings and the beautiful gift of life that I was granted that day 6 years ago.
In a conversation at school yesterday, I was asked if this day made me sad. I answered yes. When asked, “Why?”, I sort of stuttered around. It was hard to answer. Later at home, while discussing our family plans for today, my husband asked me, “Are you looking forward to tomorrow?” Once again, I stuttered and finally said, “That is a loaded question.”
How do you put the emotions of this day into a quick answer? You don’t. You just stutter. If you ask me today, “Are you happy or sad today?,” my answer would be, “Yes.”
In honor of the #6, let me share why.
#1. Sad – Life is so different than before. This date marks a drastic change in my life. Thinking of how my life was before and how different it is now, sends a painful streak right through my heart. This day is a stark reminder of how it used to be.
Happy – Life is so different than before. My priorities, my perspective, and the preciousness of every single day is unbelievably different now than how it used to be “before”. I would not want it any other way.
#2. Sad – Memories can hurt. This day floods memories to my mind of that horrible day….months…year. The pain, the terror of not knowing what happened in my body and if I would even live to see my baby grow, the tears and frustration, the fights with my husband as we tried to find our new selves, and the agonizing nights left alone with my mind! To this day, I still struggle to see myself in a pictures where I am standing up. Memories. Lots of them.
Happy – Memories can heal. I remember something my good friend, Jamie Goodwin – who was a “new” friend at the time of this story- told me. She has been a paraplegic for a long time now and she had called me to talk to me and help. I was still pregnant and scared and she was pregnant with her third boy. She said, “You know, Alicia, your little ones will never remember you walking. They will only know you as their mommy in the wheelchair and they will be totally cool with it.” When she said that, I felt like I had just been stabbed in the gut!! But her words stuck with me and I started to think about the memories that I wanted them to have with their “Mommy in a wheelchair.” I didn’t want them to know me as the mom who was depressed and stayed in bed because she didn’t want to face the world. They deserved good memories too. That drove me to a good place. It helped heal a part of my heart that was afraid. I am thankful for that.
#3. Sad – It marks the death of a way of life. Besides just losing parts of your body, you lose part of what made you who you were. There are still things I mourn for. Things in my marriage, things in my hobbies, or things I could do with friends or family. I can adapt a lot, but there are still things I cannot do. Those losses can add up and take a toll on you emotionally. This day sort of just hits a refresh button inside and you mourn these things especially on this day.
Happy – It marks the birth of a new life. Oh my goodness! There are things that I do now that I never did before! I have been given some amazing opportunities through speaking and traveling, I have a whole new set of friends who are paralyzed like me, I am extremely involved in the spinal cord world nationwide and on a local level in my city, and I have a whole new outlook on life that is nothing like it was before. I could mention so many amazing specific things that are already in place for this year but I will keep this short. It just makes me happy that God is not finished with me and has helped work so many of these things out.
#4. Sad – Realistic reminders that never go away. There is sadness because every day I am reminded of my limitations. A set of steps, sand or rough terrain, the lack of a curb cutout at a sidewalk, no open parking, inaccessible seating or rooms, no handicap stalls…I could go on and on. The sadness of this day follows us every day of our lives in these areas. We can’t box them up and put them away until next year.
Happy – Realistic challenges that can be learned or changed! These reminders have spurred so many people with disabilities to make wonderful and productive changes in our communities. While learning personal wheelchair skills can be very helpful in facing these reminders head on, it is important to do for those who can’t. This is where advocacy is so important. I love what my friend, Casey Schaffer, is doing as Ms. Wheelchair KY. She is challenging the mayors of small rural towns to get in a wheelchair and navigate their communities to see first hand the challenges that must be fixed. Love it! Our struggles are helping others. That makes me happy.
#5. Sad – Daily struggles. The daily is where it can get rough at times. The truth is, I can’t believe I have made it to 6 years already! I used to cry thinking about getting through the day! If you would have asked me if I could have handled 6 years of the daily struggle, I would have told you that you were crazy. I would never make it!! But I have. Every single part of your day is hard. Very doable, but so hard compared to what it was. Turning over, getting up, bathrooming and showering, transferring, getting in and out of our cars, bathroom accidents, constant nerve pain, neck pain, shoulder pain…pain is sort of a common theme in our day! You watch others do it with such ease and you get a wave of jealousy! You think of it very often, but today, you just think about it a little longer.
Happy – Daily struggles. The daily is rough because it shows me my deficiencies every single day. The beauty in this, is that my limitations and pain show me a true picture of myself before the Lord. I am weak, I am not able, I am hurting without Him. The big picture of my life is drawn out by the daily sketches. In these sketches, I am shown how I daily need the Lord’s strength. I have found my weakest moments to be the times when the Lord’s presence and help was the strongest. I am so touched that Jesus cares that much for me. Nothing I suffer can compare to what He suffered for me because He loved me. It makes me happy to know that in my suffering, I have been drawn closer to His fellowship.
#6. Sad – These same emotions that hit me this way every year.
Happy – These emotions mean that I am alive to have them! I pray to have many more of these anniversaries. I am so thankful for God’s gift of life He has still chosen to grant to me.
It’s okay to be sad and happy on this day. Even though it fills me with a cocktail of emotions, the balance between sad and happy is a good thing. I don’t want to ever forget the journey that God has placed me on as it has been a remarkable teacher.
Thank you for sharing these years with me!