Wednesday, June 20, 2007


The New Normal

A while back I talked about how life was returning to normal. In regards to the daily activities of life, working, driving, shopping, etc... life is getting closer and closer to normal. However, it is far from what normal life is/was truly like. In general I try to focus on the positive improvements and special moments in life to remain positive now. However, there are times when I find myself thinking back on life as it was before.

I don't know what triggers these moments, and they don't last all day, nor do they ruin my day but they do put things into perspective. While I was still in the hospital Mary Lowe, a dear family friend and co-worker of my Father, made a comment to Dad about how this would become the "new normal". A year and a half later it is becoming the new normal, which does make it easier to deal with, but it is hard. People frequently make comments to me about how "they couldn't do it" or "would have given up." My response is that no one knows how they would respond to something like this until it happens to them. The reality is that I am alive and am simply living life. The fact is the New Normal is very difficult which is why I don't think about the old normal very often.

It's important to me that everyone understand what the New Normal is. I start my day by getting into a wheelchair, taking pills to help control the phantom pains and sensations, and then getting onto a bench in the shower where I have to do several balancing acts to get everything clean. I tend to choose what pants I'm going to wear based on whether or not I remembered (if it was necessary) to change my shoes the night before.

I have to wear pants that have been altered with zippers that run almost the full length of the inseam so that I can get them on easier. I put my pants on one leg at a time, and then I put my legs on one leg at a time. I do another balancing act while pulling up my pants and trying to make sure my shirt is tucked in. Once the pants are on I then stand up and, while leaning on my bed, put weight on my left leg to be sure it's on all the way. (It rarely goes on all the way while I'm in a sitting position.)

Then, while still in the wheelchair, I make my way to the garage and try to keep the cat from getting into the garage at the same time. This is why I have to stay in the chair because, it's my only chance at moving fast enough to keep the cat out. (6 out of 10 times this works) If the cat gets in the garage it adds at least another 5 minutes before I can leave for work.

I drive for an hour, with my hands, which is really quite fun, but sometimes I'm already exhausted by the time I get to work. Once I get to work I have to pull the wheelchair out of the car and put it together. At work it is a challenge to find opportunities to walk because I usually have to carry something with me, which I can't really do with two crutches unless it fits in a shoulder bag. I do get up when I can and the staff has started to push me to walk as I've realized that I'm having more difficulty walking longer distances again. (A direct result of returning to work full time and not walking as often as I was during my LOA.)

After a long day I make my way back out to the car where I get in the car, position my legs, dismantle and load the wheelchair and then start the hour drive back. Once I'm home I usually take my legs off, and then take the pants off the legs. (unless I have someplace else to go). At the end of the night I take the liners off my legs, wash the liners, wash my legs, put lotion on my legs, and take more pills to control the phantom pains and sensations.

I walk up and down stairs sideways and slowly. When I go up a ramp it's pretty easy as long as the slope is right but going down is almost always scary. Stepping off a curb is a scary process as well because I never know if I might fall. In fact, I have to be prepared to fall at anytime, because I don't really get any warning.

This is just the every day process of the "New Normal". The only way that I can positive is to not think about it as anything other than what life is now and enjoying what is fun about life. I have to enjoy the moment or else I would get lost in the mire of the process of living.

Thank you for all the comments this past week. They really do help me, as reading your comments is always one of the moments I look forward to each day!

That was very interesting to read. A little bit emotionally draining for me too. I really really wish things didnt have to be so hard for you -although I feel like that is not appropriate to say because it seems like everybody thinks that the best way to support you is to be positive all the time, but honestly I hate that you have to deal with some of the stuff that you're dealing with. I know we all have to deal with things we dont like though and there are reasons for it all, but the way you are dealing with your issues shows such incredible inner strength and courage -and the way you are so gracious, have a good sense of humor, and are doing so great focusing on the positive is beyond amazing to me! (I hope those compliments dont make you feel pressured to be perfect, I'll still think you're awesome if you slip and have a crummy attitude once in a while:)
I think the previous post pretty much says it all.
I think we have all been through our own special adversity, but mine seem very temporary compared to what you've been going through.
I admit that most of the time I don't know what to say to you that might possibly help.
Just know that I think of you often during the day and I hope my positive thoughts reach you somehow.
Jeremy - there must've been some telepathy going on or something. Just 2 days ago, I was thinking about you and suddenly remembered an episode I saw on the TV show "Ed" several years ago. There was a character on the show who was a paraplegic. On one particular episode, they opened the show with about a silent, 10-minute long montage in which this character started his day. It was very humbling and eye-opening to watch this man (who I believe is disabled in real life) struggle with the very mundane tasks we all do -- and take for granted that we *can* do -- every day.

It is one thing to hear you talk about getting ready for work, driving yourself to work in your own car and putting in these long work days -- things that you did before your accident. It is quite another to read this detailed description of how difficult and challenging it all actually is for you.

Thanks for taking the time to type all this out -- I am continually amazed at how you're handling all these challenges.



Your "normal day" humbles me. I tend to complain about my "normal day" of carting three teenagers to various activities and picking up after them. What am I thinking?!?

I do not pity you - I feel that would be belittling - however, I am sorry you have to spend so much of each day doing everyday tasks that most of us do without thinking. I admire you for being able to continue to "put one foot in front of the other" (be they man-made ones) and go on with life.

It seems the only way I can help you from Virginia is to offer emotional support. You have it, buddy! You are in our daily thougts and prayers.

Cousin Lisa
At the end of the movie "Pleasantville" the mom is crying and upset with the changes in her life, and she says 'this isn't the way it was supposed to be.' And her very profound teenage son said 'Yes, mom this IS the way it is supposed to be.'

I think we can all get caught up in how we always thought life was supposed to be, but you clearly have accepted that this is how your life is supposed to be. Every experience in our lives contributes to who we are. And I'd say you have every reason to be proud of who you are, and also to like who you are. It comes through in what you write every week.

If the car accident had not changed the course of your life, something else would have. Your challenges in life - for now anyway - are certainly more difficult than those alot of people are going through, but Jeremy the person is someone many, many people would love to be!

Hang in there, and keep on keepin' on.

Jeremy, thank you for candidly giving us a glimpse of your "new normal". Just yesterday, our computer screen saver (which flashes all of our pictures from about the last 10 years) showed one of you and Beth Ann sitting on the couch at Mom and Dad's house.... I'm guessing a family reunion :) - probably 4 years ago or so. It was a startling reminder to me of the difference between your "new normal" and the way life was before the car accident.

Your words in your blog demonstrate your determination to enjoy life, one day at a time, with an attitude that is accepting of the cup the Lord has given to you. A cup not all of us could drink from with the humility you've shown.

We love you,
You know, if we really think about it, every event creates a "new normal". New jobs, new loves, new lives, joy, tragedy, all combine to create what becomes our "new normal". BUT - what you've done so very well is to make us aware of the vast differences that these norms can take. You are very good this. I can hear my grandmother telling me that everything happens for a reason - and to be patient and it will be made known. Now, anyone reading this knows that patience is NOT my strong area. But I'm learning that she was wise. And you're helping us all know about patience as well as reason. New normal....very true. And you're so right - no one knows how they will react to any given situation - whether they will rise or fall at the time - but we can certainly learn from your example.

If only I knew a woman who could help you take your pants off! Okay, just trying to humor you, but after that comment I will be too embarrassed to lave my name so you'll just have to guess.

I love how blogger always asks you to "choose an identity." If I could be someone else, who would I be? Hmmmm.....
I have been going through some tough times in my own life lately and this post and everyone's comments have been really inspiring. It's like free therapy! Anyway, Jeremy, we've all said it before but keep your chin up, keep forward and remember we are all here supporting you and cheering you on! There was a good quote in a flyer I got in the mail: "Do or not do. There is no try." Can you guess who said it?? Here's a hint - it's a character from your favorite movie series.
Ok, so what your really saying is?

Love you too,
Well said.
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