Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Things I Can't Do
The students didn't seem to mind sticking around after class was over to get their questions answered. When we were finished they followed me out so that they could see how I handle stairs and some of them gathered around to see how the modifications to my car work. I answered a few more questions at the car and then headed home for the night.
Later that evening, and over the next several days, I found myself thinking about one particular question that had been asked. One student had asked "what I can't do now that I could do before the accident?" My answer had been that over the last three and a half years I had adapted to a point where there wasn't much that I couldn't do. But the more I've thought about it, the more I realize that my answer just wasn't true. The fact is that there is a lot that I can't do.
I don't think about these things very often because, well, it's depressing. I prefer to focus on what I can do. For instance, when it comes to day to day activities, I'm fairly self sufficient. I can drive, take care of my hygiene, cook (to some extent), clean (create the illusion that my house is clean), grocery shop, pump gas, etc... All of those things are more difficult than they used to be, but I have adapted to the point that I don't mind the difficulty. So, when people ask what I need help with, or just simply can't do at all, I automatically think about the day to day activities that I couldn't do at all three years ago but am now able to do independently.
I prefer to think about the positive things that I can do as opposed to the negative thoughts that start with "I can't". I do think it's important, especially for anyone going into the medical care industry, to understand how limiting the loss of my legs has been. The list of things that I can't do is much longer than one might expect. (Don't worry, I'm not going into the full list here, but I am going to give some examples.)
The things that can be the most frustrating are the things that I still feel that I should be able to do. These things include stuff like simple home maintenance. I can't cut my grass. I can't get into my attic for storage or to get things out of storage(the attic is only accessible by extension ladder). I can't get into my crawlspace to check the plumbing, ductwork, or exterior vents. I can't sit comfortably in a bath tub to soak in hot water while reading a book, sipping some wine, and listening to light jazz (I used to love to do that).
(If you are now trying to figure out why I can't sit in a bathtub, let me explain. The first issue is that I can't get my wheelchair into the one bathroom in my house that has a tub. However, even that doesn't stop me, as I am able to get on the floor in the living room, scoot into the bath room on the floor, brace myself between the toilet and the edge of the tub, raise myslef up, carefully balance on the edge of the tub, and lower myself into the tub. Once in the tub, though, I am unable to comfortably lie back, rest my head on the edge of the tub, and enjoy a good book while I soak. I have discovered that, without knees and feet to press against the floor of the tub, I slip under the water as soon as I lay back. This is niether conducive to reading or breathing!)
The things that are dissappointing are the things that I've never experienced. For example, carrying my future bride over the threshold (don't get excited, there's still no one vying for that position), sky diving, scuba diving, teaching my future children (need the future wife first) how to climb trees, etc... One of the most dissappointing things for me is that I will never get to experience carrying my future son or daughter inside from the car after they have fallen asleep during a late car ride home. (When I was a little kid I used to pretend to be asleep whenever we got home late so that Dad would carry me inside and take me up to bed.) I've always wanted to experience the other side of that, to be the Dad carrying the sleepy kid! Now I never will.
The things that hurt, are the things that I will never do again. Some of these are things that I could, possibly, still do, but the experience just wouldn't be worth the difficulty. For example, backpacking, taking a long day hike through the woods, speluncking (caving), white water rafting, canoeing, kyaking, swimming in the ocean, rock climbing. Some of these things, though, are simply things that I will never, no matter how much I try, get to experience again. I will never feel the grass between my toes on a warm spring day. I will never have a foot massage again, I will never jump, or climb, or run, or play frisbee, or so many other things that I can't even think of...
You can see why I don't dwell on the "I can't" or the "I'll never" statements. They're too damn depressing and they can paralyze you if you let them. It's so much better to focus on the "I can" statements. However, there is one more thing that I'll never be able to do again, that makes each of the new "I can" statements more difficult, and far more special in the end. Can any of you guess what that thing that I'll never be able to do again is? I will tell you that it has a dramatic impact on my perceptions of each new thing that I attempt.
Simply put, I will never be able to look at something new with the excitement of someone who feels like they are invincible. Everytime I travel to a new place, everytime I have the opportunity to try something new, I have to fight through a certain level of fear. I had a great opportunity to go skiing in February. I would have been with a group of people with disabilities similar to mine and there were experienced people there to provide training. If you've been following this blog for a while, you should be aware that I loved to ski before the accident and I truly want to do it again. I didn't know anyone going on the ski trip, I was unfamilliar with the area we would be skiing in, and I wasn't sure what to do with my legs while skiing. I chickened out. Maybe next year...
You are always in our thoughts.
Matt, Violet &Boys
Thanks for sharing! What an emotional read that was...It has made me reflect even more on what you deal with daily, both physically and mentally.
We do so appreciate the time you take with each blog entry to give us this insight into what you're doing, how you're coping and what you're thinking about.
You are loved!
P.S. We also used to pretend to be asleep so we could get carried into the house. We recently admitted this to Dad, who admitted he was hoodwinked. :-D
Heather and family
PS: what are you doing next Tuesday?
Happy Wed! Miss your smile.
Monica and the boys
I linked this post to my Facebook and I just wanted you to know that many old acquaintances from BRHS did not know of your accident. I've been asked to ask you to join up and hang out...you'll definitely be welcome there!
Hope to see you...
Thank you for sharing these thoughts. You teach us to look at our lives and to try to do a better job of using those abilities that we too often take for granted. We learn about ourselves and with your guidance are becoming more aware of others,their needs and wishes.
We love you,
Harry and Lilla
I'm confident the bath thing can be remedied with some creativity. I'll be thinking about a solution.
Pam H. :o)~