Here I am, 7 months later, finally understanding what the neurosurgeon meant when he said that I had a marathon of recovery in front of me. He said it a few hours after he had performed emergency surgery to relieve the pressure from my spinal cord. At the time I was completely paralyzed from the neck down, and no one had any idea of what my recovery would look like. He didn't know what it would look like, but he knew it was going to be a long-haul journey. And indeed it is that.
It feels like each month is like a mile in the marathon. I am at mile 7 of 26.1. Still holding strong and feeling pretty fresh, full of energy and excitement for what lies ahead. Body and mind are getting just a little tired, the reality of what I'm in for is settling in. I am realizing I need to conserve my energy for the long haul, I have come far, but I still have a long road in front of me.
It is miraculous and the result of amazing love and support holding space for my tenacious effort, that I am doing as well as I am. I am pleased as punch that I can do darn near everything I need to manage in the world. I can walk up to 3-4 miles in a day. I walk up and down long flights of stairs with more diligent attention than fear. I can walk to a bus stop, stand and wait as long as is needed, get on the bus, swipe my card and get into a seat. I can both walk up to a door and open it. I can brush my teeth, step into the shower, get dressed, open packages, turn keys, cut my food and write with my dominant hand. So many seemingly simple and mundane tasks that I was unable to do and relearned the coordination and effort to do over the past 7 months.
This is where I find my greatest joys these days. And this is where I experience my most sorrowful moments. In the mundane. Because really, that is where most of life happens, in the mundane. Life is filled with brushing our teeth, getting dressed, cutting our food, walking to the corner. I used to just get through these things so that I could get to the part of life that really mattered. But then, for a little while, I lost the ability to do those mundane things. And damn was I quick to learn, those mundane tasks - those are what our lives are made up of.
Each mundane skill I have gotten back to doing over the past 7 months, I have celebrated. I have been the queen of celebrating the small things. Epic happy dances over getting my shoes on, pulling my shirt over my head, opening a water bottle, closing a padlock and so many more. And this is where the marathon attitude needs to settle in. As I hit my 7 month marker, I have started to lose sight of celebrating in the mundane. As I have gotten used to being able to do these things, frustration and disappointment in my awkwardness and slowness in doing them, has found a home more often.
I am writing this blog as a reminder to myself to celebrate and relish in the simple things. I am reminding myself that what is going to get me through this marathon is being fully in it and celebrating the experience of what is. Of course frustration and disappointment will happen. I am looking to experience the full range of my emotions in this recovery. And as I feel those feelings, may I remind myself of how far I have come and how beautiful the experience of life is. Life is hard for everyone. We all experience frustration and disappointment. And I am pretty lucky that I have been given this sweet opportunity to get back to the basics. To focus on what really matters. Experiencing life in all of its glory, that includes the good the bad and the ugly. All of it. Celebrate and experience all of it.
Lizandra Vidal is a poet, writer, and wellness expert. In 2015 she suffered a spinal cord injury and this blog is a space where she shares the story of her experience.