“The dust has settled.”
He looked me in the face and spoke the words that, deep down I already knew, but I still needed to hear out loud. And if words could cut like a knife, those ones were pretty sharp. It’s like, even after two years, somewhere inside I had a string of hope that my pain and disability could somehow still be temporary. That doctor visit cut my string off, and I had to accept another trigger word: Permanent.
Do you think it’s easier to hear news like this all at once, and cry and mourn and move on; or to have the process dragged out for two years with a “maybe”? Maybe my way is easier, because I’m not dealing with the shock factor, and my mind has had a lot of time to process all the possible outcomes. It still hurts though, if I’m being perfectly honest.
However, although it hurts and I had a good cry, I’ve decided to be at peace about it. And I’ll share with you my four main guideposts on how I’ve achieved that peace:
I realized that, if I could pick anyone else’s life in the world, I would still choose mine. That was an important wake up call to me that EVERYONE has struggles and pain in life. My struggles are deeply personal to me, but all of my joys are personal too. Both the struggles and the joys are real, and I wouldn’t trade them. I’m done wishing for a possible “better”, because appreciating the actual “now” is so much more powerful. Gratitude is a pretty strong cure for pain, and I have a beautiful abundance of things to say thank you for. So count your blessings because, remember, it could always be so much worse.
Acceptance brings about peace and can lead to confidence. This one took me a while, but I have made many conscious and difficult decisions throughout this process, and I am confident in the choices that I’ve made. I’ve had to be brave over and over and over again. When no one can give you a definite answer or a map of what exact path you must take, you have to learn to pull up your big girl pants and decide for yourself.
I made a choice to work hard. I made a choice to exercise and get stronger and make myself as mobile as possible. And when my strength and progress plateaued, I made a choice to adapt. I made a choice between living a life stuck at home in bed, or living a life with a wheelchair. I chose the wheelchair; because it meant that I could keep on going even if my legs couldn’t.
I made a choice to stop trying experimental treatments, and use what abilities I do have to take care of my babies and appreciate what each day gives me. I got to a point where I could function in life, and then I refused to miss out on the first few years of my babies’ lives for trying to possibly get a little better. I will never regret that choice.
Even with a disability, I have lived a beautiful life the past couple of years. I have to shun the thoughts that say I must be doing something wrong. I have to brave the stares I get every time I leave the house. I have to honor my body and respect my own limitations so I don’t digress and suffer more pain. I have to make these decisions every day and be confident in being my own authority.
Mahshad Vakili said, “Never forget how utterly unoriginal your suffering is.” While it’s true that nobody else has my exact same life, there are many, many people who have gone through similar experiences to mine. I have found great strength in reading other people’s stories that I can relate to, and participating in online support forums. Even if it doesn’t make my situation better, it helps immensely to just understand that I am not alone. I can, in fact, lead a beautiful and fulfilling life, regardless of my challenges; and lots of people do it.
Along with empathy comes the idea of letting go of stigmas. As our brains process information, they throw judgment and opinions into the mix of it. Wheelchairs, for example, often have a negative stigma. A wheelchair to me means that someone is braving up, in danger of being socially judged, and determining to keep living life in spite of their own physical limitations. What is not awesome about that?! My wheelchair is not something that emotionally pains me. It is something I am immensely grateful for. I would not be able to function without it, so it is an incredible gift to me.
Having this experience has made me much more open-minded to the secret battles everyone around me is facing. It’s helped me to lead with love. Practicing empathy can allow us to open our minds to other points of view, try to see things through new lenses, and have compassion on others and ourselves.
4. Silver Lining
Stop wishing for good, and start looking for it. You’ll realize it’s already there. I finally understand the deep profoundness of J.K. Rowling’s famous quote for her character Albus Dumbledore: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
If we can stop wishing for something else, we can begin to see all the beautiful things that are actually happening right now. We must first let go of all the “shoulds” that cloud our minds, and then we can start to appreciate what actually is. I could make an incredibly long list of good things that have come out of my pregnancy complications and pelvis problems, and easily at the top of the list are my sweet little boys. They’re enough of a silver lining for me every day to get me through anything, but there are so many more, both inner and outer, silver linings in my life that have come out of this experience. That means that, yes, this is hard, but it’s also great. It’s important.
It’s gonna continue to be hard. And I’m accepting that now, because I’m trusting that the silver linings are also gonna continue coming, like they always have. I’m excited to find and enjoy them! Here’s to the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the REAL, life. Maybe the dust has settled on my physical condition, but there’s a whole lot of good dust I can stir up as I try to do my part to spread love and make the world a better place. I’m gonna keep on flyin’.