We all have stories.
Some are good. And some are like really friggin’ good. Upon hearing them: BAM! Instant hero. How’d she live to tell? Ford Tough. Or something. It’s not rare to hear a story that has me feeling grateful for our thing that happened.
And these storytelling heroes? I feel what they’re telling me. I physically feel with all my parts how they feel even though my story is different. I hurt on the inside for people making their way through a traumatic event. My soul gets scared. It’s familiar territory. The stories are different. The way your inside crumbles and tries to repair – it’s the same.
May I tell you about my story? Here is a version.
2) A cute guy
3) New Years Eve
4) More Jagemeister
5) Spin the bottle (yes, with grown-ass adults. See #1 and #4)
Yeah, so, liquid courage or whatever it is. Our seven year relationship has a liquidy foundation made of licorice-tasting liquor.
Five years of dating, a beach house proposal, a golf course wedding, a new city, new jobs, and a massive course-changer. My husband and I have been through hell and back together. He’s now, for sure, my forever person.
Jimmy and I don’t have kids yet. What we do have? A spinal cord injury. Less than two months after we were married, Jimmy was on his way to work when The Flying Tire came barreling down the highway – changing our quiet, normal lives.
Just like that, my husband was paralyzed. August 8, 2011. That was the last time he walked. Those steps to get into his work car, those were his last. That morning spent at home with coffee, preparing for work – it would be the last like that. We had no idea of the new path we faced but we were slowly pulled into reality one day at a time. It was tough stuff, man. What humans are expected to deal with sometimes – it’s just mean.
Our lives look different now. We used to both work in television news. Jimmy was a photographer, I was a producer. We actually worked together at the same station, on the same shift, on the same show when the injury happened.
Now we both work together on the injury. Our lives are dealing with home care nurses and case managers. Catheters and bowels. Wheelchairs and ramps. Ventilators and suctioning. Oxygen saturation and temperature. Skin breakdown and muscle spasms. Medical supplies and medication.
Being through a trauma shakes your core a little, doesn’t it? It changes your perspective.
Some of the pettiness is exhausting now. On the same token, sometimes it’s the little things we’re thankful for because look how close my husband came to not having pettiness and little things.
While it can seem like me and my husband were robbed of a “normal” life, I’d like to list for you things I’m grateful for in my newish life. My silver linings. My don’t-take-for-granteds.
1) My husband. Duh. The fact that he’s here. I can hug him. I can smell his skin. He can continue to coach me through my crazy.
2) Food. I know this is really high on the list but a love for food is something me and my Husband always shared, and continue to. (I’ve got homemade dark chocolate brownies in the oven as I write this).
3) Time. I have so much more of it now that I’m not working. I have time to help nurture this injury. Time for me, time for us, time for Starbucks, time for TJ Maxx, maybe a little too much time for Buzzfeed quizzes.
4) Empathy. Tell me your story. I will feel it and I will hold my heart for you. And I will mean it. I’ve learned empathy over the past three years.
5) Comedy. When I tell you that sitcoms got me through the really dark, early days after the accident – it’s true. The nights I was alone, the nights when my neighbors probably could hear me sobbing through the walls? My friends during those dark times? Rhoda Morganstern. Chandler Bing. Niles Crane. Elaine Benes. Comedy. Saved. Me. (And, still does).
6) Chocolate. This kind of goes with number two, but I really feel like chocolate is worth another mention. (Brownies are cooling).
7) Family/Friends/Coworkers/Complete Strangers. (This should be higher. I wonder if my Mom will get mad she’s below two food categories). The people that came out of the woodwork during our two-person catastrophe — simply amazing. The people that prayed. The people that sent food, money and love. The family that called everyday if they couldn’t be here. The family that was here and just sat with me. But the people that still continue to let us know they are still here? Almost three years later? Because they know we’re still wounded. Not just on the outside.
8) A new city. We moved after the accident to be closer to top-notch medical care. We have a small support team here now. It’s pretty sturdy. And, I’ve made new friends of all ages. I have a friend named Nesie who’s 80-years-old. She feels the need to take care of me. I let her.
9) Brownies. Holy crap. These brownies with melty vanilla ice cream. Life is good. It’s that easy sometimes.
10) You. I’ve met some beautifully messy wonderful people who have shown me so much about life and how to live through some shit. I get lost in in your stories. And they help me. Maybe that’s why I share my brutal honesty sometimes. Because it’s the honesty of others, along with comedy and brownies, that pulls me through.
And I have to give a shout out to therapy, because THERAPY! Therapy has helped me see that I need to be social sometimes as much as I want to hermit. I apparently need to distract myself. Distract myself from the past and dwelling in what I miss. Remembering what was and missing it too much. That road can cause one to spiral.
Family. Friends. Stories of survival. Joey Tribiani. And brownies. You find what you can to help you live. Find your happiness. The small things will add up.
Because, let me be honest…
In the circle of great folks within this injury, a common thing we do is shine a light on not letting the injury win. Let me tell you, friends. Sometimes you just have to. You have to let it win. And I really think it’s okay. Sometimes you just wave your little white flag, crawl back under the covers and then find a better time, a stronger time to fight back. Sometimes the hard stuff just sucks the smiles and energy from you. We just have to let it win sometimes.
I mean, how do you truly build character by going undefeated anyways?
So wrapping this thing up with some good news: As hard as this life can be, as soul crushing as this injury can get, my husband and I have been working hard with a wonderful doctor and a wonderful nurse within a wonderful team over the last year to bring a baby home. My husband needs this. He needs a new fire. He needs a new light from within. Let’s face it. You can only get so excited about having a wife. But we need this. My soul is telling me it’s time.
The day-to-day emptiness in our home also tells me it’s time.
More good news? It looks like we may be on our way.
Maybe we won’t beat the injury but we’re gonna be kick ass as parents.