We all go through periods in our lives where we feel like we are dealing with one difficult situation after another. It isn’t always end-of-the-world type stuff. Sometimes it’s just the fact that your family has been sick for seemingly forever and another ear infection is on the horizon. And sometimes it’s a lot more than that. Either way, it can feel like you’re stuck inside a never-ending storm. Whenever I find myself in this mindset I’ll joke that I should really catch a break because I have a spinal cord injury after all. I can laugh about this now but there was definitely a time I felt quite confident this should be true. I’ve said so many times that an injury like mine makes you realize life doesn’t stop. People choose to move on after injury/illness/loss as best they can because they find out pretty quickly that life will move on without them if they don’t get on board. I think that sometimes the more difficult realization is that the realities of life don’t stop for challenges. No matter the reality and no matter the challenges.
When I was first injured I felt like I earned some sort of arbitrary right to not only be free of additional challenges but also to feel more slighted than most when anything in my life went sideways. As though because of my accident I could check off a box that said, “unexpected event/upheaval of entire life” and be exempt from any further difficult and/or emotional situations. Kind of like I was good-to-go indefinitely when it came to life’s ups and downs. It was nothing more than a survival tactic. In order for me to pick myself up and continue living, I had to give myself this false sense of security that we were, now, invincible. But it didn’t last. Realizing that this injury doesn’t exempt me from anything (I mean, except walking) and that I am still just as vulnerable in this life now as I was before, was terrifying, humbling and an important step in learning to live in the present.
This injury caused me to re-evaluate everything I thought my life would look like. In doing that, it intensified certain fears that I already had about life and the inability that I – or anyone – have to control the future. The smallest hypothetical bumps in the unforeseen road seemed magnified because we already had this one big strike against us, my spinal cord injury. Thinking of the larger obstacles that we could come up against could send me into a tailspin of panic or even cause me to shut down completely. It seemed so unfair that there was potential for us to have to navigate our way through more. It seemed annoying that we would still have to deal with the everyday difficulties that make up life.
I suppose I put myself on some sort of strange I’ve-dealt-with-some-tough-situations-so-I-should-get-a-pass-on-anything-else-difficult-forever pedestal. It was only slightly narcissistic of me. But then I took a look outside myself and I saw that tough situations are everywhere. Everyone is dealing with something. And what was humbling was the realization that, in so many ways, the ways that count, I’m not really much different than anyone else. It evened the playing field a little bit because nobody is immune to life. And the fact that I wasn’t immune to it either gave me a sense of normalcy.
More often than not, thoughts of this nature would cause me to fear everything. It’s no secret I deal with anxiety and that can definitely get in the way of living life. But as I continue to come out of my unrealistic safety bubble, I have moments where I can see that we have choice. We have choice to stop the fear of the future from interfering with our present. We have choice to live in the now.
With trauma or loss does not come exemptions on dealing with the realities of life. Surviving these types of things gives you the opportunity to keep living life with all of its highs and lows. Yes, we can feel stuck in cycles of bad fortune and feel as though there is an unfairness to it. But the world doesn’t owe you tomorrow. It doesn’t even owe you one minute from now. Be present. Work with what you’ve got and surround yourself with people who make life better. Be a person who makes life better for someone else. For me, I need to continue to separate myself from the idea that I am entitled to an easier life when it comes to anything besides my spinal cord injury. I need to deal with every hiccup and celebrate every milestone as it comes and be thankful that I’m still alive to experience life in all of its unpredictable glory.