27 April 2017

Three Years After

Monday, April 24th marked the third anniversary of my spinal cord injury. It seems like the injury took place so long ago now and yet it has only been three years. So much has happened in my family's life in the last three years. I now have a 19-year-old who is about ready to complete her first year of college and a 14-year-old who is getting ready to enter high school in August. Through all of these experiences along this journey, I now feel like I am emerging from the other side. I believe that I have finally found peace with this whole ordeal. It has not been easy to get to this point and it's difficult to convey how hard-fought my successes continue to be. But those closest to me know, and that's what matters to me.

Gratitude

As I look back at all the photos and videos Janene has taken over this three year period, read through the Caring Bridge posts and my blog posts, the progress I have made is pretty amazing to me. Believe it or not, I actually have a lot of gratitude for the fact that this experience happened to me. Yes, I just said that I am thankful for the experience. I did not arrive at this place easily or lightly, so stop and consider that statement for a moment. After three years of pondering every aspect of this entire situation, I feel that I am a better person for it in many ways. This whole experience forced me to get myself in order and I'm now a better person for it.

From the beginning of this experience three years ago, I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who provided me a constant stream of positive support. From the folks I worked with at the hospitals to all of my family, friends and co-workers, the positive vibes are what have inspired me to keep going. There were also a couple of notable things that two people told me that I have hung on to that have kept me going to this day:
  • My wife Janene has always taught our girls that no matter what you're doing in life, you need to 'fake it 'til you make it'. This catchphrase helps you to feel confident and optimistic about something until you gain the necessary experience to actually feel genuinely assured that you have reached a successful point. Although she has always intended this for the benefit of our daughters, I have been able to internalize it and use it to my own benefit in my recovery. Repeating this statement in my head has taken me quite far and I continue to use it to this day. Thank you so much, Janene. I love you!
  • My friend Greg, who has had two spinal cord injuries in his life (can you believe that?!), told me something very early on in my journey, that I held in my head to help me get through the first year and beyond. He said something like, 'I know you you are not in a place where you can understand what this means yet, but you will get there in time. Just do everything you can to make it through the first year and everything will seem 1000% better. You won't be totally healed in one year, but you will feel much, much better.' Ironically, I saw Greg the week of my first year anniversary and I told him about this and he didn't even remember telling me this. I think he was quite surprised that I held on to it for so long, but it was truly a lifeline. Thank you, Greg.

Lesson Learned

I have learned a lot in three years as this experience has taught me a lot, especially the way that you handle an experience. Most importantly, I've learned that when you are faced with a horribly painful experience (emotionally, mentally, physically) that changes your life, you can choose to one of two paths:
  1. Either, you can be angry, resistant, resentful and stuck on the fact that something was taken from you. I have met plenty of people on my journey who were here and until they change their outlook, they won't be able to move on.
  2. Or, you can acknowledge that it sucks but still feel gratitude for the positive aspects and for being able to be alive to experience it all. I haven't met any people who can say that they feel thankful for their experience with a spinal cord injury, but I have read about some. It wasn't easy for me to get to this point.
And this certainly doesn't mean that I'm done. My recovery will continue for years.

On that note, a singer-songwriter who I have listened to for years says this best here (Blogger won't let me embed this video correctly):

https://youtu.be/zbsbk7D2eI0?t=28m54s

He says it best by summarizing it this way: Pain helps us learn who we really are.

Reminders Along the Journey

Just recently, one of my colleagues from our Munich, Germany headquarters visited my office in Boulder. I have not seen this guy in person since before the accident so he was really shocked to see me walking and to see how well I am doing now. He said he was so surprised because the last he heard from me I was still in the wheelchair (the look on his face was priceless!). It's moments like this one that remind me of how far I've come.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me in any way along this journey.