Permanent. Forever. These are words that are often used, but their casual use rarely captures the true magnitude of their definition. For me, at the root of both words is the idea that not much in life is everlasting. Yet, this is the beauty of life; life goes on and, figuratively speaking, time heals all wounds. Thus, in the end, the question is: how do we deal with the rare changes that are permanent within our own lives?
For the first few days after my accident, or a week maybe, nothing seemed real. Praying that it was all just a dream. It was so horrible that it must not be real. I struggled with this new reality. I asked the nurses and the doctors to place pillows under my blanket so that it looked like I still had my legs and feet underneath. That thin veil of a lie was enough to convince myself that if I were to remove the cover, my legs would be underneath. Looking back this may seem silly, but at the time it was very comforting. Anything to soften the harsh reality of the truth helped me get through the countless days and multiple surgeries. This façade was my weak attempt to hide from reality. To be honest, I don’t know exactly what led to my turning point, I simply remember pulling my mom close and telling her: “this needs to be real; we need to make this real.” Of course, it was already real, but I had come to a point where I needed to tell myself that is was time to accept my fate.
However, I did not personally begin to realize the permanence of my new life until months had past. I could keep my world so small that I could adjust to my new life with small changes. I was living in a temporary world that was just large enough to comprehend. Funny enough, I started to realize how truly different my life was going to be when I started to do more things. Once I started to leave my comfort zone, the feeling that I felt was not what I expected. My new freedom only magnified how unfree I was going to be in the world, and grasping my new reality was not easy.
In my mind, if I could convince myself that the (rare) permanent change to my life was just a short-term circumstance, then I could easily heal and things would be normal again.
This was, and is not the case.
One of the hardest things to articulate is the feeling of forever. I’m sure you’ve said things like, “I’ll never do that again,” and you may not, or years down the road you may. But in most cases, saying you’ll never do something again is a conscious, empowering choice because we believe as people we can do anything we put our minds to; having choice is empowering. However, when a choice with consequences that last forever is made for you, without your consent, there is an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. The choice is not a choice but an invasion, an attack on your humanity. You lose a little bit of yourself, and for me I lost part of myself literally as well as figuratively.
I am a huge advocate that the mind is more powerful than the body, and we can prevail and overcome any obstacle. But, I would be lying if I said I did not have a feeling of hopelessness and loss. That I no longer feel complete. That I don’t understand where I fit in, and that the uncertainty of the future does not scare me.
We spend our whole life trying to plan and anticipate the future so that we can live happy and stress free, but when that comfortable world is destroyed how are you supposed to cope with, or rationalize it?
Life goes on. So, we’re now left with a choice. Do we give up? Or, do we rebuild?
I’ve chosen to rebuild the life that was broken down, and to use my minds as the tool. I’ve said before that I’m not starting over – that I’m continuing with my life, but this not 100% true. When things change, it is naïve to think that we can simply just continue as is. In the beginning, I assumed that I would begin to feel like my old self again. I thought that with time, my body would begin to feel like it did before. This naïveté motivated me to continue with my original life plan. Looking back, I think it was good and beneficial to have these delusions. Without a sense of false hope, there is a good chance I would have given up all-together. I guess what I'm saying is, I had to convince myself of a lie and downplay the severity of my reality to ultimately prevail.
There is always fear associated with uncertainty, so we align our goals with a more comfortable reality. The only future I could visualize was the one I had been building for myself my entire life. For instance, over a year after the loss of my legs I still have dreams where I am walking around on them; my subconscious has still not come to terms with my reality.
Ultimately, I think this is how our mind works. We convince ourselves of a goal that is attainable so that we can work towards achieving it. In other words, no matter how big your dream is, your mind has the power to work toward achieving that dream no matter the odds. It’s hard to say if this is good or bad for my circumstance; but, at the end of the day, if I’m staying productive and using my mind and energy for something good then, ya know what, I think it’s a good thing.
With that said, life is still an ever-evolving circumstance to which our emotions are the result. If we work hard to avoid succumbing to negative emotions we can tackle our goals with practicality and understanding. Although by no means easy, not letting fear invade our thoughts allows for us to evolve with our circumstances, and we can still achieve greatness despite difficult and often rare changes that are forever and permanent.