New Years 94

This winter has been noticeably colder. It snowed 4 inches here in Winder blanketing everything in fresh white. They say the years pass by quicker the older you get. This year seems to have faded quickly to memory, maybe there's truth to what they're saying. 2001 will mark my seventh year of inception into disability. I am quickly coming up on my first decade of being a wheelchair user. It was 94 that I spent New Years at the Shepherd Spinal Center with so many others also transitioning into disability. I remember how scary the future seemed finding myself in a hospital bed with no self sufficient measure to leave.

I broke my neck in California September of that year. Still hurting tremendously, any amount of cold made me throb in pain. Slight sounds pounded through my head like a jackhammer beating the street. Lights caused me sense disorientation. And though all I wanted to do was hide and be left alone, find a dark warm space where I could just be- not move, not be in pain; I knew my father needed a showing that I was going to be okay, that I was going to make it. New Year's and occasion called for social gathering. So my dad wheeled me down to a first floor conference room where recreational therapists had planned a small gathering.

Those of us in condition to gather conversed around tables of nuts, snacks, and potato chips. We ate pizza and watched movies finding reasons to celebrate and be thankful. We were alive even though we had lost pieces of self, ability, and movement. Life would be different for our remaining years and we knew. 14 of us sat around sharing what laughter we could muster.

I would never have believed anyone back then if they said life could be this good. I would never have guessed that so many opportunities would be available for persons in similar situations as mine. I would never have believed at that time that my life could ever take on any semblance of what I had thought normal to be. I thought I'd never be able to live independently again and make choices to direct my life. I was worried about social interaction, going places, traveling, and being seen. I didn't like being stared at and saw not one good thing about disability. I didn't know then it could be this good and that there were so many people who truly did care and wanted to help improve the quality of living.

It was January of 1995 and I was to leave Shepherd center to go home with my parents. I didn't want to go, Shepherd was a safe house for me where everybody had some idea of what I was going through. There were many of here sharing a common bond, going through the worst experience of our lives together relating situation. It was okay to be injured here. It was okay to be struggling and scared. I was not alone and my parents were not alone. There were people, other parents for them to console and grieve with. I didn't feel like it was okay to be disabled anywhere else. At my parents house there was only us and no other people in wheelchairs for probably miles around.

They did everything they could for me to make it easy. It was more difficult for them I thought having to do all the work and take care of me. A new world had offered itself to us and we were having trouble understanding, deciphering the language. The first few months are always difficult because the body is still settling out from the injury. There was still not much I could but rest and recover.

I have come a long way from there and I can look back now and laugh. Honestly life is great. I had built disability up to be a nightmare, but know I see I am blessed in every way. I hope this will find its way to someone new to disability. Someone who maybe lying in a bed at Shepherd right now daydreaming just trying to make sense of it all. Life is every moment worthy of living. The initial confusion is just a part of it, a stage which one must evolve through. Disability is just a different way of being. I do not see it as a hinderance or limitation. I see myself as just another character on the stage of life with choices to make, things to do, sharing with others the simple miracle of being. I think it is important for those of us who have come further from that experience to tell those of you incurring new injuries, there is life out here and you can make it as sweet as you want it. Each of us decides where to from here. Experience of disability though challenging is by no means unbearable. It gets better as you learn and get used to what you can and can't do. It like I said in my book 'When The Evening Dies' I see myself as some what of a king, what I can do I do, but somethings I can't do I don't mind not doing at all.

We can never forget our roots or what we went through to get this far. Others may benefit from our words and past experience. Many people are out here to help and love those of us living differently. Each of us whether disabled or not has to fight to build self. Winter is the time for hibernation and rest. When first injured one must utilize the time to be reflective and set goals for the future. A wheelchair does not stop life from unfolding in all its precious beauty. It only changes the angle of perspective and the way one wades through it all.