A long time ago I wrote about a conversation that I had with the partner of a fellow Parkwood patient. Her take on our collective new situations was "the only way there, is through". This past week, after getting home from Parkwood, I had a lightbulb moment. An enlightening, life-reaffirming sign reminding me that I was indeed getting through. Closer to being "there" even though I have no idea what or where there looks like.
On that Thursday I had a chance to see my friend and mentor Chris. She is the dietitian for SCI patients (and more) at Parkwood, and this May, she will have achieved 29 years of living with paralysis. I have learned a lot from Chris, and not just about SCI nutrition. She has gone to bat for me, made connections for me and answered a million questions. I have lunched with her, bombarded her with emails, cried with her (more than once) and even toured her house. She is my inspiration.
So it was after I came home (after not having been to Parkwood for almost a month!) that I had my "closer to there" realization. Chris and I, like most friends who don't see each other often, did a little update about our lives. Then I launched into my "burning question of the week". This time it was "how do you do it?" I was referring to her ability to steam around the 4th floor like a mad woman, answering everyone's questions, talking to doctors, patients and nurses, charting, planning for meetings - in a nutshell work full time - and have a life with a spinal cord injury?
To me, because everything I do seems to take so much more time, I can not imagine how I will ever be able to make the time to go back at work. Having had her injury for so long now Chris can likely not recall the step-by-step process of making the small changes that add up to being able to work full time. But being the wise woman that she is, she gave me some great advice. It's just like adjusting to coming home after rehab. It is daunting, and scary, you need to figure a lot of things out, but you do. You plan, make your place as accessible as possible, and you tell others what they can do to help. You get through.
It makes sense, like returning to work after having your first child. Although that was important learning, it was NOT my lightbulb moment. My realization was how our conversations had changed. My burning questions are no longer about the basics of SCI bowel and bladder, they are about work. I have progressed along the continuum of recovery. One step closer to being in a place that seems, for lack of a better word, normal.