Mission Accomplished!

For the past five months, I have posted rehabilitation updates on my Facebook feed as I reached rehabilitation milestones. I have been overwhelmed by the support and encouragement from hundreds of friends whenever I shared a progress report. Yesterday, I shared an important update – one I was not confident about achieving back in January when my former personal assistant dropped me and I fractured my femur

Rehab update: I have been discharged from outpatient physical therapy (PT)! And my sitting left knee flexion is 90 degrees! Without pain! 

Yes, I have been discharged from outpatient PT! The range of motion in my left leg has improved dramatically from January. Although pain is still a frequent companion, it is less debilitating than it has been in months. My tolerance for physical activity has increased. I have lost twelve pounds since my discharge from the rehabilitation hospital in February.

Do I sound like I’m bragging? I AM!

On January 11, while sobbing on my bedroom floor waiting for the ambulance, I knew I had sustained a life changing injury. When you live with a progressive neuromuscular disease, you know these types of events can strip you of independent mobility and function. It has happened to me in the past, and I was fearful of how this incident would impact my daily life.

I knew recovery would be a long, painful process. I was not wrong. There have been countless times when sudden pain caused instant tears and furious outbursts of expletives. Rehabilitation has been tough, and certainly not pretty. I have been cranky, moody, short-tempered and brusque with those who love me. I have snapped at family members who offered assistance, and pushed away well-meaning friends because I didn’t have the energy to be social.

But I am not a quitter, particularly when an orthopedic surgeon who doesn’t know me well tells me I will never do something again. Those who DO know me understand the best way to get me to do something is to tell me you doubt my ability to get it done.

And I don’t know how to fail with humility and grace. If I set my mind to do something, I stubbornly persist until I have accomplished the goal.

Back in January, I could not predict how long it would take me to get to this point or if I would ever get to this point. Yet, somehow I have made significant progress and my therapists feel I can be set free to continue rehabilitation without their assistance.

I WILL continue my rehabilitation program even though I have been discharged from PT. I know it is working. I see it in my movements and feel it in my leg strength. I have worked too hard to stop now. The scary truth is this injury may have finally created what physical therapists have tried to create since I first started PT as a child back in 1978 – a Denise who voluntarily engages in and enjoys routine exercise.

Current status: Relaxing with a gin and tonic while shopping online for a cute bathing suit in a smaller size. 😉

 

 

Deciding Not to Go Pro

Remember yesterday when I pledged to participate in a new blogging challenge? In case you don’t, here’s a recap of how I started the post:

This week I am taking part in Jeff Goins’ Blog Like a Pro (BLP) Challenge. Each day, I will write a post in line with the assignment. If you are a blogger and want to learn how to join in on the fun, visit here to learn the details.

I have to be honest with all of you. I realized something very important today.

I do not want to blog like a pro.

I am not saying I do not want to write. I DO want to write. And I want to keep sharing it with you. I am thrilled and blessed to know there are people around the world who take the time each day to read my words, thoughts and ideas. What an honor it is to be a guest in your lives.

But I do not feel compelled to engage in another blogging challenge to help me become a professional blogger.

It is not the fault of the challenge or the facilitator. Jeff is a great writer, and he has the experience to offer people who DO want to become professional bloggers. I have learned many important lessons from Jeff’s prior challenges, such as building a platform, growing your audience, engaging your reader, and following your calling. Jeff’s book You Are A Writer  is the reason I am writing every day. I am grateful for his guidance and advice over the past year and a half.

But I am not ready to become a professional blogger.

Some pretty serious things have happened in my life in 2016. If you are a new reader, you may not know about the burglary, illness, wheelchair repairs and the broken femur. To read the details of how my year started, you should read this post. Really – you should go read it, because just looking back at that last sentence I’m giggling to myself as I realize all of those things happened in the first thirteen days of the year. I AM a tough cookie.

But I am not willing to invest time and energy into something that is not bringing me fulfillment right now.

Two weeks in the hospital, followed by two more weeks in a rehabilitation hospital, and then a month at home, have given me plenty of time to examine my goals and priorities. Last week I shared my pledge to prioritize me. Today I am making good on that pledge by stepping out of the BLP Challenge.

I still plan to follow the progress of the other bloggers who are working on the BLP Challenge. Just because I have decided it is not the right time for me to complete the challenge does not mean I will stop offering encouragement and support to those who are giving it their all. In fact, I have already been inspired by the posts I have read. I was particularly struck by a manifesto written by Ross who blogs over at Anything is Progress. Yesterday, Ross wrote:

 Your aspirations should be all yours – not someone else’s.

Ross wrote some other good words, like these, in response to my comment about his post:

If we are trying to be someone else and living out the interests of others instead of living out how we’re made, then there’s an underlying frustration, even hopelessness, to everything we do. So yes, we need to say yes to life – we have it today, so we should make the most of it. It’s real, and it’s ours.

My aspirations do not include becoming a professional blogger. They do include writing and blogging, but my goal right now is to continue to practice my craft, not build a website. I know there will be a time to build and launch DeeScribes on its own, not on the free WordPress platform.

But that time is not now.

Now is the time for research and writing. Now is the time to interview family and friends to gather information for my book. Now is the time to continue physical therapy and exercise for my broken leg so I can return to my usual activities. Now is the time to be true to myself and my aspirations.

I am a writer. And now I will write.

Two geese on a green lawn with a pond in the background.

Are You Ready?

Earlier this year, while stuck at home recuperating from a wheelchair vs. knee incident (tip – the 250 pound power chair always wins these showdowns), I had a conversation with my sister Caroline. To be honest, I had conversations with all of my sisters who called to check on me that week. But, for this post, let’s focus on the conversation with Caroline, also known to all of us as ‘Crinnie.’

During our call, Crinnie and I were discussing one of my past relationships and she said something which got me thinking. I told her to hold on as I furiously scribbled it down. Crinnie is always doing this – offering me sentences which serve as great writing prompts. Thank you Crinnie. I’m finally getting around to using your prompt.

I have read several blog posts and articles about “how to live without fear” or “conquering your fears.” I’ve even written about facing fear. You might think I would not need to have my head whacked by a comment from my sister to realize there is more to the story. But there I was last January, wrapped in a penguin fleece blanket with an ice bag on my knee, discussing future plans and…BANG! Crinnie comes out with this keen observation.

You can’t be fearless until you are in the right place.

This sentence served as one of those “a-ha moments.” I instantly started spouting off about how I had not been able to be fearless in 2011 when I was miserable and stuck in a job I did not enjoy. I often let fear hold me back when I am struggling to maintain adequate personal assistant staffing. For almost two years after my sister Mary Jane died I cultivated my relationship with grief, which left me mired in fear without strength to pursue any of my passions. Then, I had to recuperate from my illness and near-death experience in 2013 before I was strong enough to recognize I needed to face fear and resume my personal writing.

In 2014, I enrolled in an introduction to memoir writing course, and realized I would have to share my personal writing – not just the writing I routinely do for my profession – with others for the first time in almost twenty years. I knew the only way I was going to continue to write and make progress in my writing was to practice in a public manner which is why I created DeeScribes. The tag line for this blog is “Following her writing dreams.” In a nutshell, it is why I started this blog.

Sharing work I am paid to create is different than sharing work I choose to create. Sharing my personal stories requires me to be vulnerable. Professional writing does not contain my personal opinions or ideas. The content I create for my employer is not my unique voice.

But when I share my personal stories, I expose a piece of my spirit and identity to others. I draw back the curtains I use to hide my walls and defenses, often to reveal something I’ve previously kept hidden. This is scary stuff and sometimes causes many writers to keep their content to themselves. It kept me from sharing my writing for decades.

Though I eventually did take action – participating in classes and starting a blog – I was never fearless. I am scared every time I share a new essay. Even with this post, my 170th post on this blog, there is a quiet voice inside my head saying, “What makes you think anyone is going to read this and find it useful or worthy of their time?” I fear my words will not be helpful, my meaning not understood. I worry someone will grant me the honor of five minutes of their valuable time and, upon reading my words, think, “Well, that was a waste.”

Just because I am in the right place to take action, does that mean I am in the right place to be fearless? What does it even mean to be in the right place to be fearless – and is fearless what I want to be?

These questions almost cause me to cease action. Then I challenge myself with the same query I offer other members of my writing group when they bring up similar thoughts.

Who am I writing for? Am I writing because I have an audience, small as it may be, or am I writing for me?

I know the answer. I am writing for me, just as I was when I wrote this post, and this post, and every post here on this blog. I am writing because nobody else can tell my story exactly as I can. I am writing because it helps me process my thoughts and understand my emotions and ideas. I write each day because when I don’t, it feels like something is missing, there is a gap which must be filled.

I have never been scared of writing. My fear comes when I must share my writing with others. The fear comes from comparing what I have written to the words others have written and thinking I may not “measure up.” But comparing myself to others does not further my attempts to complete my writing goals. It does not matter if I am “good enough.” I am telling my story in my words, the best way I can. If others choose not to read it, should I stop telling it?

If I honestly examine my journal writing and the thoughts in my head, I know I no longer want to be fearless when it comes to sharing my writing. Even if I may be in the “right place” in my life, even though I feel compelled to write, I want to keep that tingle of fear which gives me pause each time I prepare to hit ‘publish.’ I want to remain critical as I edit a guest post again, and again, and again, and yet again. Fear keeps me striving to learn more, to continually try to improve, to rally against complacency.

Even when we feel we are in a strong place in our lives, when things are going well and we are ready for action, it is still difficult to face fear. Perhaps the answer is not finding strength to face the fear, but rather finding resources to help us take small steps forward with the fear instead of letting it paralyze us.

I didn’t take physics in high school, but I know a body at rest stays at rest until an outside force acts upon it while bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. Forward motion is necessary – even when we fear we may fall, or pale in comparison to others. If we let fear keep us still, we will never be able to touch and help others with our unique gifts and talents.

In The Crusher!

A few years ago, my local PBS station ran a British show – Life Laundry. Every week, the show would feature someone who had fallen victim to clutter, or may even have been hoarding. The BBC promoted it as “a show about the stuff in our lives and emotions connected to our stuff.” The hosts, Dawna Walter and Jamie Breese, would help the participants de-clutter their homes and their lives. The homeowners would sort through their belongings. A few important items would be kept and salvaged. Some items were donated, some were tagged for a car boot sale (or flea market as we would say here in the USA), some were recycled, and then some items were sent to a big green trash bin called “The Crusher.” Finally, the made-over rooms would be revealed and usually the homeowners would cry.

I would watch the episodes and feel relief, then jealousy. I have a fair amount of clutter, but it is pretty contained, and thankfully it has never taken over my living space like some of the homes featured on the show. However, I would LOVE to have people come to help me sort and purge. I want to throw things in The Crusher!

I haven’t thought about the show, or The Crusher, for a few years. Recent events in my life have caused me to long once again for a bit of a Life Laundry intervention. Here’s why.

I have lived in the same apartment for eighteen years. Even typing that, I find it hard to believe. When I moved in, I never thought I would still be here after so much time. Life has a way of happening though, and it is difficult to find affordable, accessible housing. I have looked at other houses and apartments but this has continued to remain the most functional for me. There are many reasons to explore moving, but there are more reasons to stay. So I have stayed.

It is time (past time) for maintenance in my apartment. My power wheelchair is brutal to carpets, and it is time to rip up what is on my floors. The walls need to be painted. Some appliances need an upgrade. If I’m being honest, these things should have been done two years ago. I had planned to pursue them, then I was hospitalized, almost died, and apartment renovations didn’t seem like such a big priority.

Towards the end of 2014, I started talking with the property manager about repairs. I had, what I thought at the time, was a logical idea. I will be in Australia for two weeks in March. If the repairs were completed during that time, work could progress without any disruption to my daily routine. The workers would have time to move furniture, finish and paint the walls, and replace carpet without worrying about my need to live in the space at night. The property manager agreed to this plan, calling it wonderful. Everyone was happy.

Then it hit me. Before leaving for a trip to the other side of the world, I would need to pack MY ENTIRE APARTMENT AS IF I WERE MOVING! What did I just agree to?! Have you seen my junk room?! I’ve been here for eighteen years!

I NEED LIFE LAUNDRY! I need someone, or a group, to come and force me to spend 48 hours tackling my clutter. I need a Crusher for my junk.

Knowing this will not happen, I have made a plan with my Personal Assistants. We are tackling sections of my apartment each weekend. My pantry is now organized and my CDs have been sorted and packed away. Yesterday I decided it was time to get rid of my albums and my record player. I donated one of my sewing machines to a local senior center who wanted it for a craft class. The past three weekends I have shredded old documents, generating three garbage bags of trash and freeing up space in my filing cabinets. Today I will tackle my yarn stash.

The truth is I love getting rid of clutter. I feel great when I clear up space, and throw things out. My problem isn’t the purging. My problem is making the time to devote to the task. I have no energy on week nights, and when I have time on the weekends I would rather be writing, or crocheting, or reading, or anything else.

So, I am glad I have a deadline. A deadline prevents procrastination. I must have this task completed before I leave, with or without The Crusher.

For inspiration, I searched online and found one of my favorite episodes of Life Laundry on YouTube. Watch what happens around the 24 minute mark – in comes the Crusher!





My One Word

At the start of the year, I read many blog posts from writers who had chosen a word for the year as part of the “My One Word Challenge.” The premise is simple. Instead of setting resolutions (which you probably will just ignore), pick a word to give you focus for the year ahead. Every post I’ve read about the challenge has been written by a Christian, but I don’t think you have to be Christian or even believe in God to participate in this challenge. I think selecting a word and having it serve as a basis for your actions could be beneficial for anyone who seeks to make positive change in his or her life.

I have never thought about identifying with just one word. Thankfully, the website has some ideas about how to select a word. The website also has entries from challenge participants so you can read why they chose their words.

I made a list of four things I hope to accomplish in 2015. Then I thought about the traits I need to develop or improve to help me reach those goals. I reflected on last year, and knew right away my word for 2014 (had I selected one) would have been “fearless.” Still no word for this year.

Friends posted their words in our writing group. I read their words, hoping for inspiration, but nothing jumped out at me. Last week someone described me as “tenacious” and I thought I might be able to make it my word. Then I felt I was cheating by selecting a word which already described me. After all, the whole point is to try to focus on movement this year so why pick a word representing a trait I exhibit?

Saturday morning, while cooking with one of my Personal Assistants, it hit me. I knew what I did NOT want to be in 2015. I did not want to be judgmental. Or rather, I want to try to be less judgmental than I often am. Knowing this, I went to the dictionary and thesaurus to do some searching. After nearly an hour reading definitions, I came to a decision. My word for 2015 will be:

Charitable

Merriam-Webster defines charitable as “merciful or kind in judging others.” Or, as I once heard in a phenomenal training conducted by an ex-hippie named Manny, “always assume good intent.”

How does this impact my daily life? I think it is:

  • Resisting the urge to roll my eyes whenever someone calls me inspirational, brave, strong, etc., and accepting what was most likely meant as a compliment with gratitude and humility instead of ire and annoyance.
  • Teaching my Personal Assistants how to complete household or cooking tasks without questioning why an adult does not know how perform what I consider basic tasks.
  • Recognizing my life experiences are not the same as others, and remembering the blessings I have had are not universal to those I encounter.
  • Encouraging understanding and knowledge when I encounter fear and prejudice.

This is not an inclusive list, by any means. And my focus on being charitable does not mean I will stop being discriminate, or particular. There are aspects of my life which require me to be fastidious and picky.

However, I will do my best to keep Manny’s advice forefront in my thoughts and actions. I will try to ask questions to gain more thorough knowledge before rushing to an opinion. I will open myself to views other than my own in the hope of developing a deeper understanding. I will show kindness and empathy rather than harshness and criticism.

Because I am human, I will fail at times. When I do, I will pause and remind myself how I feel when others are quick to judge me. I will learn from my mistakes and endeavor to do better. I hope you will feel free to ask about my progress, and hold me accountable if you catch me falling short.

What about you? Did you select a word for 2015? Share your word in the comments below!