November 29, 2013

Thankful for the Simple Joys in Life

It is days like yesterday that make me sit back and reflect on the journey we call life.  Yesterday was a day of thanks, a day of remembering, a day of cherishing, and most of all a day of slowing down and remembering to be grateful for the things that are so easy to take for granted in our lives.  I think in life it can be so easy to rush through each day that we forget to slow down amidst all the ciaos and just take it in, it can be so easy to get sidetracked that the beauty that surrounds us gets lost.

So this year as I sit and reflect, as I think about what I am thankful for, it is simple for me, it is life.  I am thankful for all of the hardships, triumphs, adversities, and successes that life has brought throughout the years.  I am thankful for that day back in January of 2008.  Now, you may ask why? But it is simple, it allowed me to not just live but to be alive, it has allowed me to appreciate the simplest joys in life.

There are moments when I sit back and I realize how much I took for granted before my paralysis, how many simple joys I just speed right past and didn’t even think twice about it.  The feeling of my toes in the sand, sitting with my feet in the pool and feeling the water on my feet as they dangle ever so freely in the water, the freeness that comes with just simply standing up and walking across a room, but most of all life.  Yes, I will admit it, there are plenty of moments in my own life that I look back on and realize that I took them for granted and unfortunately, it wasn’t until the day that I lost it all that I realized it.

Although, what I have realized more and more with time is I didn’t lose it all, those memories, they are heightened, I hold them near and dear to my heart, memories that I may not of thought twice about in the moment are some of my dearest memories, but most of all it has allowed me to appreciate all of those moments again, and this time understand the enormity of them.  Being able to stand up and hug my family for the first time in nearly six years, it is a simple hug, but in that moment I am standing on my own two feet and I am able to lean over, not reach up, and hug my loved ones.  Being able to walk towards a loved one for the first time, ever, and see him eye to eye, smiling at each other and being able to just have that moment, dance to our favorite song, be held in his arms, and see my wheelchair sitting in the corner, without me in it.  Those are the simple joys in life, those are the moments to slow down for and just take in.  Those are the moments that can’t be replaced.

We have all heard the quotes that talk about living each moment as it is your last, because you never know when it will be, and initially it is easy to think how morbid that sounds, but what if we truly did live our lives that way? Maybe then we wouldn’t pass by the beauty that surrounds us in those moments of ciaos, maybe we wouldn’t forget to slow down and take life in, maybe we would be able to truly appreciate the simplest of joys in life for what they are.

So this year, I am thankful for not just life, but all of the people that have been a part of it, my family, my friends, my loved ones, and all of the individuals far and wide who have supported me.  As the saying goes, “it takes a village” and in life it truly does take a village.  We all have our own stories, our own journey, unique to us, but not a single one of us have done it on our own, there is a village that backs us.  Even in the moments that we feel alone, somewhere, there is someone that is cheering us on, and supporting us.

So this year as we all approach the holidays this is my challenge, slow down, stop amidst all the ciaos, and be gracious.  Remember that life is too short to speed right through it, it is too short to hold a grudge, and to not tell those in your life just how much they mean to you.

November 15, 2013

Moving Forward

Six years, it has been nearly six years since I took my last steps.  Most days I still have a hard time believing it has been that long, 2,122 days since I last walked, and tomorrow I will do what I thought I would never do again, I will be standing at my 5’9” stature and I will be taking my first “steps” again since my paralysis.

For the past 7 weeks I have been learning how to use my customized leg braces, compensating in my upper body for what I don’t have in my lower body, understanding how to take “steps” again, but this time without actually using my legs.

I still remember everything about January 21, 2008, it is a day that I will never forget, I carry that day with me everyday, and it motivates me to continue to move forward.  I have this belief that it isn’t the moments or the circumstances in life that define us as individuals, it is how we react to them that defines us.  I have said it before, and I will say it again, January 21, 2008 will never define me as a person, however the journey since that day has made me who I am.  This journey these past 2,122 days has been full of plenty of ups and downs, full of laughter, love, heartbreak, excitement, hardship, triumphs, and adversities, but most of all they have been full of life.  This journey is one that has taught me to appreciate the simple things in life and never, ever take them for granted.  For nearly 19 years of my life I took the simple joy of being able to walk across a room for granted and now here I am looking to celebrate being able to take my first “steps” again.

The first time I took my first steps I was far too young to remember them, however I am sure my parents could tell you all about them, how old I was, what I was wearing, where I was at, but tomorrow I will create another set of memories as I take my first “steps” again, for the second time.  It is surreal to think about, taking “steps” again, but I feel lucky, lucky that I got to learn twice, because tomorrow, I get to celebrate, with my family and loved ones, as we create new memories.  Tomorrow, I will show myself that nothing is impossible.  When I stand up tomorrow it may not be the most graceful way of standing up, it may not be the most graceful steps I have ever taken, but they will be the most beautiful, and most of all I will be able to see my loved ones eye to eye and walk towards them for the first time in nearly six years, and for a few, for the first time, ever.

This journey these past few months has been full of emotions, emotions that are hard to understand myself, let alone explain.  Seeing a clock on the wall at a “normal” height for the first time, looking individuals eye to eye, without having to look up, the simple things, they have felt monumental, they have brought joy to my life in ways I would have never imagined.  I mean, a clock, it’s nothing special but seeing it on the wall and having it feel like it did for nearly 19 years and having that perspective again was just absolutely amazing.  It really is the little things.

So tomorrow, I will put on my cute outfit that I have planned just for this special day, I will stand tall, and it will be my chance at redefining what walking to me means and taking my first “steps” again.  Another milestone in my life that symbolizes moving forward.

Since January 21, 2008, I never thought it was possible to have a day like tomorrow and now, it is possible and what I have learned from this journey is that there isn’t a single hurdle in life that we can’t get over.  I have been paralyzed for nearly six years with no chance at regaining function from my point of injury down, however, tomorrow I will do the “impossible.”

So here is my challenge, just as I challenged everyone a few months ago to live your life with passion, with heart, free of fear, hate and judgment, be courageous, and know that in any given moment you can make a difference and you can change the world by your simple actions.   My challenge for all of you today is to move forward, don’t allow the set backs in life to do just that, set you back, because you can do anything, and I mean anything you put your mind to.  Dream, and dream big, believe in yourself, and know that no matter how hard it may get, we all have the strength to rise above and to move forward.

moving-forward-img