Nothing in my life happens quickly.
I’ve been severely disabled now for 18 years, and it’s taken that long for me to come to terms with the set of overwhelming changes that brought into my life.
For a long time, I felt frustrated by the glacial sense of progress. After the amputations of my arms and legs, there were years when I had to keep on going back into hospital to have reconstructive operations on my face. This was hugely disruptive for me and my family, so much so that I eventually decided to bring an end to it, and to live with what I’d got.
I found a job and I stuck with it.
I learned to drive again and got used to a new routine managing my prosthetic limbs. I found little ways I could join in with family life – doing the school run, taking the bins out, fetching things from the shops.
I made tiny baby steps back to being semi-useful as a husband and as a Dad, but boy, was it slow. Along the way, I had breakdown after breakdown, wrestling with a profound sense of inner pain, enduring anger, crushing vulnerability.
But eventually, after years and years of trying, I reached the safe place that I inhabit today.
I’ve had to compromise on all my aspirations and concede huge amounts of ground. There’s still physical pain, and when I get that, I just withdraw and deal with it until it passes. More difficult, is the mental side of things.
That’s a daily battle.
But my point is, improvements take lots of time. In an age of instant gratification, easy access and multiple options, we’re encouraged to think we can have everything quickly. TV, music, shopping, information, money, happiness, food, warmth. Love. We’re conditioned to expect comfort, luxury even, all in double-quick time.
I’ve learned not to expect any of that.
I don’t mind it, actually. The fact that I earn less money, and I do that more slowly, or that it takes me three times as long to walk just a tiny distance. The fact that I have to plan stuff very carefully in advance, taking account of all my physical limitations.
The way I see it, is it’s all become more valuable. Life. All the stuff I do, finding ways to get around not having feet and hands, trying to keep on top of the sadness in my head, it reminds me that I’ve got through a really challenging thing that happened to me.
This makes me feel strong.
Also, there’s a sense of inner grace and happy equilibrium in taking time over things. For example, every morning, I take my electric razor from the box it came in, shave myself, then I clean it, place it back in the box, and put it back in the drawer by my bedside. It’s a time-consuming process, but it’s about me looking after myself and taking care of my stuff. It’s slow, but it’s worth it.
Resilience requires time. Application. A new way of looking at life, perhaps?