When the going gets tough, the tough go small.
At least I do anyway.
On my morning walks -- which have been a struggle lately -- I focus on bricks.
I do most of my walking in Old City, and recently I've been blown away by the sheer number of bricks around. They're underfoot in the alley where I get my coffee. They're stacked into the walls of Old Christ Church.
They're EVERYWHERE I step.
These bricks have been standing since Ben Franklin's days. They've endured snow, sun, wars, and trash trucks -- legs made of skin, and wood, and titanium.
Sometimes miles are just too long. This week, I have to think smaller. I'm holding it together brick by brick.
It starts on Halloween when I'm invited to be a guest lecturer at University of the Sciences for a class of PT, OT, and PA students. The profs hint I should wear a costume, so I choose the most logical one...
|Modern Day Pirate!|
I tell the students about my rehabilitation journey. I talk about the prosthetic process and describe how my therapists broke down each task into its smallest components. How many times we backtracked and started over. How I practiced walking for hours in front of the mirror, internalizing a lesson that would carry me for thousands of miles:
ONE STEP AT A TIME.
It's especially relevant this week.
Halloween brings back memories of October 2010, when I had no idea what was coming. Each year since then, those 10 days -- from October 31 to November 9 -- have become the countdown, like a bumpy brick road I have no choice but to walk.
The path that leads from BEFORE to AFTER.
In 2011, on the first anniversary of the accident, I was haunted by October and dreaded turning the calendar page to November.
It's different now. I don't feel quite that way anymore.
In 7 years, November 9th has been transformed from a day of tragedy into my ALIVE DAY.
It's a day of loss -- yes -- but also a day of awe, and love, and gratitude for all the miles (and people!) that have carried me this far. It's a day when I think about how my journey's been built, step by step, brick by brick.
|I find this reminder|
on the hospital wall when
I go to volunteer!
Sure, I still get teary-eyed during the countdown. And I'm still overwhelmed by an inexplicable sense of urgency, like I need to get everything finished before it's too late.
But oddly, life goes on. There are students to teach, and patients to visit, and gardens to water, and walls to climb.
I tick off each task like a brick in the alleyway.
This year, I feel more prepared. This year, I think I'll handle it better. Yet on November 8th, as day sinks into evening, anxiety creeps in like a drum roll. The last task of the day is to attend a meeting of the Patient and Family Advisory Council at Jefferson. I drive into the parking garage, take the elevator down, walk across 10th Street. It's only 5 p.m., but already the sun falls below the city skyline.
Our meeting is held in the same building as the Emergency Department. The same building as the trauma bays.
My heart speeds up. The drum roll builds in my ears.
I look away from the illuminated sign and turn my eyes downward toward my feet. That's when I notice the brick entranceway. It sounds crazy, but it helps. For some reason, seeing those bricks calms me down.
Inside this building, they don't use bricks. They rebuild lives with sutures, and bandages, and blood. But it's the same idea.
One stitch at a time.
One step at a time.
One brick at a time.
I felt it in the hospital, learned it in rehab, and still practice it everyday. Without pacing, pattern, and patience, how would we ever build anything?
The meeting is held on the top floor of the building. From the conference room windows, we can see the white cross on the hospital helipad.
Tonight, in the short span of our meeting, two helicopters land there.
As my journey moves into Year 7, others' journeys are just beginning.