Friday, February 24, 2012

Keeping the Faith

Every month it is a struggle to make my mortgage payment. My expenses outweigh my income. I have tried to "cut back" as much as possible but I still come up short every month.

Through the grace and generosity of my family and friends, and through selling some artwork, I have been able to scrape by. I was talking to Bill about this and we began a discussion about having faith. Faith is something I have, something I know in my heart, but it seems to be tested quite often.

Whenever I think my financial situation is dire, that I will not have enough money to pay my expenses, I begin to fret. Fretting as we all know does no good. Why then do some people (I definitely include myself) worry and fret about situations they have little or no control over?

Is it because we lack faith? Lack faith in God, lack faith in ourselves, lack faith in others, the Universe, the Supreme provider of all?

I believe some people simply worry more than others. Why is that? Could it be the way we were raised? Both of my parents worried about money constantly all of their lives. My dad was always worried about being laid off of work or that his company would go on strike at the end of their contract. Guess what? It never happened.

If we figure out why we may be predisposed to worrying, the next step is to change it. Remembering what has happened in the past, that we somehow managed to get the money to pay our bills and meet our obligations, why then should this time be any different?

Given all the physical hardships that have been laid upon my table, and being thankful for my ability to handle all of this, and eventually coming out feeling optimistic about my future, you would think I have faith that could not be shaken.

So often I have been led to a place of comfort, have obtained moments of clarity, revealing the core of my spiritual faith and have triumphed. In troubling times it would be advantageous to remember our triumphs, to summon forth the courage and make the connection between the innate knowledge we possess about the security of our future and it's ultimate outcome, then move forward.

It says in the Bible our faith will be tested many times. I for one can vouch for that truth. Where will all of this faith bring us?

Faith will bring us wherever we want to go. My belief in God, in myself, in my strength, in my courage and my gratitude have brought me here to this place. This blog is a place where I can bear my soul, share my experiences and impart to all of you that we are all human beings with weaknesses and strengths.

Focussing on our strengths, being grateful for them and continuing to build upon them is the only course of action that will benefit us to the end.

Realizing that our faith is being tested is not the same as having no faith. Having no faith, in God, in yourself, your family and friends means you are alone, helpless, and in a powerless situation with no where to turn. This is not the predicament I find myself in nor will I ever, because I know, not think, know I will always have God, myself and hopefully family and friends to turn to in times of doubt.

Having reread what I have just written I realize I do possess faith, remembering and summoning this faith and this knowledge of faith is a comfort to me and perhaps the next time I doubt myself, or my future I will read what I have just written.

Keeping the faith, three simple words, but sometimes a lifetime to achieve.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

The Staircase

I thought I would give you an update about my progress using the "short legs." The last time I wrote about this was January 27 and after having reread it, I thought I would express what has transpired in this short time.

I am finally no longer secluding myself in the small exam room at physical therapy, I have now "come out" into the full gym. You may be surprised at how self-conscious a person is while wearing these short legs. Bear in mind that before all of this started I was 5'10" tall, now I am 4'6" tall, which to say the least is quite a change. Additionally, my upper body, torso, arms and head appear disproportionate to the length of the short legs.

Nonetheless I felt my ability to progress at a satisfactory rate was being hampered by my hang up about how I look, consequently, my desire to progress superseded my feelings about how I look, thankfully and finally.

I had practiced and successfully accomplished climbing up and down the small staircase (3 steps of 2 different heights)in the PT gym. It isn't as difficult as I had anticipated, however, it requires quite a lot of upper body strength. I am so thankful I have been able to maintain (through daily weight lifting) my upper body strength. I think about others who are not as fortunate as I have been, because they lack the upper body strength, for whatever reason, and how much of a disadvantage a lack of strength is in this particular situation.

Last week I met with my prosthetist, Jason, and I decided I was ready to climb a regular staircase. Jason accompanied me to the concrete staircase in the building of the prosthetist's office. I was successful in my first attempt to climb the staircase to the landing, 9 steps and then climb back down to the bottom.

Jason and I traded ideas about which ways were the easiest and safest to accomplish climbing and descending stairs. There were several people who were using the staircase while I was practicing. Jason was quite pleased at what I was able to accomplish since he had seen me last (about a month). He was equally pleased that I had begun to emerge from my cacoon of fear into being seen in public (in a controlled setting) in short legs.

When I returned to PT this past Monday Jason had called my physical therapist, Chris, to give her an update about my accomplishments in his office and building the previous Thursday.

Chris and I went to the staircase down the hall from the gym. I climbed up 9 steps to the landing and then another 9 steps to the next floor. After a short rest, I descended all 18 steps and landing to the bottom in one continuous motion.

Remember last year how I spent the entire summer "scooting" up and down the staircase to the sundeck in my building? Not this year, assuming I get over being seen by other residents in my bulding, which I will.

Today I successfully stepped out onto my balcony for the first time in over a year. I'm not saying it was graceful or easy, however, I was able to do it. As I continue practicing I will be able to sit and enjoy my balcony this spring and summer. I am overjoyed with the knowledge that I will be able to sit outside looking at my flowers and watching people walk by. You have no idea how much I missed that this past year.

Gradually I am beginning to use the short legs more and more everyday, perhaps not as much as Chris and Jason would like, but certainly more than I have been.

At 54 years old I am rejoicing in the "baby steps" I am now taking. Sometimes I have to remind myself you have no natural legs and yet you can climb up and down a staircase, how wonderful is that?

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saying Goodbye

My friend of 23 years, Shawn Daly, lost his hard fought battle of 3 years to cancer early last Sunday morning.

I have written about my friendship with Shawn previously in a passage in this blog on July 2011 titled, "A Tumultuous Friendship."

As Shawn's cancer situation became more dire, his messages both verbal and his texts were more touching and loving. He had expressed to me many times how much he loved me and what a great friend he felt I had been to him over the years.

I in turn, told him many times how proud I was of him and his indelible courage and the strength he demonstrated throughout his illness.

I went to see Shawn about three weeks before he left this world and we had a great visit. I was amazed that despite the fact at that time, and unknown to him, he had about two weeks to live. Although of course he looked frail, thin, and his complexion was pale, he was not bedridden and was still able to walk downstairs, sit on the sofa and talk.

When I left his house after that visit, I wasn't sure I would ever see or speak to him again. I was quite troubled.

A week later he called me and said his mother and step-father were visiting him for the weekend and his mother really wanted to see me. I had met Shawn's mother many years ago and she and I really "clicked."

I made arrangements to see Shawn and his family on the following Sunday, one week before Shawn succumbed to cancer.

During the 10 days that had passed since my last visit, I could see a significant decline in Shawn. He was now on oxygen and heavily medicated, but still not bedridden and fairly lucid in spite of all the drugs.

He and I talked, just the two of us in the living room, he expressed his concerns about how Vinnie, his lover of seven years, would fair after he was gone.

I was as reassuring as I could be that I would help Vinnie in any way that I could; be a shoulder to cry on, a voice of reason, and support him psychologically to the best of my ability.

I told my dear friend, Shawn that I felt this illness had changed him. Shawn had evolved spiritually over the last years of his life, he was a very loving, caring and compassionate man.

I went on to tell Shawn, the courage, tenacity and perservance he demonstrated throughout his 3 year illness were some of the best human qualities that could ever be exhibited by any human being.

I continued to express my feeling that when people speak of Shawn, the Shawn of the last few years, people will say there was a person of great determination and the ultimate representation of courageousness.

As I continued to speak to Shawn, I said, the legacy you have left to this world and what you will be remembered for the most is your courage and strength. What better legacy could anyone ever leave?

When you are in Shawn's situation, my situation or any situation where feeling sorry for yourself might be an option, you look for inspiration. People who have been confronted with any of a myriad of difficult struggles or mishaps and yet have fought to overcome their disadvantages become inspirational to others.

Shawn brought the light of inspiration and the faith of believing in yourself, against all odds, by working toward a goal, beating cancer, learning to walk or whatever it may be, is really the only beneficial objective to pursue.

Shawn was an inspiration to me, to be strong, optimistic, and finish the race with dignity, grace and honor.

While I was at Shawn's house that last Sunday we were together, he said he had to leave, that he, Vinnie, and his best friend, Ronco, were going to the movies.

Think about that, this man, Shawn, with about a week to live, went to the movies with his lover and best friend. That whole scenario makes me smile. When I said goodbye to Shawn for the very last time, in this lifetime, he was going to the movies! Amazing and Inspirational.

Need I say more.......?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Year of Blogging

I began writing this blog February 7, 2011. This is the 58th passage I have written. I am going to call this the one year anniversary of my blog, even though technically it will be a year three days from now.

What have I learned and where do I want to go in the future?

I have learned first and foremost that I really enjoy writing. Not only do I enjoy writing but I also enjoy the cathartic feeling I derive from sharing my thoughts and feelings with all of you.

Over the past year, after having reread some of my earlier passages, I feel I have grown in many aspects as a result of this blog.

Writing has allowed me to take a good hard look at my life, my challenges, my successes, and my failures.

When you write about your life and attempt to put into words your feelings, your emotions, and the prospects for your future, you are forced
to really be introspective about your life.

I have accomplished much in this past year not only in my ability to express myself in words but also in the day to day management of living a life without legs.

There was a time in my life not so long ago that I wondered to myself if I were to lose my second leg, could I carry on? Would my life be worth living? Would my life be too difficult to be worthwhile? Would I be happy?

I am actually surprised and pleased with how well I have adjusted to this life without my legs. Would I have chosen this path? Of course not. As the saying goes, "it is not what hand you are dealt in life that matters, rather it is what you choose to do with that hand, that really matters."

As is to be expected, my life is not an easy one. Everyday tasks we take for granted, like walking, bathing, shopping, and driving a car, are now endeavors that take time, planning and energy. I am still able to do most everything that needs to be done to remain a self-sufficient individual and live independently.

I am thankful to still be able to live in my own beautiful home, independent, self-reliant and happy. I realize my situation could have been much worse, as are the lives of so many others in similar circumstances.

I never lose sight of the blessings in my life that still remain. I am thankful for the strong and positive outlook I have on my life and my future. The inner strength that has surfaced in my life has been an epiphany of sorts.

I attribute my inner strength to my spiritual beliefs. For me, asking God or whatever you choose to call the mastermind of the universe, for their help, strength, power, and positivity has proven to be the secret of my successful transition to living a life without the benefit of both of my legs.

Frustration, discouragement, and disappointment are feelings I am familar with, as are all of you. Whenever I start walking (sort of) down one of those paths I stop myself and choose another path. I choose the paths of fearlessness, perservence, faith and accomplishment.

Some of my favorite mantras are: "Faith that goes forward triumphs." "Walk by faith not sight." "Always reach for the best possible feelings to get the best results." "If you're not expecting it, you're not allowing it." I have countless positive messages I repeat to myself when I am feeling discouraged. This practice has helped my immensely.

What about my future? The future is already here. In reality there is no future, there is only this minute right now. Right now as I write this, I am at home, safe, secure, warm, well fed, writing this blog and listening to my bird, GiGi singing. Am I blessed, what do you think?

As I begin the second year of this blog I am moving closer to my goal of writing book, although this is actually already a book, isn't it?

I know as I continue this blog, great things lie ahead for me. I continue listening to that still small voice in my head telling me "the best of your life is yet to come."

Thanks to all of you for participating in my life over the past year, by reading my blog, writing comments, sending emails, and making phone calls. I really appreciate sharing my life with you and know those feelings are mutual.

God bless us all today and every day.