Saturday, March 31, 2012

Resistance versus Resilience

When presented with a difficult, or even life altering event, you have several choices about how to deal with these occurrences. Change, especially changes perceived to be for the worse, present to us a choice about how to deal with our new circumstances.

One of the many choices we may choose is resistance. If we resist the newly unfolding change, it can sometimes make a difficult happenstance even worse. Early on in my leg loss I chose not resist the inevitable reality that presented itself to me, instead I resolved that I would demonstrate resilience.

After the loss of my first leg, I was determined to get my life back on track to the best of my ability. Of course after having lost a leg I realized my life would never be as it was before, however, I knew with a lot of work and determination that I could still maintain a good and fairly normal quality of life.

Unfortunately after having attained what I felt was a manageable quality of life, I lost my second leg. The loss of my second leg was a traumatic setback for me. Once again I was presented with a choice of resistance versus resilience. We all know I chose resilience.

My continued "bounce back" however was plagued with difficulties much more overwhelming than the loss of just one leg. Now I no longer had my natural remaining leg to rely upon to help me compensate for the loss of the other leg.

Being a bilateral above knee amputee is a multifaceted problem. Not having my natural knee component in either leg meant I would no longer be able to "push up" with my knee to lift me out of a chair, to lift me up to the next step on a staircase, or to control my prosthetic foot while driving.

Fifteen months after the loss of my second leg, I am still learning new ways to do a lot of things that were much easier when I still had one good leg. My current and lifelong challenge heretofore will and has involved a lot of physical therapy and different techniques to help me to learn to walk again.

Even though I realize that my resisting the challenges presented before me are disadvantageous to my progress, my mind can't help but wander back to the time when I still had the one good leg to rely upon for help.

Maintaining my resolve to walk again has been wrought with self doubt and questioning my ability to accomplish the task presented before me. Can I do it? Will I do it?

I am fortunate in that I have maintained physical strength in my upper body through daily exercise and weight lifting. This physical strength has proved to be invaluable. My ability to maintain my independence, to keep my condo, and take care of myself without having to rely on others for most of the activities I do on a daily basis, has hinged on my physical strength, and for that I am very grateful.

Resilience is a funny thing. Why are some people resilient and others much less so? I think it comes from a belief in yourself and a desire to remain autonomous. The degree to which you want to be able to do things for yourself will drive you to work harder to overcome obstacles in your life.

I do not want to give up any more independence than is absolutely necessary because my leg losses, or any monumental loss, is devastating enough in and of itself. Consequently, I strive in the midst of my losses to maintain not only my physical freedom but also my mental and spiritual freedoms as well.

I derive much satisfaction and happiness by exercising my ability to come back from seemingly overwhelming conditions. Our ability to observe ourselves in our situations and make an assessment about how to proceed in our life, helps us to seek and find the correct procedure to take that will bring about the most positive results.

If we resist what is, than how are we able to help ourselves? Resisting what is, creates a waste of our energy that robs us of the positivity necessary to become successful in the goals we set for ourselves.

I am as positive as possible about my future and I couple it with patience and perseverance thus giving me the tools I need to achieve what I set out to do.

My resolution to be resilient about my future has helped immensely, but I have not done it completely on my own. There is nothing wrong with leaning on family, friends and medical professionals for support, knowledge, and encouragement.

Last but certainly not least, I rely on my spiritual faith to carry me through. Knowing that God is always there for me and that despite all outward appearances, I am in fact never alone on my journey, gives me comfort.

Being securely grounded in that knowledge and truth gives me the continuous strength I need to carry on, for that I am eternally grateful.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Little of This a Little of That

Happy St.,Patrick's Day! Believe it or not I am up on the sun deck writing this blog on a sunny, breezy 70 degree in the middle of March

Today is the third day this week the weather has been warm and sunny enough for me to venture up to the sun deck. I guess more importantly I was able to climb all 19 steps to the roof and walk across the deck to my chaise lounge.

Of course I could not have done this, at least not yet, on my full legs, I donned my short legs to accomplish this task. So far none of my neighbors have seen me in these weird short legs and if they do, I will just deal with it. Sometimes in life we just have to do what we have to do to accomplish what is important to us.

Although I have made some strides (excuse the pun) toward being a little less self conscious about wearing these short legs, I am by no means prepared to wear them out in public, I doubt I ever will.

Remember when I mentioned walking up and down the stairs at physical therapy and the prosthetist's office? As I remembered, climbing up the stairs was much more difficult than descending down the stairs. This has not been the case the two previous times this week I have tackled the stairs.

I was so fatigued from descending down the stairs this week, much more so than climbing up the stairs, that it took ten minutes for my legs to recover. I guess I will let you know how my trip down goes on another blog as I am writing this before I go down the stairs.

Usually I try to stick to one subject per blog entry but today I also want to talk about Shawn's Memorial Service which took place last night.

The service went really well, all in all. We had a good turn out around thirty people and their were lots of stories about Shawn and his antics. I sensed that there was not enough credit given to Vini for his contribution to Shawn's happiness and for the extraordinary care given to Shawn by Vini from the beginning of his cancer three years ago until Shawn took his last breath.

I felt it was necessary and appropriate to mention to everyone at the memorial how much time, energy and love Vini had given Shawn. You know it's odd sometimes how credit is given to family members almost exclusively and very little is given to the person who spent the most time with Shawn, comforting him and cleaning up the messes that dying can cause.

I continued to explain that although all of our lives had been affected by Shawn's death, Vini's life was the most dramatically impacted by the loss of Shawn. After all Vini had quit his job to take care of Shawn at the end, he will also have to change residences, worry about buying a car, and the financial ramifications of Shawn's death are life changing for Vini.

After I had finished what I had to say, I wondered, only slightly, if I had said the right thing. Later a couple of people at the memorial approached me to tell what I had said was beautiful.

I know Vini is relieved the sevice is behind him and can feel good that he honored Shawn's life with grace and dignity. I made a promise to Shawn that I would be here for Vini not just today or tomorrow but for a very long time.

One of the most beneficial things to come out of Shawn's death is my new friendship with Vini.

It has been said that one of the true measures of a life well lived, is how much you were loved by others, if that is true, than my friend Shawn Daly lived an exceptional life.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012


You know one of the most difficult aspects of my leg loss is sitting in my wheelchair looking through the sliding glass doors that lead to my balcony watching people walk by.

It bothers me on so many levels. First and foremost I miss walking. As we all know I am learning to walk or rather improving my ability to walk and making fairly good progress, however, I know it will never be the effortless casual walking a "normal" person does. Even though I don't dwell on those thoughts they still enter my mind and I wouldn't be human if I didn't wish this whole leg loss had never happened.

Another aspect of this loss I feel is that I will never look good in my clothes. This may sound vain and selfish but I miss trying on clothes or putting on something new and feeling like I look good in it.

Occasionally I have had thoughts about why I work so hard, to learn to walk, to drive, to lift weights, to take pride in my appearance, and for what?

Every time I start to feel those feelings I remember what my good friend Steve said to me, "Glenn you would feel even worse about yourself if you didn't work out or try as hard as possible to walk, it is just the type of person you are."

Steve is right about all of that, I do still care about my appearance, I will (am) still walk (ing) again and I do remain strong. Sometimes we slip into a a bit of "I wish it were this or that," "I wish that this had not happened," what if, what if, what if...

Life is not about what ifs, it is about reality. I constantly remind myself to stay in the present moment, after all the present moment is the only moment.

Presently I am writing this blog and I am thankful I have this outlet to express my inner most thoughts, to share my feelings and to understand myself through this writing.

When I look at my life, where I am, what I am doing, I can choose the way I feel about it. I could choose a path of self pity, poor me, or the path of jealousy, why did this happen to me? or they have such a great and easy life and my life is so hard.

Perhaps an even more destructive path might be alcoholism or drug addiction to soothe my pain and suffering.

These are just some of the paths that I could have chosen but I did not choose any of those paths. I chose to try to be as optimistic as possible about my future, paying particular attention to the good in my life.

Taking each day one at a time, staying as present as possible, has helped me to focus on the good in my life. Reminding myself of all of the wonderful people who are a part of my life, helping me, comforting me, reassuring me and loving me.

Things will never be the same as they were before my leg losses but that does not predispose me to unhappiness or failure. Life is all about change. These changes can be viewed as changes for the better, like losing weight, or changes for the worse, like losing our job.

When things change in our life we must learn to accept those changes and move on. Nothing is permanent in life, including life itself.

As I have said on many occasions, for change to be successful, it must be coupled with faith. Having faith that the outcome of any change will be beneficial to you in the long run, will help you work toward achieving the goals you set for yourself.

My life has changed dramatically in the last few years and it has taken some time to adjust to those changes. Aside from losing my legs, another change has occurred in my life, awareness. I am so much more aware of my blessings, my strength, the beauty in the world around us, and my own feelings.

Change can be something we dread and fear or it can be something we welcome knowing that contained within that change lies great blessings and knowledge that we may never have attained otherwise.

I have chosen the latter.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Catching Up

You know it was just about a year ago I began to learn how to drive using hand controls, today I am a pro. I never think about it, I just get in my car and go. One thing I do think about however. is the freedom driving continues to give me. I am so thankful for that and all of the other things I am still able to do for myself.

Today I thought I would touch upon some things that need to be caught up.

First of all, I had a cortisone shot in my right hand to see if it would alleviate the numbness I have experienced in my right finger tips as a result of carpal tunnel syndrome. Thus far, ten days have elapsed and I can't feel a discernible difference.
This is unfortunate because it leads me one step closer to having surgery on my right hand.

Naturally, I do not want to have yet another part of my body "go under the knife." Carpal Tunnel Syndrome left untreated can lead to permanent damage to the nervous system particularly in your fingertips.

Being an artist, both through my painting and now my writing, full use of both of my hands is essential in both of these activities and so many more. I have already suffered more than my share of physical losses and cannot afford further loss.

What concerns me most about this tentative and prospective surgery, is not the surgery itself, but rather the time needed for recovery. I was told it would be a minimum of 2 -3 weeks. This means I will have very limited use of my right hand for a 2-3 week time frame.

As you know my hands, arms and shoulders have carried the burden of my leg losses, assuming the responsibilities that were previously relegated to my legs.

I'm not sure how I will handle the various tasks my right hand performs on a daily basis. Transferring from my wheelchair to the bed, shower, etc. requires the use of both hands to transfer safely. I have been trying to use my hand with fingers bent and putting the weight on my bent fingers rather than on the palm/base of my hand.

As always, I take it a day at a time, having faith that solutions will appear as needed.

I have made a little more progress using the short legs. I walk using only one cane, not two. I can walk down the hallway using the walls a balance and no other "aid," in other words, no cane or walker.

I still have a ways to go, but over time I will get there. I should be pushing myself a little more, but sometimes I admit I get lazy. This laziness is always short lived, it just boils down to not feeling like pushing myself 24/7. I have given myself permission to do this as long as it does not become habitual.

I never want to lose sight of my goals and although it may take longer than anticipated, I will get there.

I have been using the new adjustable dumbbells I got as a Christmas gift from Rhonda and Peter. I have finally been able to increase the weight on several exercises. I was stuck in a rut because I had limited weights. My plan is to redo the guest room and turn it into a gym, artist studio and office.

I guess always having plans about how to make my life better and enable me not only maintain what I have, but also build upon it, is a good sign.

A sign of optimism about my future being brighter and getting stronger is something I always strive for and thus far have achieved. Thank God for that and so much more.

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