Accepting limitations (and the growing pains that come with them)
I didn’t hesitate to love that little red wheelchair. It was so much better than the mammoth one they used for me in the other hospital. And it was definitely better than being half dragged / half carried to the bathroom every few hours - which really was the only other alternative at that point. Plus, this wheelchair was just my size. And it was red. Same color as my walker at home, which somehow made it that much more familiar and comforting.
By the second week of rehabilitation my arm and hand were working well enough to wheel myself all the way from my room down to the therapy rooms every day. I still hadn’t been cleared to get myself out of bed and into the chair… yet. But once I was in my chair I could get around my hospital room without any help. I could even get my toothbrush and clothes out all on my own! Freedom. Independence. It was more than I’d been able to do in days. And cruising around the hallways - that was more than I’d been able to do in weeks.
Some people see a wheelchair as limiting or restricting. But after needing one so desperately and not having one, sitting in that chair and effortlessly moving myself around was so freeing and empowering! Sitting in my little red wheelchair, I felt relief. It’s one thing to have a supportive husband who’s got the muscles to haul me around, but it’s another to be completely dependent on that help all the time.
I tried to remember that feeling of relief and freedom as I sat around the campfire in my new wheelchair this weekend. Because honestly, I wasn’t feeling too many positive vibes about my wheelchair at the moment. Instead I felt trapped, confined, and honestly… a total burden to everyone else at the camp out.
“What in the world was I thinking coming camping when I can’t walk?” The question ran through my mind more than once. But I knew why I’d come and why my husband was willing to bring me. Summer after summer of missing things due to health issues, we’d made up our minds that this year was the year of making things happen. Health issues or not, walking or not, we were going camping.
So when the downward spiral gained momentum last week and I found myself dependent on a wheelchair yet again, we stuck with our plans. I’d already missed one of the trips this season (pneumonia of all things!) and I wasn’t going to miss this one. For the two nights before the trip, my husband packed, gathered, loaded, and prepped… while I laid on the couch until he carried me up to bed. Friday morning the final thing to be loaded into the truck was me - piggy back style :)
In a caravan we headed out, my husband's parents and sister-in-law and family following behind us. I hoped all my optimism and excitement would make up for everything my body was lacking and that this wheelchair was going to make all the difference. And I really think it would have… if the tent hadn’t needed to be up on a hill, and if the slope away from our site hadn’t been way too steep, and if the pathway to the bathroom hadn’t been impossibly uneven, and if I’d been able to open the bathroom door on my own, and if my arm had been working more than half the time. But holy cow! Who knew how impossible a simple overnight camping trip is when you can’t walk?! Reality check :)
So I sat in my wheelchair, wherever I’d been parked, and tried to enjoy being there. Tried to not feel guilty watching everyone else take care of my kids. Tried to not feel completely helpless every time I needed something. Night finally came and sitting around the campfire was my favorite part of the trip. With marshmallows roasting, we laughed while we watched a dinosaur skit put on by the kids and silly songs sung by my niece. And while all the parents (except me) went to clean up the dirt-caked faces of the kids and get them settled in sleeping bags, I waited in my wheelchair - trying to love it but mostly resenting it.
The moon was out and so was the campfire, and I sat there alone in the dark, waiting for my turn to be taken to the bathroom and settled into our tent. Feeling even more helpless than a child, I silently pouted and cried. So mature of me :) When we finally rolled into our driveway the next day, I’d already decided camping in a wheelchair was out of the question and the plan to “make it happen” was due for some serious redefining.
But after a long shower and a good night’s rest, my limitations - and wheelchair - aren’t looking as impossible as they were before. I don’t think limitations are ever very comfortable. They’re hard to be happy with and harder to get used to. But deep down, I know this wheelchair is a blessing - just like my walker and my crutches.
When my legs aren’t working or when I’m going further than the mailbox, I’m going to love this wheelchair. When it’s time for a family outing or the next big event I’m going to be so much happier to go in a wheelchair than to stay home and miss it. Despite the bumpy start (literally) I think this wheelchair is going to bust through so many limitations I face, and that’s exciting! I’ve just got some adjusting, learning and experimenting to do in the process. Right now, it’s just a matter of working through the growing pains. And the more I do, the more I question: Is the wheelchair really the limitation? Or is it the freedom?