After my injury it took me quite some time to learn, or re-learn, the concept of trying. My go-to response was, “I can’t.”
Eleven years after my injury, I finally attempted a sport again. I tried playing wheelchair tennis. I was awful. Seventeen years later, I’m still bad at tennis. But I try. And I play.
I’ve learned to live. What’s the use in being alive if you aren’t living boldly?
In my experience, truly living involves putting four beliefs into practice.
- Defy other’s expectations.
After my injury, not much was expected of me after rehab. I went to a small facility and I never learned that I could become independent. It was only after I met others with disabilities that I slowly learned to defy the lack of expectations that had been placed on me. Actually, this probably makes me more willing to try things out-of-the-ordinary.
- Live outside your comfort zone.
I feel that as long as I’m in my comfort zone, my world, my views, and my abilities will never expand. Being willing to face fear, or discomfort, head on is where growth occurs. For me, my greatest fear is fear of failure. So I push myself into situations that are new and unknown. Circumstances that stretch me and grow me.
- Don’t compare yourself to others.
As a recovering perfectionist, it took a long time to be willing to try many things knowing I would not be good at it. But being the best isn’t important. Although I’m a work in progress, I try not to compare myself with others. Each person has different talents and abilities. I only get frustrated and disappointed when I focus on what I can (or can’t) do in comparison to others.
- Live life to the full.
My faith calls me to live “life to the full.” (John. 10:10). Another translation says to live “a rich and satisfying life.” This looks different to each one of us. Abundant life can be having satisfying relationships with family and friends. Daring adventures. Pushing yourself physically in athletics. An evening (or a whole weekend) in yoga pants and your most comfortable hoody devouring a good book. Indulging in dark chocolate. For me, it’s a bit of all of the above. Whatever it is…live.
I recently saw a picture of a friend – a paraplegic – who went rock climbing. Using her upper body strength, she ascended a two-story, indoor rock climbing facility using an adaptive pull-up bar and harness system.
My immediate response was, “I want to try it!”
As the day approached, I admit I had my fears. My internal dialogue sounded a bit like this: “But she’s a para. Do I have enough strength? What if I can’t do it?”
Pushing my doubts to the side, I reminded myself that I’ve worked around my lack of hand function and limited arm function in other activities. This would be no different.
We drove to Eastern Kentucky University and as we entered the rec center – I nervously looked up the tall wall.
As I transferred (with assistance) into the sling seat, the volunteers strapped in my legs and chest. Using my Active Hands gloves, I closed my hands around the pull-up bar.
“Are you afraid of heights?” the staff asked.
“We’ll find out!” I responded.
It was the time of reckoning.
I lifted my arms up and pulled down on the rope. My body lifted a few inches. I pulled again. And I went up again. Over and over, I pulled and pulled. About three quarters of the way up, my weaker right side became dependent on my left arm to get my right arm up the rope. But I did it. Not as quickly as the others with more functional upper bodies, but I did it nonetheless.
I defied my own expectations that a quad at my level of injury may not be able to do this activity. I got outside my comfort zone and tried something new. I faced my fear of possible failure. I didn’t compare myself to others.
And in the process, I lived. Really, truly lived.
In what areas of life do you want to expand your horizons during this next year? What is something new you want to try? Are your own expectations – or the expectations of others – holding you back? What fears do you need to overcome? What would living life to the full look like for you?
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/0218/0612