After Page One
A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire…
When Plans Fail
When a rare inflammation of the spinal cord paralyzed me, this sales gal who ran on quotas and way too much coffee took a deep dive into reflection of what mattered most in life. The mother of four, two with special needs that included epilepsy and autism, I’d only been divorced nine days. Yet, I was determined to “manage” paralysis like I’d managed everything else in life: make a plan, execute, and achieve.
I didn’t count on the ripples.
I had planned to recover fully from transverse myelitis (TM), the cause of my paralysis that affects one in a million. Although there’s no cause or cure, TM has a pattern: one-third of those affected recover fully, one-third recover partially, and one-third have no recovery at all. I was determined to be in that first category.
Meanwhile, I waited and the ripples began.
Paralysis not only limited my mobility, it changed my reliability. I’d make plans, but then my body would misbehave and I’d have to stay in bed to address the pain—or incontinence. The year was 1997, long before social media or smart phones, so staying connected meant in-person visits and phone calls until a techie friend of mine introduced me to this new thing called email.
An old high school buddy emailed me simply, “Is that you?” I’d stay up late after the kids had gone to bed to write about my crazy life. He shared my emails with his friends. They shared with their friends and soon we had a hundred folks reading about my wheelchair escapades, long before the word “blog” was ever used.
Writing became my means to connect, my means to capture the haunting “what if’s” that surfaced no matter how many plans I made or how much my positive thinking tried to drown them out.
After some encouragement to submit to The Baltimore Sun, my piece about playing soccer with my son from the wheelchair was published, which lead to two newspaper op-ed columns and later an online autism series that became the basis of my memoir, Rethinking Possible, published June 2017.
Despite my best effort, I never recovered from TM. I have the exact level of function and sensation I had on Feb 12, 1997. Yet, I’ve recovered in my own way. Circumstances forced me to rethink what was possible from the wheelchair.
As I wrote more, I also began to experience more rejection. I was surprised to discover how much achievements meant to me and how linked they were to my happiness. I hated to lose, hated to be rejected. Writing forced me to re-evaluate that metric that was so ingrained in my thinking.
Writing taught me that that I don’t have to hit the target to be happy. Sometimes the effort becomes its own reward if we’re able to find a benefit in the process. Writing, whether published or not, became an important means for me to heal by connecting to friends who became “readers.”