Wednesday, May 30, 2007

An Accepting Eye

Today was my OT/PT day at Cardinal Hill. OT Guy worked me pretty good in the upper body. There was even a nice sheen of perspiration to remind me I had a body and said body was moving. Luckily there wasn't any more pain than normal. This in and of itself is beyond wonderful - that I can work out my body and my pain level not increase so drastically I am ready to quit. OT Guy is pretty good about that, and he even warned me today to not over-do it. "You know your body better than anyone else," he said. I looked to Hubby and Hubby merely gave me a half smile of encouragement. That little half-smile means a lot to me and tells me a lot about how he is feeling and hoping good things for me.

See, Hubby pushes. He pushes hard. It isn't because he wants me to hurt more, but that he wants to see me improve and get stronger. However, being an exceptionally strong man himself he doesn't quite comprehend when I am doing my best and when I am over-doing it. I've tried to keep up with Hubby on more than one occasion, but this leads to extremely sore muscles and a lot of pain which causes me to be angry and feel horrible and bitch like...a bitch. This is one reason why I made the decision to step out and go to OT and PT because it wasn't worth my marriage and make me not like the man who truly is my best friend on a semi-continuous basis. So, when OT Guy said this relief flooded my entire being.

I don't mean just my physical being, nor my mental being, but my emotional being as well. Relief washed over and through me in a way I have not experienced for quite a while. A lot of pressure was taken from me while at the same time my own desire to increase the movement and do more grew. This time it grew within limits, and I knew I had the freedom to push myself and not disappoint someone rather than push myself and feel as if I was letting down the one person I love more than even I can express. (Why did I feel like this? Because I knew I could never accomplish what I thought was being asked of me.) It was a liberating moment. It was a liberating moment with a lot of meaning and possibility for the future laid out before me. It was also quite sobering. Why? Because today was a step taken toward regaining my independence on all its levels.

Yes, I know I have been going to OT/PT for a while now, but today everything clicked into place somewhere inside my head and heart. I was free to improve without setting too many limits on myself and I was also free to say, "I'm sorry, but I can't do that today." It was an odd feeling finally accepting inside myself that some days aren't going to be good days and some are going to be great ones. Usually the ups and downs of arthritic life plays havoc with my emotions and self-esteem. Today was yet another step toward moving forward in accepting my possibilities rather than just acknowledging my limitations.

So, while pondering these things deep inside and still working out, I took a serious look around me in the OT gym. There weren't many people there today working out, but it was still quite early in the morning. OT Guy and Hubby were some of the only people there who didn't have a physical problem readily visible.

Out in the hall heading toward PT it was quite easy to see all of the people who had "problems." There were people in wheelchairs, people on crutches, people on canes, people with walkers, and people attached to oxygen tanks. There were several who walked with a prosthetic leg. As they headed toward their destinations I slowed and took a closer look at them and the people who were there to help them improve and advance in their health and in their lives.

Everyone was smiling. Can you imagine that? Everyone was smiling? The people with problems, disabilities were smiling and relieved even though they were heading toward certain pains and yet they smiled. It wasn't only polite smiles we are all taught to give, but genuine smiles. Then I watched the therapists closely. They smiled, too. They listened, they chatted, and they encouraged as well as held back some who were, like me, used to pushing themselves too far and hurting themselves in the process. The therapists smiled genuine smiles, not only because it was their job to smile, but because they really and truly were hoping good things for those they worked with.

Even my very own OT Guy was smiling while helping me work out my schedule. PT Lady was smiling and encouraging and helping me to remember movements and pauses I had forgotten. Neither of them were disappointed in me despite them reminding me. At the same time they were reminding me of how much I had progressed in the time I had been there.

No matter the ability or inability to move or do something stopped anyone from patient to therapist. No one was looked on as odd or "different" and my heart beat just a little faster. My throat felt tight and I was afraid I was going to cry. It has been a long time since I have felt accepted. Suddenly who I am, with all of my physical problems -- I was normal. Really normal. It was humbling. And exciting.

There was a time when occupational therapy and physical therapy was really just something you did so you could move more like "normal" people or do things as closely as possible to what "normal" people did. A lot of pressure was placed on the person to change who they were so "normal" people would accept them more. So you could "fit in" more easily. When did it all change?

I'm not complaining. At. All. I am just stunned. Humbled. Encouraged. Hopeful. Having a place where you are accepted, no matter how different you are makes a huge difference in how you perceive the world's population, and the world itself. I was lucky. My family loved me, still does, and accepts me even though, on some occasions, I have not deserved their love and acceptance. I have even been blessed with a wonderful man who likewise loves, likes, and accepts me just as I am. And my friends, I couldn't have dreamed of better friends to have around me! But having an entire place, a physical place, where wheelchairs and all of the other movement aids are nothing but the norm let's a person like me breathe deeply and relax for a moment before heading back out into the world again with all of its lack of curb cuts and elevators that fit and their buttons easily used; or doors too heavy to open.

Sometimes you can't imagine how some of the more simple tasks are so difficult to accomplish or how little it would take to make them usable by everyone!

Today more than anything else, I permitted myself to be accepted and accepted everyone else around me.

Yes, I know I am going to have to go through more pain and more fears and this isn't the ending of anything -- merely the beginning. The thing that truly changed today was the pressures of being different eased and life looked as if it had become more manageable, or at the very least more accepting to my eyes. Today was a Good day.

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