When I came home from the hospital five weeks after my spinal cord injury, I began learning the true meaning of patience.
Patience is acceptance. Patience is an expression of deep understanding.
You take on a different perspective when you are physically challenged and can no longer do things that you used to do. Seeing things as they really were was hard. Accepting my permanent disability and more limited abilities to care for myself took a lot of adjustment.
Completing even the simple tasks were a challenge. Getting out of bed, taking a shower, getting dressed, preparing a bowl of cereal, all took a significant portion of my day. I needed a home health aide to assist me in each of these activities. No longer was I the independent, self sufficient person that I once was. With assistance, it took me two hours to shower and dress. The activity itself was fatiguing and I was ready for a nap after the whole ordeal.
Sometimes changes occur in our lives that impact the way we operate in the future. Sudden injuries and illnesses leave us realizing and appreciating all the things we took for granted. Sometimes we don't bounce back as quickly as we used to. Sometimes things change forever.
What I have learned about coping with this sudden life change is that I must allow more time to get things done and be patient with myself. Hurrying and struggling to complete tasks only brings frustration. Emotions of anger start to swell and then comes the depression. This cycle of negativity only leads to self pity and self neglect. It is a poor framework from which to operate.
Being patient with yourself allows you to think about what you are doing in a more conscious way. You are in slow motion, analyzing and experimenting to see how to approach the task most efficiently. You feel very incompetent in the beginning, unable to perform. With more experience and time doing the task, you start to gain confidence. Eventually you are unaware that you are performing the task and you become competent once again. The only difference is the way you get things done.
Adaptive aids such as a reacher, shower chair, canes, walker, crutches and wheelchair are needed in order for me to function. Taking on an attitude of "whatever it takes" certainly can propel you to success. Be open to the changes and don't be resist. Negative energy is unproductive.
It is also critical to have more patience with others as we grow to be more patient with ourselves. As we become more dependent on family and friends to do things for us that we normally would do for ourselves, we must allot time for others to help us. In many cases, there is a learning curve for our assistants. We must be patient and teach them what it is that we want them to do for us.
Several years ago I saw a person wearing a T-shirt with this slogan: "Things of quality have no fear of time." Many times this grounded me as I worked on a project. The phrase had a calming effect on me. I was able to approach projects with a new sense of pride in my work.
Now I adapt this phrase to my life in a new way. As I go through the recovery and rehabilitation process, two years after my injury, I realize that I am the project. Everything I do is focused on getting my life back. I must not fear that time has passed, but rather use the time each day toward building a quality life for myself.
Success is sometimes best measured by spoonfuls. As we struggle with the changes in our lives, sometimes we are unaware of our accomplishments. Victories need to be celebrated, no matter how small the gain. It is critical that we look back from where we were days, weeks, months and years before so that we are aware of our achievements.
As progress is realized, we find ourselves to be more patient. Experience starts to show us that with dedication to the matter at hand, gains can be made. Count each achievement. Let those around you remind you from time to time to recognize progress. Steady progress in small increments adds up over time.
To book Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. to speak at a conference, contact her at (614) 471-6100; www.rosemariespeaks.com
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