NAVIGATING THE CORONA PANDEMIC – A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE

Today is the first quiet moment I have had in over six weeks and I realized I had not engaged in one of my favorite activities – Writing!  Life has been a fast-paced world wind of excitement, chaos, joy, and hustle recently.  This doesn’t even include the elephant in the room at the moment of our current Pandemic of the Coronavirus!

In November my husband and I purchased our first home, started renovations, packed up our old apartment, and made the Herculean effort of moving a quadriplegic to a new home all before the race of the Coronavirus.  It has been nonstop for me and I’m elated to find a quiet moment today to get back to what I love.

We are finally moved into our beautiful new home, getting settled in, and trying to make our home finally feel like a home.  In short, we have been “Adulting!”  I had a singular mission of trying to move into our home, but on the tail end of moving the Coronavirus started moving at accelerated rate – although not before we were able to physically get into our new condo.  Thankfully, at present, we are quarantined at home and are both still busy working while still having endless To-Do projects.

My husband, Aaron, has been working tirelessly for the past 9 months and we have barely had time to spend together, so it’s a treat to be able to be locked in the house together.  When we don’t feel like it’s such a treat to be locked in together 24/7 — then we have wine 😉

Over the last 10 years I’ve never really been able to take a real shower and having my newly renovated bathroom is a dream come true.  Last week I had my ceiling lift installed, which was so fun as I was swinging like a monkey.

Now, I don’t have a shower chair yet as things have pretty much come to a stop from a retail standpoint with the pandemic, but looking at my shower at the moment is equally as gratifying.  I’m sure once I take a real shower I will have a different take on it.

The last several weeks have not been without their challenges though as millions of Americans are presently feeling.  I lost a caregiver, found a great new one, but am unable to physically work with him yet as we have “stay at home” orders directed by the state of North Carolina. Bringing someone into your home during a pandemic is probably not a brilliant idea considering I have a compromised immune system and less lung function than most.

I’ve spoken to dozens of friends who are disabled and able-bodied, and life generally is not looking rosy for most folks right now.  I don’t even know what this country will look like when we are done with this, how we will rebuild, how the financial system is going to recover after a $2 trillion stimulus, but there is one thing I do know.  The only way we are going to get through this is if we stick together and not trample thy neighbor for a roll of toilet paper.

I was chatting with one of my best friends the other day who lives in China and she was saying that they were on a very strict lock down, which would likely not work in a country such as ours, but no one was fighting over toilet paper – fighting over N95 masks, yes, but the basic supplies seemed to be readily available in the grocery stores.  However, China physically locked down their citizens in their homes and only one member of the family was allowed to go out every several days to get supplies.  Now, in Europe, well, I can’t say anything about the toilet paper, but I do know that Bidet’s are much more plentiful 😉

Joking aside, many people I know are going crazy in their homes with their spouses or their children, etc.  From a financial standpoint I understand how many people are seriously suffering and being locked inside with the fear of uncertainty certainly does not help mental sanity any.

I, however, being disabled for the last 10 years and going through medical hell, have a slightly different perspective on being trapped at home.  When you have a disability, degenerative disease, or any other serious medical issue in your life the tendency to live in fear can become the norm.  I lived in fear for many years, but it was consuming me alive and I eventually had to find a different way to live.  The point came for me about five years ago when I developed a major pressure sore on my tailbone, spent almost an entire year in bed, underwent multiple surgeries, and didn’t actually know if I would survive past the year.

I started meditating every day and creating a structured schedule of working, reading fun books, the news, educational articles, etc.  Even though I was trapped inside my bedroom with four white walls at the time I woke up every day in the morning, performed my duties with my caregivers, worked, meditated, exercised my arms as best I could, and created a world inside my head for survival.  At first it was torture and challenging to do the same thing every day, day in and day out, but over time I learned to enjoy my own company.  I had to figure out for myself that even if I was not paralyzed I could be just as miserable walking around in a beautiful park on a sunny day as I could be trapped inside a room with four walls.

2015 Trapped in Bed – Still had flowers in the Hair!

Many of us know that happiness does not come from what we have, but from inside ourselves.  Naturally, this is easier said than done, but just as if you want to start getting in shape you have to start somewhere by going to the gym even when it’s painful.  Baby steps.

So, while being quarantined is certainly disrupting life for us, I have to remind myself when I feel antsy inside my home that I’m still physically able to get up in the my wheelchair, roll around the house, have the mental capacity to read a book or have a conversation with someone, etc.  Don’t misunderstand me, I still love my “Netflix and Chill” time with my husband, but we are not glued to the television either.

Life is all about perspective and I’m sure we will each gain quite a lot of it at the tail end of this pandemic and for years to come, but while we are in the eye of the storm at the moment I find it important to take stock of what we actually do have right now.

On that note … I’m looking over in the kitchen at my husband as I write this article and he is preparing me a Chicken Satay lunch on this beautiful Saturday in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Just yesterday afternoon we were able to go outside and walk around our little small condo community with not a soul in sight & of course a glass of wine as we rolled around!

Until next time folks …

 

Aquatic Therapy – The Story of a Paralyzed Mermaid

 

Thinking back to my childhood I recall playing the “what do you want to be when you grow up” game with other kids.  My answer was always a resounding “mermaid.”  The water has always been such a central part of my life having grown up in the Bahamas.  When I broke my neck nearly 10 years ago, I couldn’t imagine how life would continue if I was unable to get back to the aquatic lifestyle I had become accustomed to.

When I was in the ICU and inpatient rehab the first few months after my accident, I was also battling a stage III pressure sore on my sacrum.   I could not wrap my head around how I would ever get back into the water.  I saw many other SCI folks start to dive back into activities in rehab, but I was not as fortunate. I was confined to bed rest all day, except for several hours of rehab, due to the raging pressure sore I had sustained during transport from the Bahamas to Miami after the accident.

While I stayed focused in rehab, worked on my computer, and made the best of my situation, I started to give up hope that I would ever get back into the water again.  Once I was released from rehab and sent home, I kept asking my caregivers and my mom every day if my pressure sore was healing, and I kept asking wound nurses how long it would take.  I didn’t know if I going to be able to get back in the water, but my family and I kept researching swim instructors anyway.  Somehow, I held onto a glimmer of hope despite the mounting medical challenges I was facing.

Read the rest on Push Living Magazine:  https://pushliving.com/aquatic-therapy-a-story-of-a-paralyzed-mermaid/

 

INTIMACY AND ROMANCE AFTER MARRIAGE – “NEWLYWED LIFE”

If you get married in your early 20’s I’m sure life after marriage, especially newlywed life, is comprised of sex, unicorns, and rainbows!  However, I think when you get married in your mid 30’s or later the concept of romance and intimacy after marriage profoundly changes.  So many television shows and movies over the last century have romanticized newlywed life for so many.

In several months I’m coming up on my one year anniversary of marrying my one and only, my main squeeze, and my partner in crime.  I can only share with you what I’ve learned thus far and I’m sure the life lessons will continue to roll in as the year’s progress.

Being a newlywed comes with so many new adventures, challenges, and compromises.  I think we were unique as a couple respect to understanding the intimacies of daily life because of my situation with spinal cord injury.  My “now” husband had to intimately understand everything that comes along with my care, my life, and issues I face.  I find so many couples don’t really get to know one another until years after marriage, but there are advantages to having a disability as you really need to show your partner your whole self because they need to know what they are getting into if they want to be with you for life.

Read the Rest on Push Living Magazine: https://pushliving.com/intimacy-and-romance-after-marriage-newlywed-life/

 

BEHIND THE SCENES: From the ICU to the Walking Down the Aisle

 

They say it takes a village to raise a well-rounded child. While this may not be the case in the modern times we live in, in the past, an entire community would watch out for a child while their parents went out to work to provide for their children.

I think similar parallels can be drawn today when a person has a traumatic injury, disease, or disability. If you are on your own with no support or help when you break your neck, for example, life can be infinitely more challenging with an extremely bleak outlook for life without the support of family, friends or community.

I can personally attest that I would not be where I am today without a Herculean effort from my family and closest friends. This article is dedicated to more people than I will be able to thank personally in helping me survive the ICU in the early days 9 years ago to walking down the aisle just a few weeks ago.

Read the rest on PUSH LIVING MAGAZINE:

https://pushliving.com/behind-the-scenes-from-the-icu-to-t…/

 

A FAIRY TALE WEEKEND OF WEDDING CELEBRATIONS

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When I moved from China to Raleigh back in 2015 I could not have imagined ever getting married, let alone getting married to my “Partner in Crime” and best friend.  I married Aaron Watkins on Saturday, May 18 and it was one of the happiest days of my life!

I would be remiss not to clearly thank my family and Aaron’s family for everything they did to make this wedding possible.  My parents have been there every step of the way for me, unwavering in support and love, which is why I truly believe I am where I am today.  Sometimes they say it takes a village to raise a baby, but in my case it took a clan of Ingersoll’s to raise me after the accident.

I was so certain when I was first injured 9 years ago that I would have a fulfilling life, but a life without love and a partner.  I had come to terms with this and made peace in my mind.  What I did not realize is how much love can literally transform one’s outlook on life.  I used only live from one challenge to another – now I look forward to future adventures, and when those challenges do arise I know will have someone by my side every step of the way.

Originally we wanted to have a very small ceremony with immediate family only, but my father thankfully convinced me this was an occasion we would not want to forget.  He was right in more ways than one.

We had family and friends from Raleigh, around the United States, London, Germany, France, and China join us for four days of round-the-clock festivities.  It was a world wind weekend and I prepared for months to make sure everything went smoothly – and it was over so quickly.  Everyone always told me to make sure to take a moment and enjoy everything around you when you’re getting married, which is exactly what I did.  I neurotically planned everything down to a T and the week before the wedding I was relaxed, present, and able to connect with people who I had not seen in over 10 years.

I didn’t even realize how much love Aaron and I have in our life and support around the globe.  Living life is about people, relationships, and quality time in my opinion.  I know at the end of my life I will not look back at how hard I worked, but rather the people who have influenced my life, and I theirs.

While I meticulously planned the wedding there are just certain factors you cannot control.  I ended up getting severe bronchitis three weeks prior to the wedding.  I did everything in my power and by some universal grace I stopped coughing four days before the wedding.

Unfortunately, I also developed a pressure sore that Thursday before the wedding.  I was very careful, leaned back in my chair a lot to shift the weight off my bum, and I don’t know why or how, but I got really really lucky!

Now, onto the Wedding Celebration Festivities:

Continue reading

“BEING HAPPY vs. BEING HAPPY ENOUGH”

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I was lying awake last night battling my arch nemesis “Ms. Insomnia” and she engaged me in a fight of a lifetime.  I couldn’t move, but my mind was running through a jungle fighting for my life as she tried to attack every fiber of my positivity.  She ran me up a tree at an alarmingly pace and as I clung to the tree branches for dear life, and tried not to let her get the best of me, she managed to claw me back down to the ground.  While I was being mauled by this insidious monster I laid there completely paralyzed unable to move as she had had her way with me.  By the time she had had her fill she left me battled and bruised.  As I was lying on my back gasping to breathe I decided to give in and just sit with my swirling thoughts.

I was trapped in my bed wide awake, angry, and frustrated that she had gotten the best of me as she so often does.  Many folks with spinal cord injury share the same fate night after night as I do whether that be from stress, anxiety, intense nerve pain, involuntary muscle spasms, etc.  I couldn’t help but think about the concept of happiness in life as I laid awake for two hours struggling to desperately get myself back to sleep.

I kept pondering what is this idea of happiness anyway?  I feel like it’s always wanting more, which makes me lose perspective and mentally spiral out of control on a regular basis.  This idea of happiness coupled with creating hopes, goals, and dreams — when not fulfilled — can end up leading to endless suffering for many folks from all walks of life.

The question I kept asking myself is “Am I happy?”  Continue reading

“Dear Cat Island, My Home – A Story of a Broken Heart & Forgiveness”

“Fernandez Bay Village (Home) – Half the homes are part of a resort and half the homes are private homes”

 

Several years ago I reached a point where I finally made the best peace one could make with breaking my neck and having my life change forever.  I spent so much time constantly pushing forward and not thinking about my accident through sheer determination of will.  This worked for a time, but eventually I had to find a way to dig deep in order to find some resemblance of happiness in my life and search for the best way I knew how to live a full life despite my circumstances.

Through quite a fair bit of soul-searching I arrived to where I am presently living the most fulfilled life I know how with work, finding love, getting married, spending time with friends & family, and traveling when able.

For the last six months Cat Island, Bahamas (my home) has been on my mind.  My family has had a home in the Bahamas for the last 40 or so years and it is a place so magical words simply cannot do it justice.  It is a beautiful out Island in the Eastern Bahamas spanning 60 miles long and 2 miles wide with a population of roughly 2,000 people.

The airport runway to the island is so short that no large commercial airlines are able land on the runway giving it its unique, and rustic charm because only those who know about it know how to get there.

I grew up on this island and made my first trip down when I was only several months’ old back in 1983.  I have lived in so many countries around the world that Cat Island has always been my home base, my center, my world, my escape, and my favorite place in the entire world.

I spent my time on the island with family and friends spearfishing, scuba diving, exploring caves in the middle of the island, taking Robinson Caruso style boat trips with my family to unnamed deserted islands, jumping off rocks into the ocean, picnicking on deserted beaches, kayaking through crystal clear lagoon waters, taking long walks on the beach, building bonfires with family, and countless other surreal adventures. Continue reading

Wedding Bells & Wheelchairs

My fiancé and I have finally set a date for our wedding — Saturday, May 18!  We got engaged back in August of 2017 and simply cannot wait to be married to one other.

I had envisioned getting married in a bikini with a giant barbecue on the beach and having a big soirée with family and friends while we frolicked about in the water.  Clearly, I’ve had to adjust my expectations as I’m not quite sure a bikini would be very flattering these days in a wheelchair nor would getting stuck in the sand with my wheels 😉

I’ve been thinking critically over the last several months on what I want to do for my special day.  I came to the conclusion that I want my fiancé.  Plain and simple.  I just want to be married to this man who loves me dearly, and I him!  Frankly, I wouldn’t say I don’t care about the wedding, but I’ve never been the type of girl to throw a giant wedding with all the bells and whistles.  Honestly, I rather save up all that money spent on a wedding for a wonderful honeymoon and adventures traveling with my main squeeze.

Read the rest on Push living Magazine: https://pushliving.com/wedding-bells-wheelchairs/?mc_cid=984e329e09&mc_eid=ab8a053cfc

 

A Change in Life Perspective – My Personal Metamorphosis

 

First off, Happy New Year to you! 

 

Coming into the New Year I thought it only fitting to discuss the concept of perspective.  I was asked by a fellow reader if I could touch upon the topic of how my mental perspective has changed over the last eight years since breaking my neck as opposed to just how my physical life has changed with being paralyzed.  I will start off by saying my life perspective has changed drastically and I can’t be entirely sure if this is due to my accident or the fact that I’m also getting older.  I suspect it is probably a little bit of both.

In general a change in perspective in life is quite gradual in my opinion, takes many years, and is usually preceded by many hardships along the way, which affect one’s opinions on many topics.  When I broke my neck my world got turned upside down, which violently shifted my perspective on a lot of things in life very quickly, but more from a physical standpoint.  I was so engulfed in trying to figure out how to live a life with a body 80% paralyzed that I didn’t have the presence of mind to think about how my mental health was going to change.

For the most part my perspective change has been for the positive, but there have definitely been some dark changes that I would be amiss not to dive into as well in light of always being open with my writing, and my life even though I run the risk of exposing myself further 😉

The old saying “we only have one life to live,” no matter how cliché it may be, means more to me now than it did prior to my accident merely due to the fact that I suffered a life altering event.  I see so many folks who live simple (and I don’t mean that in a bad way), but happy lives, and go about their business not realizing how easily life can change on a dime.  While it is easy to say that we will change our lives when something drastic happens – it is a lot easier said than done to take actionable steps each day to change.  However, these small steps are not only key, but they can take very long time to see the effects of as they require determination, and will over a long period of time. Continue reading