Today my thoughts remained strongly rooted in your comments, while drifting in and out of memories, both good and bad. I took breaks between loads of laundry and read each and every one. I am humbled by your stories and words and am strengthened by your kindness. The more I read, the more I became certain that our lives, despite how different, are woven together and meant to be shared.
"My cup runneth over" is how I would describe my feelings today. I woke up today and was astounded to find so many messages of love and hope. I, honestly, didn't have a clue anyone would be interested in my story, much less want to share a piece of herself or himself with me. When I wrote Kelle the letter, my intention was for her to know how she has impacted my life and how her story has helped mold mine. I only wanted her to know this and nothing more. Sharing it with her readers wasn't anywhere on my radar. However, when she asked, I immediately, without hesitation, said yes. Over the next few days, I thought about the decision to open up to Kelle's large, loyal, and loving audience and decided it was time for me to share the difficulties and, especially, all of the triumphs because of the challenges. I thought, if I help one person, it will be worth it.
About two weeks before my accident I was walking up the gravel hill at camp and heard something from a friend that won't ever be forgotten and has helped me through some of my most difficult and darkest days. It was a comment so small and insignificant and I had no idea what it would come to mean in the difficult days that followed. I was working as a summer camp counselor at a girls' camp in Tennessee. Camp had perfectly moldy smelling wooden cabins, one large bathroom with stall after stall of showers and toilets, gravel paths, a giant bell to call the girls for meals or activities, and a beautiful lake filled with canoes and swimming ropes. The trees, the water, the horses, the arts and crafts cabin, are all reminiscent of The Parent Trap with Haley Mills. We had regular evening talent shows, while cricket and frog noises filled the air, and ate S'mores by the lake on the Fourth of July. Unaware of anything but this magical place and the spectacular time I was having, I walked up the gravel hill to the parking lot at camp with two new, but very close because that happens at camp, friends. I walked as if it was any other day, assuming this conversation with my two, new counselor friends would soon leave my mind and my thoughts. As we were walking, Katie and Lucy were struggling with their suitcases. Actually, I remember a ton of cursing about lugging huge luggage up a gravel hill. I forgot to mention they were both wearing heels because they are from London and were heading home and are fancy like that. I, however, had on flip flops, so I grabbed the suitcases and headed up the hill. Then, Katie said, in her perfectly British accent, "Spinky, you can do everything!". I laughed. For the next two weeks that followed, this conversation never once crossed my mind.
Spinky was the nickname Katie gave to me at camp. Apparently, there is a story in England about a washing woman that lives in a tree and washes clothes all day. Katie thought her name was Spinky, but her mom later informed us the character's name is actually Silky or Suki, I can't remember. But, Spinky stuck, and that was my name. I did a ton of wash at camp. The camp offered laundry services, but it just didn't smell Downy fresh when it returned. I appreciated the brown paper packaging tied with string, but I adore my laundry smells and chose to walk up to the office cabin and do laundry. I would offer to do laundry for whoever needed it. I've always loved tasks like laundry, dishes, cleaning, and organizing. I know I'm crazy, but I am aware of it and have come to terms with it.
After the fall, which was about two weeks after the great suitcase hill climb, I was alone in my hospital room. I think I was out of the ICU at this point because I was off of the Morphine drip and starting to have thoughts and feelings about what was happening and they scared me. Before, it was just about survival, and oxygen, and feeding tubes, now the pain and memories were seeping through the lingering drug induced haze. Fear crept in like I've never felt. I was flat on my back with twelve broken vertebrae and a slew of other broken bones, wondering if I would ever make it out of bed. My thoughts drifted to my future and the realization hit me hard and fast, I would have to fight for and work terribly hard for my independence, the independence I once took for granted. Going to the grocery seemed ridiculously impossible, putting clothes into a washer and taking them out of the dryer was a far away galaxy, and driving, well that was something I honestly did not believe I could do. I did not think I was ever going to make it out of bed; I thought this bed ridden condition I was in would be my life forever. Life as a paraplegic was not one I ever envisioned, so I was having trouble picturing anything, much less daily, mundane tasks. I started to think about camp and how much I missed it and how just a few days and weeks ago, I was caring for horses and running in flip flops over gravel. And then I thought about our walk up the hill and what Katie said, "You can do everything." I passed it off as some silly compliment, but now needed these words more than ever. I decided this would be my new motto, my secret thing I would say to myself that no one knew. It seemed so simple and silly, but it worked for me and I made a deal with myself to repeat it when I wanted to give up and to use it to remind myself that each challenge would be just another gravel hill and would soon become not a big deal at all.
Today, as I was folding laundry and hating every shirt, every sock, and every pair of workout pants I had to fold and asking myself why I wear so many clothes in a week, it dawned on me that I was doing something I thought would be extraordinary and impossible. I just did a mountain of laundry independently, just as I do every, single week. I fly through the grocery store, pushing the cart with one hand while wheeling my chair with the other and I don't even think twice about it. It is just my routine. And then I thought about the last twelve years and how every moment, every struggle, came and went, each day passed and time marched forward and how much I did everything and can do everything. I realized I need to express how my mundane became extraordinary. These small facets of daily life help remind me that I still can do anything. Everyone can, anything is possible. Everyone's story has the few quick words or sentence that changes someone's outlook on life or sheds light on darkness, every one of us. I am sharing my experiences because the more I know and understand other people's experiences and lives, the more I believe, all of our mundane is extraordinary. We make it this way just by getting up every, single day and simply living our lives, all while carrying so, so, many burdens.
Thank you to all of you for your generous and thoughtful words. I hope to answer as many questions as I can over the next few days, but please know I am reading all of them and taking your words with me throughout the day.
And to Kelle Hampton, you have helped teach me to live again and I will forever be grateful to you and your family for sharing so much of your lives.
Peace and goodnight to all of you,