Thursday, August 2, 2012

From the Mundane to the Extraordinary

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,

Sarah





40 comments:

  1. I love that, mundane becomes extraordinary...thank you for sharing.

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  2. Your writing is beautiful, I look forward to reading more...

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  3. You're a fantastic writer Sarah, loved the story about Spinky at summer camp!

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  4. Found you from Kelle's blog, and you reminded me of myself when I stumbled on her blog. I couldn't take in enough of her writing and spent hours one night reading many of her posts! But Sarah, you have a beautiful gift for writing, and I can't wait to hear more of what you share!

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  5. Another new follower from Kelle's blog here! I find you truly inspirational. I have a two,year old daughter who has a genetic condition that impacts on her health and I always worry about how she will cope with it when she's older, when she becomes a young woman. If she is even half as level-headed and lovely as you seem to be from your wonderful writing, I know she'll be fine :) xx

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  6. Sarah, another beautiful memory, another post to add to my growing list of favorites. I can't believe I'm about to write this, but my heart runneth over! Keep up the good work. You are an inspiration.

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  7. Our stories...they mean something, don't they? Your words on Kelle's blog moved me. Thank you for inspiring and for being bold enough to speak truth.

    I began writing after my own tragedy...different from yours but still, life altering. What you spoke about God and love is so true. What I have found though is that in the midst of tragedy and trauma the Love that He has really does make beauty from ashes. Thank you for sharing the beauty that is you.

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  8. You are such an inspiration. I hope you live the rest of your life in happiness.

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  9. I only know the nursery rhyme about Sukey taking off the kettle. It'd either be a diminutive of Susan or Sarah. :)

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  10. So looking forward to following you, Sara - have NO DOUBT you will be inspiring many of us along the way, when maybe we are having a down or difficult day. You are so right - our lives are all so similar and woven together. I think this is how it was/is truly meant to be - helping each other during the time we are given here on earth - however long or short that may be. Beautiful writing, beautiful thoughts, beautiful heart, beautiful face & smile! Beautiful Sarah! Thanks for allowing us a peek into your world. Peace & Prayers - have a fantastic weekend!

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  11. Loved readying your camp story, your description of camp was so beautiful and so spot on, I can just smell the moldy cabins and it brings back wonderful memories for me. I look forward to reading more from you. Hugs.

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  12. I am convinced we all have our stories to tell- and you are telling yours in a way that others will learn from. Your voice rings true because of the depth of your experience and you will undoubtedly help so many- love that motto "you can do everything!" So glad you know you can, and you do!

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  13. Sarah- you are so inspiring and your words are beautiful. I look forward to reading your blog posts. You are now on my blog list!

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  14. I am so glad I found you through Kelle's blog. Kelle's story has always made me look at like much more positively. I am sure your story will as well!

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  15. Oh I think I have found a new, favorite blog. I'm so glad that I found you through Kelle's page. You're awesome and awe inspiring! :)

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  16. Sarah, I enjoy your posts so much! You are so inspiring and we can all learn so much from you. I have a granddaughter that was born with spina bifida. She is now 6 and swimming and taking dance. She was doing ballet last year in her wheelchair! She inspires me too! Your story just validates that one can do anything they want, maybe in a different way, but can DO IT!! Your writing is beautiful and I look forward to many more posts!!

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  17. You're an inspiration to me, and judging by all of the other comments, to many others also. Keep it up, please! And congratulations on your new Blog!!

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  18. What a lovely blog. I love laundry. Everyone else in their 20's seems to hate it. But I digress. I just wanted to say that this was a gentle reminder to me to appreciate my ability to do laundry, which I love, as well as other tasks I greatly dislike... such as cleaning the bathroom. Not only to appreciate the actual physical activity involved, but the things I often forget: I have supplies for cleaning, I have the intellect to find new ways of doing things, and I live in a safe area where I can truly feel comfortable in my space. I mean honestly, when I start naming off that many things I am grateful for, it makes most tedious tasks seem downright pleasant. So thank you.

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  19. You are such an inspiration to me. I am 61 years old and have RA and days when I hurt really badly and feel really rotten. Yet I am able to get out of bed and move under my own steam, drive, do laundry, etc, all of which are a daily struggle for you. Your mindset and your courage are so wonderful to behold. I am so enjoying your blog. I appreciate you sharing yourself with me.

    Sharon

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  20. You are a beautiful writer and I look forward to following you! xxoo

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  21. Oh, happy day that I discovered your blog! Thank you for allowing Kelle to share your story with us all. I can't wait for the next installment.

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  22. Love your blog. The way you wrote about Kelle's blog and life... this is how I am already feeling about you. :) I went to Miami University too!!

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  23. I'm pretty tough, but this post made me cry !! Before I gave birth to my daughter I was practicing a yoga relaxation method, where I had to create a mantra for myself. Mine became 'I am strong'. When my daughter was born and we were shocked to find out she had Ds, the first thing I said to myself was 'I am strong' and I knew everything would be fine. It's a pretty powerful thing, isn't it, those little things you say to yourself. Thanks for a beautiful post, looking forward to more....

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  24. Thank you. This was beautifully written and contained many wise lessons. I'm thankful to find you, through Kelle's blog.

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  25. You write beautifully! Thank you for sharing and I look forward to reading more.

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  26. Sarah, you are a beautiful writer and so inspirational. Thank you for allowing us to share some of your journey with you!

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  27. You bring back wonderful memories of my time as a summer camp counselor and nurse. It makes me long for those days again...beautiful descriptive writing. :-) I can think of a few moments in my life when people have made an offhand comment that ended up being incredibly important to me. Just goes to show that words are very powerful and the every day conversations we have with people may be anything but ordinary.

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  28. Those "little messages" sent to us from unexpected sources really do have impact! I remember a silly girl's chat in my dorm room in 1968 when my roommate and good friend Beth had decided to leave college. A friend of hers, whom I had never met before and have never seen since, looked at me and said "You'll finish college. You're the type." And I did...in 1987, with three kids at home and my husband's encouragement. Dean's list, and magna cum laud. I could never have guessed it when she said it, but her words stayed with me for life. It truly is about the self-affirming words we take to heart, as you clearly demonstrate. I'm looking forward to sharing with you.

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  29. So glad to have found you through Kelle's blog; thank you so much for sharing your story. I just want you to know that among the many gifts you have to offer this world, you will undoubtedly be an amazing mother. A friend of mine who was paralyzed at the age of 19 is now (in his early 40's) a stay at home dad to three of the most beautiful, well-adjusted children you will ever meet. Quite frankly, he puts me to shame and I stay home with just two. He has never allowed his disability to interfere with his life and his dreams, and I know from hearing your words that you won't either. Any child would be incredibly lucky to call you their mom. I look forward to following your journey!

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  30. oh you are such an inspiration. thanks for reminding us to not take a singe day, act, or routine for granted. I'm now off to finish doing my laundry...with a completely different perspective....

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  31. Sarah, I follow Kelle's blog and was very moved by your words. Then you mentioned the friend's son who just had a swimming accident and you hit a little too close to home for me. My cousin was in a swimming accident 2 weeks ago. Are you in Cincinnati by chance?

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  32. Thank you for sharing your story! I just finished reading all your posts after I read your letter on Kelle's blog. And then I stumbled upon this phrase that immediately made me think of you: 'The meaning of life is finding your gift. The purspose of life is giving it away'. Kudos from Peru (South America) and I will be coming back to to your blog for more inspiration.

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  33. What an inspiring and thought provoking post! Thank you so much for sharing your story and helping us all to take a closer look at what we may be taking for granted.

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  34. Hi Sarah!! Thank you for sharing your story!!

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  35. So excited to hear your share. It is beautiful.

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  36. My nephew, nine, was recently diagnosed with cancer, he is terminal. Yet, determined. You remind me of him and I would love to share your story with him too, because I believe that he too can do anything and everything and he proves this to us daily with his determination to not just be 'a terminal cancer patient' but to be the boy that we all know and love and to WOW the doctors on his journey.

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  37. YOU are extraordinary! Thank you!!

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  38. First of all... you left out that you not only take good care of yourself but you also take care of everyone else in your life... even to the point of unwrapping & re-wrapping your roommate's sloppy gifts so they would look prettier ;)

    Second of all... reading the comments from people you've inspired is blowing me away! I hope you never have any regrets about letting others into your world. You are making a big difference :)

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Thank you for commenting. I appreciate all of your words.