Achievements… Mine are not borne from the usual list. My goals were markedly different, and I celebrated achieving each and every one. I still get a thrill coursing through me at the thought of them.
Taking a bath. Do you know how it feels to finally be able to take a bath after four months in a spinal bed? Six months in a body cast? Once the temperature is just right, the feeling of sinking in, and having your body cleansed is pure bliss. I try to recollect it whenever I bathe. I want to feel grateful for such a simple pleasure.
Eating and drinking. Nasogastric tubes aren’t fun, nor is being tube fed. Being able to enjoy the pleasures of a good meal, and be able to enjoy a cool drink, that is an achievement.
Going to the letterbox. This is a definite achievement. There were years when I was paralysed by fear, and the thought of collecting the mail from the top of the driveway was unthinkable.
Taking a bus by myself to the IVF clinic. Doing IVF changed my world. I hadn’t ventured out by myself for years. I suddenly found myself requiring daily treatment at 7am in the morning. I didn’t drive at the time, so needed to walk thirty minutes to the bus stop. The longing for a child was stronger than my agoraphobia. Heart racing, I set off. I enjoyed the bus trip, and the feeling of independence. I didn’t tell the staff what had been achieved that day. It set in motion my return to a world I had effectively cut off from.
Walking. It took four months of twice-daily physio sessions whilst I was in the hospital to take a few steps. It took two years in a metal body brace, 24 hours a day. It took walking frames and physio sessions, daily for three years. Swimming sessions each morning, daily. It was bloody hard work. It hurt, a lot. When I wasn’t at physio, I was on an exercise bike, walking or using special pedals the physio gave me. Walking didn’t just happen. I am proud of that.
Having my book published. The majority of Lived to Tell was written when I was much younger, as it was happening. When that girl got the chance to see it in print, it was incredible! Keep a hold of your passions. You will find a way to see them through to fruition.
Being alive and functional. Once again, bloody hard work! Once I had decided I was worth the effort, I soared. There were times when the cheer squad was just me. That’s okay, I can be loud. I often forgot I actually had a body, which required food, water and to be cared for. I lived in my head, the body just an extraneous matter. I have had to learn to check in with myself regularly. “Been at the desk too long, Raph, time to stretch your legs.” Life is such a hard, ridiculous and profoundly beautiful thing. If you can’t see the beauty, things need to change. You need the right mix of people, plans to look forward to, and beautiful things to admire and absorb. Paintings, nature, books, movies, music. Surround yourself with that which brings you joy. You are worth so much! I could talk about my awards, but I won’t. The above is enough, more than enough. I am alive, and happy. It’s enough.