Friday, May 4, 2012

Sometimes It's Still Hard

I used to have this exact car. It feels like a lifetime ago. In my mind, it still represents a time of youth, and freedom that sometimes feels so far away from life as I know it now. 

I wrote this a few weeks ago. I am not currently in this state of mind. It is raw. It is real. I let you guys in, so please, don't hate!

Sometimes it’s still hard.

We are very used to our life.  Usually, we just go about our routines, and it’s no big deal that Michael is in a wheelchair.  Usually.

Then, randomly, there are times that are really tough.
It happened yesterday.

I hate that it happens.  I want to be completely past it.  I don’t want to complain, cry, any of that.  But sometimes, it’s still hard.

I wonder if it’s really this hard all time, but sometimes I’m just not strong enough to handle it.  I am usually strong. I have lots of experience. I can do most things that Michael needs me to help him with in my sleep.

But sometimes, it’s annoying. It’s frustrating, and it’s hard.  And I just wish we could both take a day off.

Things like just going somewhere are such a production.

I get ready.  He gets ready.  I feel all cute with curled hair and a pretty new dress.  We head out to the parking lot.  I bring a pair of shorts, because this is a new dress, and I’m not sure if I can squat deep enough in this dress to lift him for the transfer, or if I’m going to have to hike my dress up over my hips.

We are in a hurry.  Of course.
When am I going to learn to just slow down? Being in a hurry never works.  You can't speed quadriplegic stuff up.  It just doesn’t move any faster. Ever. Ugh!

I take my wedge heels off.  Because sometimes when I do a big lift, like into the SUV, with heels on, it hurts my lower back.  So, now I know. And I don’t lift in heels. Period. I don’t wear a lot of heels, especially when Michael and I are going somewhere in the car together.  But, like I said, I was dressed up.

I put my feet on the hot, gravely pavement. Squat deep, lift him out of his wheelchair and drop him off in the passenger seat.  Then, I pull him back, adjust his legs, put his left foot back in his shoe, which almost fell off in the transfer, put his seat belt on, kiss him on the cheek and close the door.  I turn the wheels off on the chair, push it to the back of the SUV, fold the backrest down, pick the chair up by the wheels, lift it into the back of the SUV, move it around to get it to the exact place it needs to be so that the hatchback will close.  I jump a little to pull the back of the car down.

Now, I need to adjust myself in my dress and put everything back where it started, walk over to the driver’s side, and get in.

My hands are dirty, I’m sweating now and I can feel my curls falling out of my hair, and there’s dirt on my new dress.

Great. Let’s go.

We get to where we are going, and park in a handicapped parking spot. Why are so many of these blue spots on HILLS? Will someone please explain this to me?  I get the chair out of the back, turn it on, put it beside the SUV, open Michael’s door, re-lock the chair because it rolled downhill slightly, un-do Michael’s seatbelt, reach under his knees and under his right armpit, and lift.  Also this time, with no shoes.  This transfer wasn’t as smooth (stupid hill) but he thankfully, does land in the wheelchair.  But, we need to do some adjustments.  So, I pull him to one side.  Then he leans forward and I tuck the back of his shirt back in.  Then I squat down to pull his pant legs down, I do NOT like to see any ankle! Then, I take his jacket out of the back seat. I help him into that, one arm at a time, then tucking it in in the back, and on the sides so the wheels don’t get the jacket dirty.  I help him back the chair away from the SUV, wipe my feet off with my dirty hands, put my shoes back on, grab my purse, lock the car, and we are on our way in.

I feel sweaty and dirty and tired, and I notice that he looks great.  Part of me thinks aw, he is so handsome all dressed up.  The other part of me, honestly, is jealous.  I wouldn’t mind showing up looking nice and feeling great.

We go inside, and then it’s the maze of weaving in and out and around a crowd where I feel like we are just in the way, and we are sticking out like sore thumbs, as we search for the one place where it is designed for a wheelchair to sit.  I’m thankful for these things, don’t get me wrong.  But in times like this – where I’m already focused on the negative – it’s just another reminder that we aren’t like everyone else.  We don’t just walk in and sit down anywhere we want.  We must sit here.  This is where someone else decided is a good place for us. 

As we navigate to our designated spot, people are moving out of the way like the Red Sea is parting.  They are uncomfortably over-accommodating, and instead of just saying hi, they are moving out of the way like someone is driving a Mack truck indoors.

We sit.
And enjoy.
Then, when it’s over, we get ready to leave.

I pull the car to another location, because I am just not feeling the lift on a hill.  Dangerous.  We do that whole transfer production again, and we are on our way.

That’s when the tears flow behind my big sunglasses.
Michael notices I’m upset.
And now I just feel horrible for ruining a perfectly wonderful day.

On the road, Michael points out a nice neighborhood of townhomes.  “Those look nice,” he says.  To which I reply “Yeah, they are. But we could never live in something like that.”

You know. Because we would need an elevator.
Michael gets frustrated.
I full-on cry.
He tries to comfort me, but I’m too busy feeling guilty to even see that he’s not judging my feelings of being tired of all of this, he’s trying to understand where I’m coming from.

Sometimes, it’s hard.  Sometimes, I still cry.   It doesn’t happen that often. Most days are fine.  Easy, even.  We just cruise along and rock this life out.
But sometimes, I just think it would be nice if we could go, get in the car, go somewhere, sit down and enjoy, and leave. 

I think it would be nice to think about the future and moving into a bigger place, without worrying about if it’s all on one floor, and if the bathroom doors are wide enough, and if he can get in the front door and out the back door by himself.  I hate thinking that we are going to be in an apartment on linoleum floors forever.

I love our floors. That’s not the point.
The point is, sometimes I step in the quicksand, and I sink.  The negative switch is flipped, then the lights are off. All I see is the darkness. Everything is harder, heavier, and I dread it all. 

This is where I need the Lord. Because, maybe I am strong enough most of the time to handle this life on my own. But – inevitably, the hard times will come.  It will be heavier, deeper, more challenging than I can handle on my own.  That challenge could be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.  I need Him to do the heavy lifting.  Because sometimes my reserves of strength and courage run out.

And I end up crying behind my big sunglasses.


Christina said...

Thanks for sharing! I just had a moment like this today! It just hits you, simetimes all of a sudden (but usually for me, it builds up). I was being negative this morning, and in a bad mood because I have to empty pee bags every morning. I would just like one day where it doesnt get on me!! Is that too much to ask? Oh well such is life. Take care, and thanks again for sharing! It reminds me that someone else is out the going through my same struggles!

gentrier said...

THIS is the side of our lives no one can ever understand unless they do it. Not in a 'misery loves company' kind of way, I love that you wrote this. I have felt and thought everything you are saying here and even some of what you are still too appropriate to say;). A smart woman, you, know your boundaries and your limits and that doesn't make you weak! It makes you smart and strong enough to deal with reality...even when we just wanna be, and sometimes ate, whiny babies about this life. I told Matt last year I prefer staying in to going out. Why? Bc he always looks great and I look haggard and am too tired, and possibly teetering on resentment by the time we get to where we are going.

gentrier said...


Brandi Brittain said...

Ok, now I'm You and Michael are so blessed to have one another, but you know that. I understand a little about disability and how I hate that my loved ones are affected by it, too. You are both so brave and so inspiring. I once heard Joni Erickson Tada speak and she said, "God, I can't do this but You can. Can I borrow your smile (or strength, etc) today?" I've held onto that. Know that you are loved and appreciated by your loved ones and me and I don't even know you personally but through Michael. :) You are truly blessed to have one another. I think of all the guys who pass me over for my disability and I can walk. You are TRULY AMAZING! :)

Dana Brown Ritter said...

Christina, thank you for reading and commenting! I totally know what you mean by emptying pee bags first thing in the morning. What a wonderful way to start the day, huh? Hang in there. And one tip - don't watch yourself in the mirror emptying the pee. I know for me, when I see myself doing that, it makes it much worse.

Dana Brown Ritter said...

Gentrie, we have definitely become homebodies. We like to get out, but if we do it too much, it's just too much. It is good to learn the limits. Because going out and being a mess is no fun for anyone!

Dana Brown Ritter said...

Thanks for reading, and for your encouragement, Brandi. I wish I would have met you when I was in Texas visiting Michael. You are so right that we are truly blessed to have one another. No one even sees all the stuff Michael puts up with to love me! :)

Ginny Marie said...

What an honest post! I think it's great that you were so real and shared with us how it really is. Sometimes, you just need to write about it!

Visiting from SITS Saturday Sharefest!

Lemon Drop Pie

Audri @ Rediscovering Our Family said...

I love this. I love the way you wrote it, it did not come across as selfish, it came across as caring and loving. Both of you obviously have a deep love for one another and that is inspiring. Thank you for sharing your life, the good and the bad.

Audri McCready said...

I am visiting from SITS Saturday Sharefest. said...

I don't know what it's like to live with someone with a physical disability. But I have a family member who struggles with severe emotional issues. I know how you feel when you say "I just wish we could both take a day off." Most of the time I do okay but sometimes I get tired and I need a break. My family member feels the same way. She just said this morning: "I need a break from this."

Thank you for sharing your heart.

Melissa said...

Thanks for sharing so honestly and openly. Just from reading this one post (and I plan to read more now that I have found your blog), it is clear you are a caring and supportive person. I did not hear selfishness but some thoughts that just needed to get out.

Erin @ Simply Frugal Mom said...

Stopping by from SITS Sharefest. Thank you so much for sharing this post. Beautifully and honestly written. Off to explore your blog further.

Anonymous said...

There will continue to be difficult days, but it sounds like you two have a relationship that will make the difficult times worth it.
My dad is blind, so my mother has always driven him around, driven the kids around, helped him pick a car, helped him pick out clothes, told him when he's holding his knife upside-down... she also put him through university, but that's a rather long story. And I know that even now, after 27 years of marriage, she still has difficult days. And that's allowed, what's important is that you can recognise it. You both are doing a great job, and I hope that soon you will have a handicap-accessible van. That will make things on you both much easier.

Thanks for the inspiring post.
Stopping over via SITS Sharefest :)

Heather said...

What an honest post. You don't sound selfish at all. Honestly I don't know how you do it everyday. So inspiring. Visiting from SITS Sharefest.

Tamara said...

Love you guys. Thank you for expressing your frustrations through words. I'll be back that way in a month and would love to see you guys. I can come to you. ;)

Dana Brown Ritter said...

Tam, we would LOVE to see you!! You don't have to come to us. Like I said, it's a state of mind. Better now. :)

Amber said...

Dana, Loved this post. I can relate with you in so many ways to this post, I totally get where you're coming from and it is really nice to know that I'm not alone, although it does feel like that most of the time. I'm very thankful that I have my girls to help me with some of the normal stuff (pills, shoes, shaving, food, etc.), but I also think of the days, which unfortunately are coming quickly when it'll just be he and I and that scares the crap out of me.

I also am thankful that we have a wheelchair van because the lifting that you do is amazing. I worry for you though. I know you know what you're doing and I'm still a Newbie (less than 2 years post injury).

You are awesome and I love your blog!! :-)