Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? (Gwen Bell)
One Word for 2010 – Learning
7 Key Learnings This Year
Just before surgery, the doctor told me that I would be non-weight-bearing for three months. My response, “But I’m going scuba diving in three weeks!” Guess who won out in that exchange!
This year has been a learning journey for me. Here’s a taste of 7 things I’ve learned this year.
1. I learned how quickly one can “fall from the top.”
I learned what it meant to “fall from the top” of my career when I fell from the top of the stairs. I was the project leader for a government department’s top priority project. How quickly my entire team was transferred to another staff member when my workplace didn’t know how soon I would be able to return to work.
And when that happened, I was not told what I would be doing when I returned to work. Experiencing the uncertainty and living through it has been a huge learning in itself. “My Fall from the Public Service” sounds like a fantastic book title for sometime in the future.
What experiences have you had – totally out of your control – that resulted in a complete change in your life circumstances– your career? physical capabilities? relationships? What did you learn through those experiences?
2. I learned that we’re not always sensitive to the struggle for dignity and respect that others may be fighting for.
Last December, I learned what it felt like to be in a nursing home. I was moved after 10 days from an active treatment hospital to a sub-acute care bed in a nursing home. And no, I’m not a senior!
I saw incapacitated seniors treated with complete disregard for their dignity as human beings – staff speaking disrespectfully and yelling at them, mishandling them, ignoring their basic requests to go to the washroom or get cleaned up. I also saw the positive impact I was able to make when I spoke out in protest not only for myself but also for those who couldn’t speak for themselves.
I was in that “hell-hole” for almost two weeks before being released to go home – and I only escaped because I insisted I was checking myself out and assured the staff that I had an elevator at home so I wouldn’t need to walk up and down my stairs and that I would have someone there to help me!
Besides seniors in nursing homes, what have you learned about other individuals or groups that have been abandoned, discarded, undervalued, and disrespected? How might you speak up for them to help them regain their dignity?
3. I learned that sometimes we just have to let others help us, hard as that may be.
I’m a fiercely independent person and losing my independence was the biggest trial of my life. I learned what it was like to become dependent on someone else. My sister came to stay with me for over three months and I needed her help for almost everything. And my neighbour was there too – driving me to the hospital and physiotherapy and keeping my driveway clear of snow.
I felt total humiliation and frustration at times during the early months. I needed help in and out of the car when I got out of the hospital and any time I went out for appointments and errands. I struggled to navigate the house with a walker (with an arm extension) and a wheelchair (with a leg extension) that never could quite make it through the bathroom door and that kept me at a distance from everything.
I needed help getting in and out of the shower. I couldn’t reach into the fridge because of my immobilizing contraptions. I couldn’t stand long enough to make meals because the walker caused too much pain in my hips. I couldn’t do laundry or housecleaning, although I did sit in my wheelchair one time and vacuum the rug – becoming totally entangled in the long vacuum hose before I finished the job.
I couldn’t do simple things like opening a jar lid or pill bottle or reaching for water from the water cooler. I couldn’t replace a DVD in the DVD player or move from one side of the bed to the other to reach my computer or phone or book. I even needed help in picking up my socks when I dropped them on the floor. And in putting them on because I couldn’t reach my feet, since I was immobilized from hip to ankle.
Then I learned about the “grabber” daily living aid, and my life was changed forever. It was a lifesaver for both my sister and me because I no longer needed her help to pick up my dirty Kleenex and other things I couldn’t reach. And I could grab my dresser handle and pull it open and pick out my own socks and … (other stuff) to wear. And my journey back to independence slowly began.
During this time of dependence on people, I also got a clearer illumination of what it means to be dependent on God. People told me through this experience that maybe God was trying to teach me a lesson – to get me to slow down because I am always in overdrive. My response was that God wasn’t the klutz – I was! I fell down the stairs – He didn’t push me!
But I have begun to see a clearer picture of what it means to depend on Him. I could have dwelt on the uncertainty in every aspect of my life with a negative spirit. And I think my sister would likely say I did sometimes. OK, I probably did – but it had to be the drugs, right? Did you know that Tylenol 3 and 4 convert to morphine in your system? I learned that morphinia land is a very interesting place to be!
Anyway, I’ve tried to move beyond that and to look to God to help me see things from a different perspective. I’ve read the Bible and spiritual books, listened to CDs and watched DVDs, to give me a greater appreciation of how He wants me to let Him into my life and to give myself permission to lean on Him… lessons I’m still learning daily.
Have you ever had to deal with being dependent on others? How did you deal with it? Did you learn to just go with the flow or did you fight it until you finally had to give in? Have you come to appreciate the importance of “letting go and letting God?”
4. I learned that physiotherapy is NOT always fun but the end result is worth the pain.
It was exciting when my arm cast and leg brace were removed and the orthopaedic surgeon gave the go-ahead for me to start physiotherapy.
I had posted a comment on Facebook in late February that I was starting physio and said, “Let the fun begin.” I was quickly corrected by someone taking physio who responded that it’s NOT fun!
Well, depends on how you look at it, I guess. I like being challenged – that’s fun. But the day I almost blacked out from pain at physio wasn’t fun.
My surgeon told me my wrist was in such bad shape that it would take months of painful, aggressive therapy, and even then, mobility might never come back. I informed the physiotherapist and asked her to do whatever she needed to do to prove him wrong. I was thrilled to move from 5 degrees range of motion in my wrist to almost 80 degrees during that intensive physiotherapy.
Have you ever been told you might not be able to do something in the future because of extenuating circumstances? Were you determined that you would prove the person wrong and ended up pushing yourself harder because of it?
5. I learned that anyone who has to relearn how to walk deserves an Olympic gold medal.
And then there were all those other milestones, going from a wheelchair and walker to two crutches, to one crutch, to walking with no aids. I felt like a toddler taking her first steps. I also felt like an Olympic gold medal winner as I watched the Winter Olympics on TV and did my ridiculous-looking hop-slide as I threw my arms into the air to propel me forward. Yes, I learned to walk again!
Then starting to drive all over again after four months, first in my acreage subdivision as I tested out my knee flexibility and strength on the brake, then on the deserted country roads, and finally my first triumphant trip into my office in the city.
Do you ever think about how many children and adults struggle with disabilities their whole lives? Do you celebrate their daily, weekly, yearly gold-medal accomplishments with them or just take those milestones for granted?
6. I learned that uncertainty demands flexibility, adaptability and resilience.
When I could drive again, I tried going back to work part-time and working from home part-time. But new challenges took me through a few months of additional uncertainty.
A rapidly growing tumour on the bottom of my foot became evident shortly after my fall. Diagnostic tests – ultrasound and MRI tests – and numerous appointments with my family doctor, orthopaedic surgeon, and orthopaedic oncologist initially provided no conclusive answers.
Finally, doctors determined that the tumour was non-malignant. It was a large benign plantar fibromatosis, which further impeded my walking progress because of pain with every step I took. I had custom-made orthotics to accommodate the ever-growing “lump”, but the “lump” has now outgrown the orthotics. So much for that $350 expenditure!
Then, almost six months after my accident, I was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) in my left hand, likely caused by the fall or surgery. This ended my attempts to go back to work for the immediate future. Initially, I was instructed not to use my left hand at all for three months.
Computer withdrawal was painful – I adapted by initiating a slow, awkward typing technique using 1-2 fingers of my right hand. Then in late August my doctor said I could gradually start typing a bit with my left hand.
There has been little improvement, so my physiotherapist has just started me on an education program, Live Well Again,where I am learning pain management techniques related to CRPS. I am back to one-handed typing for awhile. And challenged with CRPS now moving into my right foot.
It was hard to find much useful information about CRPS. Finally, my physiotherapist gave me an illustration that has helped me understand it more. Imagine one nerve sending messages to your muscles, joints, skin. Well, my nerves are each sending 100 messages, instead of one, causing chaos, confusion and pain in my nervous system, joints, muscles and skin.
My physiotherapist told me last week this education program is going to be the hardest 8-10 weeks of my life, harder than any project I’ve ever undertaken at work. I say, “Let the fun begin!”
When have you experienced something in your life that was both challenging and exhilarating at the same time? Or that was challenging at the time but turned into something fun over time?
7. I learned that I’m not “stir crazy!”
When I did make it into the office part-time last spring, a few colleagues commented that I must have gone “stir crazy” lying at home, doing nothing. What? Me do nothing?
Excuse me? Don’t they know how many free educational resources exist on the Internet? I’ve never had such a goldmine of things to read and listen to and time to actually do it.
I’ve gone through several webinar series on personal growth, writing and business.
I had used Twitter to a limited extent in my last major public engagement project at work, but now I had a whole new world of people to connect with. And 140 characters isn’t as challenging to type at one time as an email message or blog post, so Twitter has become a source of connecting and sharing what I’ve been learning since I started my account in mid-August.
I’ve started a blog and subscribed to many other blogs. I’ve read extensively about social media. I’ve just signed up for the Problogger Academy short course taught by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett, which starts this week. And my email inbox is full of frequent one-off webinars and teleseminars that I just can’t say no to.
I’ve even dabbled in learning a bit about Internet marketing, starting with The Challenge. And I found The Influencer Project and The Future of Marketing online conferences fascinating and wrote about them in my posts, All of Life Is Marketing, Isn’t It? and The Future of Marketing: A Vision.
It’s been great to “learn my way” through so many new areas I haven’t explored before.
What have you learned online this year that was most intriguing? Useful for your personal life? Your professional life?
All of Life Is Learning
Yes, this year has been a learning journey – where I have reflected on:
- how one moment in time can change every aspect of one’s life,
- how uncertain life can be because of that moment in time,
- how resilient we can be if we decide not to wallow in our circumstances, and
- how we can use those circumstances to open ourselves up to new opportunities and experiences that we would not have otherwise.
It’s been quite the ride!
One Word for 2011 – Focus
Nothing is predestined: The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings. (Ralph Blum)
I plan to take what I’ve learned this past year and to focus on how to implement it in my life in 2011, on a personal and professional level. I’m excited about what lies ahead. And I’m curious about what I’m going to write a year from today.
What is your one word for 2010 and for 2011? I write….