Friday, February 18, 2011

How Am I ?

BlogHer wants to know.  My sister wants to know.  Friends from college who disappeared from my life in 1973 want to know.  Frankly, I want to know, too.

It's an interesting question from many perspectives.  Physically, I am healing at a rate that amazes my physical therapist and my orthopedist and the ER doctors I met last Sunday.  The exit wound on my thigh has healed with healthy flesh; it was so deep the trauma docs were convinced that it would "necrotize"... and let's not go there, okay? My shattered hip is less painful everyday, and those (somewhat neater) scars are clearing up as well.   I have scars from incisions made to examine all my organs, and they are calming down, too.  I'm supposed to be rubbing creams on them to reduce the ugliness, but that would entail looking at them and I'm not up to that yet. 

I have mastered the art of showering without observing what I'm washing.  I am adept at dressing without noticing the hole in my breast.  I've convinced myself that the little entry wound which creeps out beneath the hem of my shorts is just another little boo-boo I picked up in my travels.  My friends say that I look terrific and I choose to believe them.  So, on that level, I am fine.

There's the whole Christina-Taylor piece which may never be fine.  She was a big part of our lives and she's not here anymore.  Her mom and I were discussing the fact that the perfect person to do the late afternoon SuziSitting, the keeping-me-company-while-TBG-goes-to-the-gym part of my life, the one who would enjoy it the most and think that the $1/day she earned was riches beyond compare, that person would be Christina.  I imagine her fluffing my pillows and bringing me sparkling water and tending to my indoor flora and running to the mailbox and the refrigerator and I sigh.  Sometimes I cry, but mostly I sigh.  People say that everything happens for a reason, but no one can convince me that there is a reason for a dead 9 year old.  Don't even try.  In this area, I'm not so fine.

I am slow, very very slow.  Getting up from my throne on Douglas is a major effort.  Will my quadriceps cooperate or will I be grimacing in pain as I sit up and move my right leg off the pillow on which it rests, elevated, support under my kneecap to keep it from hyperextension..... the list goes on and on and on.  Will the scar down the middle of my chest, my seam, bifurcating me, defining with raw clarity the mid-line of my self, will the wound decide that moving should hurt or will it let me push myself up with reckless abandon?  A day or so ago I found myself upright in the wheelchair with no memory of moving there at all.  TBG hadn't noticed it either, but there I was, ready to go.  Then, last night, I was immobile, permanently attached to the cushions beneath me, with no hope of moving on my own.  None.  Not at all.

TBG comes in very handy at moments like these.

I was a hiker, a walker, a gym rat, a yogini, a gardener,,,,, and now I am told not to compare myself to who I was before.  Easy for you to say...... exactly what, then, should I use as a yardstick?  Should I try to be upright, using my erector spinae to maintain excellent posture or should I curve forward, into the cradle of the walker, to counteract the backward falling motion inherent in hopping?  Am I better served by listening to my mother and standing up straight or should I follow the PT's advice and stay safe?  Do I embrace the role of patient, and have patience and take care, or should I re-discover the person who plunged on ahead, paying no attention at all to what might lie in store for her, one who notices the adventure and chances the consequences?

And that's where I end up whenever I confront myself with this kind of questioning.  I am neither the old me nor this version of the new me.  This is temporary, a physical anomaly that will pass.  When I worked at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago I became aware that those using wheelchairs to get around the campus referred to those of us who were self-locomoting as TAB......Temporarily Able Bodied.  That resonates in a big way with me right now. 

I am extremely conscious of my presentation to the world.  I don't leave the house with the wheelchair.  Reason #1 is that it really doesn't fit in any of our cars without major reorganization and seat shifting, but the truer reason is that I don't want Tucson to see me sitting down.  I want to greet my town face to face, even if I have to hang on to a metal contraption with wheels to do so.  When strangers run out of stores to tell me how happy they are to see me up and around, I want them to see me actually up and around.  I don't want to be pushed, I want to get there on my own.  I am tired of being viewed as a victim.

There are many funds set up to help those involved in this event.  Tragedy in Tucson; Tucson Victims' Fund...... the thoughtfulness is overwhelming, but the names just make me sad.  I'm connected to the Office of Victim Assistance and the Victim Compensation Program and the County Attorney's Victims' Services office.  I've never wanted to be defined as a victim, as someone who has relinquished control and allowed something to happen to her.  I like being in charge - just ask the resident who had to fight me off as I was helping her insert my chest tube.  Little Cuter had to take my face in her hands and "MOM....MOM....Marcie went to medical school and you did not...let her do her job" made me relax enough so that a stranger could poke a tube into a hole in my side.  MY side.

How has this happened to me?  How did a sunny Saturday morning turn into a disaster beyond anything I ever could have imagined?  I don't think that the community college or the mental health system or the justice system could have prevented this.  I think that efforts to ascribe malicious motives to systems or individuals who shoulda/coulda done something are nothing more than attempts to make sense of a senseless act.  Like closing the barn door after the horse has run off, arguments over whether policies and procedures were adequate and will be adequate or are or were woefully wanting are not helpful.  I am not fine with anger and hostility and vengeance and blame.  Tucson deserves better than that.  I deserve better than that.

Knowing that fact keeps me out of the doldrums and focused forward.  I have had amazing opportunities and I know that there are many more to come.  My project on inter-generational mentoring is moving ahead nicely; I hope to reveal it when I can stand on my own two feet.  I am surrounded by family and friends and neighbors and public servants who want nothing more than to make me happy.  Food is delivered and rooms are re-arranged and schedules are altered to accommodate  me.  I've had lunch with Billy Collins and I've met Juan.  I've discussed George Bush with Brian Williams.  My girlfriends have flown in from North Carolina and Alabama and Illinois and Arkansas and Florida and they have chauffeurred and done laundry and waited as I hopped toward our destination and I've felt as though I were the one doing them the favors.  I am surrounded by love.

The sun comes up every morning and I am here to see it.  That makes it a good day.... every day.

That's how I am - I am here.


  1. Thank you so much for that. Believe me, your words and the actions behind them go a long, long way in exposing what is indeed good and hopeful in a world that is often full of inexplicable pain and heartache.

    I wish you well in your recovery. May you find much love, peace and serenity in your future.

    Very Best Regards...T

  2. Girl, you keep on kicking ass. Seriously. Keep. on. kicking. ass.

    From a fan in Houston.

  3. As your comment prompt says, what did I think -- I think this is one of the most important posts I've read about the incident. There is the news when it happens and the recitation of fact and the outreach. But it's this time, the aftermath, that I think about too. And I'm just sending good thoughts -- for a holistic recovery -- of body and mind and heart.

  4. I've read this post three times just now. And I just can't help but think that so so so so so so many people need to read it, to understand more of what happened and the effect it has had on not just the physical aspects of victims but the far-reaching emotional aspects of those involved.

    You do deserve better than that. I am happy that you are surrounded by love. Do know that there are many others who aren't in your everyday, real life who are thinking of you and showering you with love from afar.

  5. Sending lots of prayers your way. Thank you for this thought-provoking post.

    You're not forgotten or alone. I can't imagine what you're going through. Many hugs.

  6. Ashleigh, I'm so happy you're on the road to recovery--no matter how bumpy that road may be--because it means, as you say, you're here.

    And that's a fabulous thing. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

    Now, going off to find some tissues and count my blessings.

  7. Be strong. Be brave. And continue to watch the sun rise!!

    From Georgia

  8. I am so impressed with your strength and resilience. Your wounds just sound awful. Good thing you spent time in the gym, it sounds like you saved your hip. I just found your blog, it's hard to read but I'm glad you're here to write it.

  9. Thank you for sharing this remarkable story.

  10. Sending love from NM.

    Rock on! You can do it!!

  11. What a strong and articulate woman you are!
    I was in a bad car accident when I was in my 20s (not my fault) and I can relate to so much of what you say here about the physical aspect. When my friends went mountain biking, I lay on my back and stared at the ceiling, only able to be up for 20 minutes at a time. The life you've had is somehow thieved in the night and you're left with what feels like a shell of your former existence.

    But recovery is an amazing thing. You're never the same, but some things actually get better I find. That sun coming up every morning, I've never taken it for granted. Not one day since then.

    Sending you love and strength as you make your way forward, and so much admiration for the *survivor* you are.

  12. no way out but through, as they say. keep being here, keep writing it out.

    keep going, for all the confusion and struggle. the honesty matters, to people grappling with far less.

  13. Sister woman do not fight the stream of caring and good vibes. I think we are in the thick of things and we need all hands on deck.

    Sitting or standing it does not matter. I had hope for saner days but I think for the time being if we focus on being in this day it is enough.

    Do what you can when you can. Know that from coast to coast people have not forgotten and send you positive loving energy in multiple ways and descriptions.

    Blessings on your continued journey.

  14. Thank you for your willingness to share your reflections, your reality and your strength.

    May your own incredible will and soul, as well as the support of so many wonderful folks, continue to sustain you through the inevitable ups and downs.

  15. After the WTC, they distributed a pamphlet to us in the FDNY describing "the new Normal" You will Heal. There may be Changes that either have occurred or will occur as a result of your injuries. But Moreover, you have to again come to terms with the You that is Now. You may again be a Yogini, a gym rat, a woman of Action, movement etc... But it's going to take Time, Patience & Will. Luckily, you studied and practiced Yoga. If nothing else, yoga teaches you Patience, slowly stretching/willing yourself into the poses. It will come in Handy now.

    Give yourself Permission to take Time to heal. Adjust &test yourself to see when you will be ready to stand up Straight. Your body is the Greatest Instrument you will ever own. As for the scars, I have a few of my own, including one right down the middle, from having my Aortic Valve replaced. When you are ready, you'll look down. They do Fantastic things with creams, silicone sheet etc. Scars slowly fade anyway. The More Important thing is for you to Own yourself. You are far more then someone with scars and you know it!

    I advise you to take some of the help offered you. Perhaps hooking up with a yoga teacher for some One-on-One will help you deal with trying to see where your self will fit into the new Normal. Take My Advice- I'm just passing it on!

  16. I don't think anyone can say something that will make it easier. You went through an experience most never will. I just hope things will keep looking better for you and the other families touched by tragedy.

    The word victim is kind of a negative one, I agree, but any other word doesn't really say the truth of it which is that nobody there did one single thing to deserve what happened. It is life and trying to explain why things happen as they do is simply wasting breath and energy. It is just reality as we know it, and that's about all we can say. I hope you will keep having more bright days and less of the dark ones.

  17. Yes, you are here, and that's everything. Healing will happen. And you will be you.

  18. So good to hear from you. Continuing to send you healing.

  19. Your words are tonic for my soul. Your suggestions pique my interest. Your kindness touches my heart.
    Thank you all, denizens.

  20. You give a rare glimpse into the humanity of a tragedy. You are a beautiful writer. Thank you.

  21. Again, slow to this post. And annoyed with that, since I'm never very far from you in my thoughts.

    That "seam" has had me worried. When some ER doc or EMT--whoever--had the ignunce to tell everyone that he'd held each of your major organs in his hands, I knew that had to be one hell of a seam and a whole lot of organs trying to find home again.

    I hate that this post had been waiting to be written. I'm also strangely validated (please, forgive me), for I knew that I could never, ever have been healing physically or emotionally as quickly as A/B wanted us all to believe she was healing. T'ain't humanly possible. And the A/B I'd met in writing prior to 1/8/11 was every bit as human as I.

    Denizens, no saints dwell here. No paragons of millennial health. No super-humans. Only a lady with more guts in her writing than the average bear or blogger. And, if she is to be true to herself, does she really have a choice?

    Love you, honey. Hang on.

  22. A/B
    You wrote a excellent insightful blog about what happened that January 8, 2011 morning at The Safeway Store which had to be written and how it has affected you and all of the other survivors in this tragedy. I will never be fully able to comprehend why a nine year old was killed that morning along with five other citizens meeting their congresswomen while numerous other individuals such as yourself were seriously hurt. As Dallas Green Sr. told the media on Wednesday February 16, 2011 C-T's death has affected this entire nation and its' citizens. I know I will never be the same after this tragedy especially as a transplant recipient because of what Christina Taylor did as a transplant donor along with her loving parents John and Roxanna Green. There are so many people especially children who need donated organs that are dying right now and Christina Taylor Green knew if anything should happen to her it would be the right thing to donate her organs to children in need. She was a nine year old who was so much wiser than her age. I truly envy you A/B for knowing such a considerate loving 9 year old child who always thought of other people and how to help people in need. Christina Taylor was truly a child of God. Hopefully, more families will discuss the option of donating their organs now if they should perish although I know it is a sensitive subject even in today's world.
    Finally, you are such a caring loving person who brings a truly human dimension to this tragedy without the filter of our local, regional, and national news media. You are a powerful writer who expresses your feelings so well I personally feel you have a book waiting to be written and I know it would be a bestseller. God Bless you A/B, TBG, your family, John, Roxanna, and especially little Dallas Green.

  23. May the sun continue to come up on a masterful writer.

  24. Just do what you can each day and do not worry about what you cannot do YET. No one else would ask more of you, and you should not ask more of yourself. Sending love and strength, The Cheeses xoxoxxo

  25. You write beautifully about the healing on so many levels, thank you for sharing that with us! I'm really interested to hear about your mentoring project, I'm looking forward to you striding to that announcement in big, purposeful steps.

  26. Okay, I'm just going to---

    No, I'm not. I'll email it.

  27. This is really bad! I am picturing you with your walker, and then I am "seeing you" in the hilarious video posted by Ronni on Time Goes By today! Did you see it yet? I guess I have a weird sense of humor!

  28. Hey there Ashleigh! Coming on over from BlogHer and I do know what you mean about the wheelchair and people's expectations. But don't let that stop you from going out into the world!!! I actually think the pressure from other people to look "better" can be really damaging and there is no fixing it because other people are incredibly wrongheaded. The second I stand up from my wheelchair it's like the world wants to have a big old congratulations party for me. Guess what, 5 minutes later I still need the chair. Then what? Am I supposed to be sad about it? And it's too long and unpredictable of a road to stay inside.

    I don't like to be pushed either, but today I had to ask my kid to push me up a ramp at a park to the pitying stares and mild horror of random strangers. He's good at it, he gets rides down hill many times in my lap, I was tired, I take excellent care of him and the judging, ignorant TABbies have to cope as best they can.

    Anyway, you have time to figure all that out. It's complicated!

  29. I struggle with how to begin each time I add a comment, but this is what I think. I don't see you as a victim, I see you as special. My husband and I made a day trip to Tucson last Thursday and we talked about the events of the 8th as we drove. It brought up lots of feelings that surprised me. I was thinking of Tucson differently and its where I grew up, the feelings surprised me. After our business there we made a stop at a favorite used book store on 4th Ave. I browsed the isles as usual and found myself in front of the children's section, not uncommon for me. I looked through the shelves and found a small book with a title that grabbed my attention. If you're Afraid of the Dark Add one more Star to the Night. The illustrations added to my curiosity. the author was also the illustrator- Cooper Edens. Inside in small letters were the words, Dedicated to the memory of George Harrison, a former Beatle. The book is composed of 18 sentences, each one on a single page with a marvelous illustration. As I'm reading them I realized this is not a children's book, its about loss. Here is an example- If the stars burn out....button up the night against the cold. If the moon falls from the sky...carefully number the pieces for later reconstruction. If your world has come undone... fasten it securely to the horizon. I kept reading and came to this one- If you must cry...plant your tears as seeds. And that is how I think of you. You planting and us growing. It is a very nice picture. Thank you again for the sharing and I will do my best to keep the growing growing.

  30. You are here, with a voice of reason and wisdom and loving kindness. And it is good.

  31. You my dear friend are not a survivor you are a surthriver! And you will be back to doing if not all then most of the things you love to do but then there are the things that you are now doing that you have never done before and imagine all of the new things you will be doing in the future that will become your normal and amazing LIFE!

    I love you and love watching you surthrive!

  32. and I hope tomorrow you are stronger.....I hope this for your heart too...

  33. Your discussion peels away some layers and explains things that I hadn't considered -- hadn't thought about. Thank you for sharing many things that we -- the outsiders, the onlookers, the shocked ones -- really needed to hear.

    You are indeed special although I suspect that is not what you want to feel. But you are, and you demonstrate it daily.

    God bless and warmest wishes.

  34. What do I think? I think it is a most excellent thing that there is such an outlet for these hard hurting feelings as the blog world.
    You are most expressive, but roiling under the surface is deep pain, both physical and psychological. How could it be otherwise? What you have gone through, and survived, would undo most of us.
    So, I am glad you are exploring the depths of your feelings. I am deeply saddened for what has happened--to you, to C-T, to all the others killed or injured, to Tucson, to America.

  35. Hi - visiting from BlogHer nominations. I had to read the comments to get a sense of what happened. This was a riveting post. I wish you much healing, and hope to hear that even since February you have seen much progress.


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