I've started working on repainting my son's room with him. Normally, such an activity wouldn't be a blip on my radar, but I've decided to take this task on with him while in a cast and knee crutch. Is it a bit too much for me and crazy? Some might say yes. Obviously, I'm ensuring that I'm safe and that I'm not putting myself at risk. I'm in my iWalk 2.0 and am getting around like a pirate who's lost his leg. Is it easy? No. But I am able to move furniture, lift and carry things and, most importantly, paint.
You Are What You Allow Yourself to Be
I have made a choice to continue to live as normal of a life as I can while I'm in a cast. I go to work, help with dinner, putting kids to bed, cleaning and the like. Am I doing all the physical activities that I normally would do in the summertime? No. I am not mowing the lawn and have kept gardening work to a minimum, but I want to set the example for my children and for myself: I am not an invalid. I am recovering from an injury and have chosen to be positive and to be active while I'm healing. I do not wish to be a lump or have people wait on me.
For those who are recovering from an injury, permanently injured and even trying to embark on a challenging task (like my fellow authors out there): It is extremely easy to give up. To say:
"I'm not going to exercise today. I'm not going to start my next book. I surrender. Woe is me."
I have not chosen that path. My choices don't make me better than other people. It simply means that I've decided to go a different route that works for me. In my mind, I am choosing to be active and to continue with my life in a way that will help me. I want my children to see that not only am I working on my next book, but I'm also continuing to help (as best I can) around the house.
It's all in my mind. I choose to be and do.
But Here's the Reality
Let me pull the curtain back so that you can see really what's happening behind the scenes. I became injured on June 26th. Today it's August 2nd. I went a few days of being in pain, doctor visits, MRI and the like, but I had made a promise to myself to start writing my next novel. I started doing that on Monday, June 30. Since that time, I've written 12,147 words. Not as much as I would have liked, but I'm 32 pages in. I'm expecting to write around 90,000 words so I've a long way to go.
Yesterday I woke up late and didn't have time to do any novel writing. I had been at work the night before until 6:30 and didn't get home until almost 8 pm. By the time I helped with kids, ate, caught up on email, it was time for bed. I was exhausted. Being on the knee crutch, walking around and trying to get places, tires me out. I woke up Friday morning late and gave myself the day off from writing the novel.
I've been grumpy at night and sore (knee hurts, upper body hurts from pulling myself up and down stairs). I still have at least 17 days until the cast is on. Honestly, I don't know what the doctor will find: Take cast off, reposition my foot and have cast longer, who knows!
The point is that I don't know the future. I don't know how much longer I'll be recovering. There isn't going to be a magical time in which the stars align and then I'm ready to go for my next challenge in my life. The challenge is now. If I don't write my next book, it's not going to get done. It just won't. I cannot tell you how many people I have met who have said that they want to write a book, but then change their mind or just never do it.
The world is not meant to create for you. You can create the world.
Instead of being passive, I struggle really hard on being active. Active in mind, spirit and heart. Does it get me in trouble? Yes, it does. I've lashed out in anger and frustration when I'm tired or weak. Last night my wife and I finished eating pizza with the kids and we went upstairs to paint. The kids were to take showers and we would paint. I got suited up, my wife went to finish sanding a part of the ceiling that I had spackled and didn't sand enough and I tried to pour paint into a red cup so that I could do the cutting in around the windows. I spilled the paint from the gallon and a big splash fell on my foot, ruining my old pair of shoes and getting on my ankle and all onto a towel I had on the floor.
My wife tried to help but I just wanted to be left alone. She was trying to be calm and reasonable and in my head I was tired, frustrated and just wanted to be out of the damn cast. But that wasn't reality. We argued a bit and I was an ass. I asked her to leave the room and did the work myself. I just wanted to have the space to not have anyone around me. To focus and to just clean up my own mess and be left to myself. Was it the responsible and adult thing to do? How I responded was not one of my prouder moments, but I wanted to share this story because I'm not perfect. I screw up all the time. What I want to do is learn, grow and be.
My son's room is about 1/3 of the way done. I imagined that he and I would paint it all. He helped a bit, but he's only 11 and can only reach so much. My wife has offered to help but, in all honesty, she had no desire to get involved in this crazy project that my son and I talked about a few months ago. The project has expanded to be more complex because I needed to peel off all the glow in the dark stars on the ceiling, take all the silly puddy like sticky stuff that held the stars on, clean the walls, prime them (2 coats of primer) paint the walls, do the windows and windowsills (I had forgotten that they are blue), put a coat of polyurethane on the hardwood floors and but all the shit back into the room. And I'm in a cast and can't bear weight on my left leg.
What was I thinking, right? I see goals and like to reach for the stars. I never thought I could write a book. I have written four novels and a good many short stories. I never thought I'd run a marathon. I've done three and about a dozen 10+ mile races. I never thought I'd amount to much in my life when I was little because of how shitty my upbringing was with a dad who beat my mom and abandoned his family, but after a lot of work on myself, I've turned out okay. Am I perfect? God, no. But when I see others with such adversity struggle to do better in their lives, those people give me hope.
And that's what I wanted to share. I wanted to share the dirt and grime of the back story of something as simple as "painting a room while in a cast." But forget the specific example, I'm hoping that you can apply what I've learned and use it to overcome your own challenges--whatever that might be. If my writing can help inspire even just one person, then I would be happy. Life is messy. It's complicated. It's always easier to see how nice someone else has it, but that's probably because you're only seeing what the person allows you to see.
You're not seeing (thank God!) when I'm in the shower and I am having a hard time getting washed. I have a medical chair in there with me, but trying to soap up and get parts of my body and not fall is difficult.
I miss putting both my feet on the ground and stretching up at the sun and taking in a deep breath and feeling the sun on my face. That natural balance, so easy, simple and pure, has been uprooted from me and in the most simplest of ways I have changed temporarily. But as life has thrown me a curve ball, so I'm learning to adapt though I keep screwing up along the way.
I will keep writing my novel. It might take me longer than I had hoped, but I will finish. I will finish painting my son's room though I might need help and it'll take longer than I expected. But more than all that, I'm becoming someone different from the experiences that I'm living and, for me, that's a good thing. I now know what it's like to limp around for weeks trying to go to work and live a normal life, but in some areas, can't. And for you, what do you struggle with and are trying to overcome? I truly believe that one step, one crawl forward, one mental change of pace is all that's needed to overcome the biggest obstacle in front of us. It won't be easy, it might seem impossible, but there is always a way. Never give up.
Ron Vitale is the author of the Cinderella's Secret Diaries series who hopes that his own children will overcome any obstacles in their way and find their own happily ever after.