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Words by Julie - Living Life With Paralysis

That woman of 42 7

It is amazing to me how one photo can just bring me to my knees. How four and a half years later, even with this life I have re-built, one picture can bring back the loss. It felt like I was looking at someone who died, was gone from my life for so long I had forgotten about her. And then there she is, smiling back at me from all these colourful pages. She was amazing, beautiful, strong, healthy and did anything she wanted, never questioning whether she could or not. She Just Did It.

I know that everyone grieves someone they have lost. It just seems strange to me that I am still, after all this time, made to feel so very sad about not being that person any more, just by looking at one picture. So sad that nothing I have now, or have done in the past four years can leapfrog me over those sad feeling and bring me back to the reality that I am good. Because I know I am, that what I am doing is making a difference for myself physically, for my health, for my family and in my community. I know that. But.

The amazing team of women who were on hand to celebrate the Gold RHFAC at the Ottawa International Airport.

I’m not quite sure how to get past this feeling today, other than to bury myself in my work of writing about bathrooms (the next book), end-of-year tax preparation and of course Christmas. But I know, in my gut, that that photo is still there. And putting it away will have no effect because it has been etched into my mind again. That woman of 42.

Theo reassures me that I am that same woman, my legs are different, but the rest of me is still the same. In my mind I know that is true, but it doesn’t change how I feel in my heart. I suppose I will always feel that way, and tears may always come to my eyes when I see her, me, back then.

Everyone has a “back then” photo, I assume. But getting past those feelings is hard. I remind myself that I still go for what I want, speak my mind, I’m strong, and if I have a shower dry my hair and do some makeup, I look good. But every once-in-a-while those sad feelings of remembering what I used to do physically come to the surface; and that is what knocks the wind out of me. Trail running. Mountain biking. Skiing. Gardening. Whenever and wherever I wanted.

When I speak now in front of an audience, I introduce myself by saying that: “For the first 42 years of my life I had the privilege of the use of my legs.” Now I have to plan to use my body.

Our bodies and their abilities are finite. We need to stop taking it for granted.

I’m hoping this sun will last today – it always makes me feel better. Happy Winter Solstice – change is coming.

7 comments

  • Kim stevenson says:

    This spoke to my heart, Julie. I hope the sunshine helps. Of course you grieve! You are a pretty amazing human…but still a human, with sad days, good days, bad days… I’m so glad you’re here, and living life, enjoying your beautiful family, and making a difference. Christmas time, especially, is such a time of thinking back, remembering years past. Sending love from all of us Stevenson’s. And a big hug. Merry Christmas to the whole Sawchuck family xo

  • Gary says:

    To speak truth, even painful truth is to be who you have always been or at least the Julie that I know. As you say we all have our pictures. The question is whether that person of 42 would have chosen to be this new woman you have become?

  • Joan Hukezalie says:

    Julie,
    It’s ironic, I never thought about how you must feel about your loss of ability. Yet I see you demonstrating new abilities. I am so happy to know you. You are inspiring.

  • Julie Lineberger says:

    Thank you for sharing. Thank you further for sharing so deeply and thoughtfully. In appreciation for you being truly Julie,

  • Joy Miller says:

    Oh Julie… I think of you so often. We have had some really good chats. The unimaginable loss that you have had is so huge. Your right… you can’t do the things you use to do. There is no sugar coating that at all. That inexcusable accident from the driver who hit you has changed your life AND to have that taken away from a person who was truly living life is HORRIBLE. You have helped so many people through your 42 and over journey and have made an INCREDIBLE difference in your community. Your family is amazing and you always make me laugh. But it doesn’t change your loss. Anyone close to you would change things back for you if they could. I love the before & after 42 Julie. I feel your pain and I feel it is ok to want the before 42 Julie back. With all things put aside you have done so well. You motivate others from showing us all of your hard work. You care so much for others and still are living life and making a difference. You were that person before & are still that person now and that is a gift that you have and will never change.
    Love you always

  • Cheryl says:

    I’ve just recently began following your story. I’m also looking forward to reading your book, which I’m getting for Christmas (from me).

    This post I’m commenting on particularly resonated deeply with me. When this ‘Woman of 42’ moment happens to me, it’s a ‘The Old Me Could’ve…’ or ‘The Old Me Would’ve…’ moment. It’s a hit-you-in-the-gut moment you can’t choke back that is the deepest, heart wrenching longing to walk again moment. And it sneaks up on me. clinching my whole heart and soul, taking my breath away, when I’m least expecting it.

    It happens sometimes watching a complete stranger, perhaps when they crossing the street, stepping easily of a curb, looking both ways, edging into a break in traffic, then picking up their pace to hop lightly onto the opposite curb. Or, it happens watching others out ‘walking the dog’ or ‘out for a run.’ Even people saying those phrases so lightly, as easily and quickly as their warm breath disappears into the thin air on a cold day. Even this can produce that fleeting but gut wrenching longing.

    And then, the audio and video of that moment come back on, bringing me back from slow motion to realtime, from the woman I was who didn’t think about using my legs to now, to every calculated movement necessary to wheel from point A to point B.

    These woman of then and now moments are overwhelming and can evoke so much grief. They also serve to help me dig out of the grief, tune back in, and regroup for what’s coming next. This constant readjustment, with the constant demand of bringing daily routines and challenges back into focus is my new normal. Changing my grief to positivity and even small daily accomplishments, amidst the daily routine of work and family life, while trying to create local awareness and accessibility, are my motivation and the goal.

    Labeling these moments, these snapshots of a previous life are allowed to be hard, but can also be useful and motivating.

    Thanks for the push!

  • Betty Shaw says:

    So tough to look back and see how things were but be assured you are doing so much more now and for so many more people. You have been unselfish sharing your experiences and making life better for others. You continue to inspire and remind us that life can change any a moment. Thank you for being you.

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