I have been neither up nor down lately but I seem to be caught uncomfortably between the two. I unfortunately seem to be spending most of my time trying to stay warm. I remember when summer first began, I suddenly had a huge boost in energy. The pessimistic side of me is foreseeing with the arrival of cold-weather a sudden decrease in my energy. It is obvious that my inability to stay warm is a factor of my life I am going to have to deal with. It simply cannot be an option to let this unfortunate side effect of my injury bring me down. I have come up with two approaches in dealing with this issue. The first approach is very similar to how I dealt with my pain issues when they were at their worst, an approach of observation. This approach is a mindset I create in which I observe the chill I feel in my bones simply as a sensation occurring not to be identified with or labeled. I close my eyes and focus in on the sensations I’m feeling at the present moment and absorb every chill, every shiver into my conscience. I then consciously erase the label of cold I attach to these sensations and they become not sensations that leave me feeling cold but sensations that are simply there, with no label attached.
I would say the majority of the time I feel cold has no plausible reason behind it. I may be sitting in my toasty room, with my sweatshirt on, hood pulled over my head and still be cold. In this situation, there is no real reason for me to be cold but because of the haywire signals traveling to my brain, my legs are telling me different. I rub them, shake them, punch them, but nothing changes. There is constantly some sort of tingling, vibrating, or throbbing sensation present in my lower extremities. Many times these sensations tell me I’m cold, but I’ve decided to take on the responsibility of not listening to these signals of coldness anymore.
My second approach is the approach of prayer which seems to be a quite obvious fix to the solution but can be easily overlooked. It seems God is always answering our prayers in ways we do not expect or in ways that may teach us more valuable lessons. Well, I’ve become quite sick of this roundabout way God answers my prayers. Since being cold all the time seems to be seriously affecting my overall well-being I’ve decided to ask God for warmth over and over again until I somehow drill the idea into His thick skull. My latest mantra while meditating has been, “God bring me warmth, God bring me warmth, God bring me warmth, and so on”. I mix love and compassion in there every once in awhile.
My Three Lives
Each time I awake in the morning I try and make it a point to accept the day ahead of me and come to grips with another day of paralysis. As I try and think about the coming day however, I always seem to be pulled back into my past. I ponder the years behind me as if they were some sort of a glimpse from a past life. I recollect the memories with a hint of fondness but overall the collection of still frames and movie reels make me feel quite sad. I go back to my middle school years, probably three of the toughest years of my life. I had no idea who I was but I knew I wanted to be just like everybody else, whatever that meant. It’s a horrible thing to try and be like everybody else because in the end it is an infinite battle as the idea of being identical to a majority of people is quite impossible. But I tried my hardest, picking out the people I looked up to, conforming and imitating to the best of my abilities.
I had horrible self-esteem and thought I was the ugliest kid to walk the earth. My friends called me Chiquita, because they said I looked like a monkey with my big ears. I never had the courage, wit, or strength to stand up to my interrogators. The one time I did, I ended up in a headlock until I could hardly breathe. I hated God for making me look the way I did and I didn’t know why he wanted to punish me so.
I let out my frustration by playing sports, basketball in particular. Every day you would find me outside in the driveway, dreaming of the NBA, dribbling and shooting until the sun went down. I was a good ballplayer, but I had no confidence. I have vivid memories of trying out for the school team in seventh and eighth grade. Each time I made the first cut but on the final tryout days my lack of confidence would get to me and I would buckle under the pressure. My heart pounded in eighth grade as I sat in history class listening to the names being announced over the intercom. The horrible pronunciation of my last name once again did not resonate from the loudspeaker and my stomach immediately dropped to my knees. A monsoon of tears arose behind my eyes as I choked and swallowed, holding back my display of weakness. Moments later I found myself sitting in the front office with an administrator on the phone with my mother. “Yes, I think you should come pick him up. He doesn’t look so good. His eyes are all red and puffy.”
After shutting the door of my mom’s car the monsoon erupted as I sobbed and coughed out my grief. If I could only cry like that now, like I did when I was a child. What a catharsis it would be. I’m not even sure if I cried like that the day of my accident.
Once I got to high school I still found myself always trying to be like the cool kids, never just being myself. I tried out for the junior varsity basketball team but was too busy shaking in my britches to even make the first cut. I stopped trying out for teams after that year and became a lost teenager. I still hung out with kids that brought me down but I was too afraid to let go of them and be friendless. Eventually, I made one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and let go of friends who were holding me back. This led me to meeting my best friend, Tyler. I finally had a friend who gave me strength instead of bring me down. Who laughed with me and not at me.
My last two years of high school I became what I would call semi popular, but I didn’t really care. I was finally just being me and not trying to conform to some ideal of what was cool. I had tons of friends and dove into the party scene with great enthusiasm. The one thing my friends did make fun of me for was for smiling too much. I would just smile for no reason at all, but underneath that smile I was still self-conscious and scared.
Entering college was a breath of fresh air. This is when my second life began and I left my first behind for the most part. No one was cooler than anyone else and if someone thought they were, then they were the outcasts. My freshman year was awesome. I was finally away from home and had the independence I had been craving for for so long. On the surface I was always happy and fun to be around, but on the inside I was still a wreck struggling to understand who I was. Despite the great fortune I had, I still felt like a victim in life. The slightest thing that would go wrong would be blown out of proportion as if the world was coming to an end. I also felt like I had no real friends even though a great number of people knew my face and knew my name.
The next year I found myself in a one-bedroom apartment living by myself. It was a horrible decision to make but who knows where another decision would have led me, maybe not paralysis but maybe something worse. That first semester I felt very alone even though I had been accepted by a group of friends. Second semester my friend John moved in with me which was a great improvement. Viewing the comparison between living alone and with a roommate made me never want to live alone again.
My whole sophomore year was a complete waste looking back on it. I didn’t care where I was going in life and I’m pretty sure the entire year I had given up completely on God. I never once prayed to Him or looked to Him for guidance. I was a lost soul and I remember going in and out of depression. I would be depressed for a week, snap out of it for another and then fall back into depression again. The following year I moved into a house on a huge hill right behind campus. Things began to slowly look up from there. I discovered my major, Biology, which finally gave me a direction in life. At some point I discovered I was a good-looking guy which was quite a shock to me. “Me good-looking? No way!”, but it was true, girls thought I was hot.
I think my junior year was a turning point in growing up. I was becoming more responsible, more confident in who I was, and becoming closer to my family. I still felt really down on myself at times but these periods began to grow shorter. By the time summer of 2004 came around I was praying to God again and happy with where life was taking me. I went to Belize with a group of biology students that May, which was one of the best experiences of my life. My interest in writing peaked after the trip and I began to spend more time by myself. I no longer needed the company of others to make me feel worthy which I saw as a big sign of maturity. I then went to Lake Tahoe for a family reunion and learn to appreciate my family more so that I had in my whole life. A couple weeks later I was back in Boone, North Carolina taking summer classes. I was happier than I had been in a long while and was looking forward to my future journey of discovery. Girlfriends, a trip to India, graduating, life. Then life stopped as I entered the murky water and my body went lifeless.
I didn’t really mean to go into this short and rather depressing autobiography. I don’t think my life has been depressing really, more so a difficult life mentally. I’ve had to defeat a lot of inner fears, battles, and turmoil. When I lay in bed each morning and look back on my life, I feel sad not because it was a difficult life but because I wish I had done things differently. I wish I realized what I had and how lucky I was to be granted such opportunities. I wish I could have fully realized my great fortune without tragedy. Most of all I wish I could have realized when not to push the limits physically, but of course there can be no regrets and I can only look forward from here.
I find myself able to merge my new life of paralysis with my second life of college but I find it very difficult to do so with my precollege life. It’s as if one can not exist with the other. Either that life seems like a dream or my present life does. I was wondering if I might feel better if I could go up to every person I knew in my past, look them in the eyes and say “This is who I am now” and move on to the next person. Somehow blend all of these random memories together into one so that I can feel whole again.
At the present moment in time I am more at one with my spirit than ever before and I can confidently say that I have a large understanding of life. I can close my eyes and find peace with God but one thing I do not do as often these days is smile. I may not have as many reasons these days to smile but one day because of the spiritual search I have gone through and will continue to go through, I may find myself someday, with a smile made of stone. Once again, I will smile for no reason, this time inside and out.