Being Neighborly

On Friday while driving home from an appointment, my husband and I passed a gentlemen who was in his yard using a weed eater to trim the grass in his ditch that was close to the road. Each car that drove by, the man turned, smiled and waved. He had such a heartfelt smile as if he was friends with each person who passed. I thought it was such a nice gesture — one that doesn’t occur often in today’s fast paced world. In fact, I know people who avoid being seen for one reason or another — either in their own yards, in a store or at other functions. Could it be they don’t have time to wave or to even say hello? If they start a conversation would it prevent them from getting on with their day or cause them to run behind in their schedule? I think that each of us are guilty of not taking the time to get to know each other, which is a shame since the ones we are hurting are ourselves.

We were spoiled when living in Pennsylvania since we had the nicest neighbors. When it came to the perfect people — the Z. family were in every way. They were the type of neighbor who you wanted to socialize with and who always took the time to wave or say hello. We often traded chores and had a path between our backyards so we could visit or our daughters could use when they wanted to run back and forth between our houses. When I was on my quest to lose weight, it became difficult to walk throughout the neighborhood since I am one who likes to talk and would often stop and spend my exercise time chit-chatting. I have to admit that it was nice knowing the people who lived near you. We haven’t established that type of relationship in our Virginia neighborhood, but I hope as the neighborhood continues to grow that we will get to know more people. In fact, I think I will try harder to be more like the gentlemen who was waving to each person who drove by and acted as if we made his day simply by waving back. What a simple idea. What if we all did this on a daily basis– what a happy world we would live in?

Speaking of being happy, I believe that God is still helping me work on my ability to be patient. I have been undergoing some medical tests and I have found myself still needing to work on my patience. While I feel I have come a long way, I know that God must feel otherwise. More tests are needed, more appointments and more waiting for answers. However, I am going to sit back and relax and let God bring the news to me. I know that in the past I have chased the answers to many questions or concerns before the answers were ready to be told. Not this time. When the news is ready…it will come to me. Until then life will go on and so will I.  I thank you all for your concern and positive words of encouragement. I am a survivor and will get through this ordeal. I believe in the expression, “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”  I have been through my share of medical problems, thanks to Dr. Liar, and I am still clawing my way back to some sense of normalcy.

On Saturday my husband and I went to a furniture store in search of the world’s most comfortable chair. I thought that my old standby chair was working for my neck and back; however, it was causing more problems.  I never realized that searching for the perfect chair was so complicated. I dread furniture shopping as much as I do car shopping; however, we ended up talking with the store’s merchandiser. This is another example of a situation I was dreading that turned into an experience that lifted my spirits. The store had hundreds of chairs and I needed one with a high back, but didn’t have extra padding in the neck area. At the same time, I needed additional lower back support. We ended up being in the store for several hours, but had such a wonderful time. I learned about the merchandiser’s difficult life and her grandmother and how she was able to take advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) during her grandmother’s illness.  It was during this discussion when I realized that no matter what is going on in our lives that each of us may have some type of circumstance in our life that causes us to step out of our planned life.  It’s as if we are going about our daily ‘normal’ lives and then…either we or a family member are diagnosed with a medical problem, a loved one loses a job or another type of catastrophic event touches and changes our life…sometimes forever. It’s the unplanned portion of our life that we can never be prepared for…or can we?  Should we and if so, where do we begin?

As we talked with this lovely woman further, I learned how taking advantage of FMLA put her family in financial distress and all it took to work through the ordeal. But through it all, she maintained her faith and sense of humor. It was what she needed to do for her grandmother as well as for herself. And, in the end, everything worked out and she is working again making others laugh and sharing her cheerfulness with those she comes in contact with. She is a perfect example of someone taking a negative experience and turning it into a positive one. She knew she was doing the right thing even though there would be consequences.  I believe that is what is unplanned in our life — the consequences of our actions as well as how it will affect our lives and those around us.

How does one prepare for the unplanned or unexpected areas of our life? Is it best to have a stock pile of money to fall back on as all financial experts suggest?  When available, do you sign up for disability insurance? Do you over insure yourself and if so who knows how much your family will need if your income is lost? This was a valuable lesson for me. As someone who is a bit excessive and compulsive in planning and preparation, I had signed up for disability since it was a benefit my company offered. However, I feel that I had made the right decision and it was truly a blessing that I had this in place.  With a brother who is a financial planner, I feel that we are in a good position as we head into retirement. While we lost a sizable portion of our income when I utilized my disability, we were faced with a major lifestyle change but we knew we would be secure. I recommend that everyone have a financial planner who can provide guidance and suggestions for investments, insurance, as well as being prepared for the unexpected.

As the six-year anniversary of my surgery and the spinal cord injury came and went last week, I spent less time thinking about Dr. Liar, the surgery and injury and more time about why I allow this man to have power over me. In fact, my physical therapist is the one who made me aware that I was allowing Dr. Liar to control my life. I decided while sitting on the PT table that Dr. Liar didn’t take away all of my life — just parts of it. So now I am working hard to not let him have more of me than he already took.  I am tired of the situation controlling my current life and am ready to move forward. While I am still angry at what he did and the lies that followed — I need to leave it in the past and move on with the life I have been given. The consequences of my decision are mine; the injury, the lies and the sins are his. If not forgiven, he will pay the ultimate consequence.

In February, when I began writing this blog, I mentioned that I had wanted to write a book to help others deal with their unplanned lives and to share my story. While writing a blog is immediate, it has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people who have shared their stories and now realize that I am not alone and neither are they. Not that misery loves company — it’s the sharing of stories, both good and bad, that makes you come to the conclusion that you are not alone in your quest to feel normal. I feel that the people who come into our lives do so for a reason — to teach, be a guardian angel or a friend or to just share a laugh or two. Like the wonderful furniture store merchandiser –what was or is her role in my life?  She and many others want me to write a book…should I or have I already shared my story? What is the role of the many other people who cross our paths each day?  What about the gentlemen trimming the grass in his ditch? Days later I can still see that great smile and it makes me happy.

I once heard a tree analogy to explain the people in our lives and the role they play. The explanation went something like this: the people who come into our lives are like a tree.  Some are leaves on a tree. These people you encounter for a short time. They tend to blow away when the wind changes direction. These are the people you see every day. This relationship fades once there is a change in the common interest (work, school, neighborhood).

Other people are branches on a tree…these are friends who have a significant influence in your life. Maybe even for years. People you may have once spent a lot of quality time with. Disagreements and/or the course of life lead to losing touch and slowly the relationship fades. Branches can break and aren’t always reliable.

A few people are the roots of the tree… these are the people you call for any reason, at any time. You know they are always there for you through thick and thin. The people you feel most comfortable laughing, crying and sharing your most intimate thoughts without fear of being judged. They are there to support you when you need it the most. Like a huge oak tree — the tree can be enormous, the roots few and small. I don’t know about you, but I would rather have a strong root system than an entire tree full of nothing but leaves and branches. In a world filled with so many unplanned events…I want to make sure my tree (or me) can survive whatever comes my way.

©My Unplanned Life and 2011.


About mswd

I am an individual living with a spinal cord injury. How the injury occurred, how I found out how severe my injury was and how my planned life suddenly became 'unplanned' is included in this blog. Also included is how the injury has tested my family and me. I believe you will discover it has been both a mentally and physically challenging ordeal and I learned a few lessons along the way. While I am still defining my life’s purpose since the injury, I have uncovered those who are injured, live with pain or have other obstacles to navigate are never able to escape. However, come with me as I explore ways to improve my life, learn to live with multiple neurological conditions, educate others and look for the silver lining. I believe with a little willpower, my caring family and God's guidance I will learn to forgive, hopefully forget how I was treated and dismissed by a doctor and uncover life's new purpose. I pray for painfree days and answers to questions that keep swirling through my mind. I also pray for a cure for neurological conditions and for the doctors to treat their patients with respect. Welcome to my journey. I would love to hear about yours!
This entry was posted in Court, Disability, Don't Give Up, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, Dr. Liar, Faith, God, Happiness, Joy, Long Term Disability, Pain, Pain Management, physical therapy, Self Discovery, Spinal Cord Injury, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Being Neighborly

  1. Lori says:

    what a beautiful post marsha! thank you for, once again so eloquently putting into words what i have been thinking and praying on for a very long time — especially the first part about knowing when and how to truly be patient — quite a challenge at times! thank you for helping me keep a spark of faith during difficult times and for the reminder to pay attention to all the good deeds of others, no matter how big, small or ‘unexpected’ they may seem at the time. big hugs to you and your family

    • mswd says:

      Lori — I typed a reply to your message a few days ago and just noticed that it didn’t appear. Please forgive me! I really do appreciate your lovely, thoughtful message! Out of all the negative that has occurred in my life — the positive is that I have met and become friends with people like you! Thank you for being such a good friend and for sharing so much with me. I continue to work daily on my patience and struggle with my decisions on a daily basis. The ‘what-if’s’ will get you each and every time! Hang in there sweetie and thank you for your support — in reading the blog and for all your positive reminders that everything happens for a reason. You are one of those reasons and I am thankful for you. God bless!

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