I could choose to reflect on how this all started on the best day of my life, which quickly became a nightmare. I could choose to revisit the despair of being completely shut off from my own body. I could choose to talk about how lost my family and I were figuring out how to handle each surprise that was thrown at us. About how no one can prepare you for the emotional rollercoaster of becoming paralyzed, and then through an incredible amount of hard work and lots of creativity, finding the fulfillment that comes from overcoming that limitation.
I could even choose to write about my progress. I might have said that on one hand, my body doesn’t look like it’s changed. I still use a wheelchair, my legs have settled at a moderate degree of atrophy, and my version of backpacking now is being the backpack myself. I could choose to complain about how that still pains me.
If I had chosen to write about that, I’d also reflect on how strong I have become in so many subtle ways. My posture, my agility, my ability to banish stiffness of sleep with just five restorative minutes of rolling around on the floor. And how rolling around has helped me gain confidence in heading to school next year, even as I continue to slowly improve my standing.
I could choose to write about the past, but when I woke up in my tent last Thursday, four years after my injury, the one thought ricocheting between my ears was:
I was only looking forward. I have been gifted with my experience, just as we have all been gifted with what has been thrown in our paths, no matter how beautiful or terrible it has seemed. And with this gift of experience we each have a responsibility.
Mine is to share what I’ve discovered so others may achieve more in recovery and reconnection than they might have, to pay forward the blessings I’ve received. The best way I see to do this now is to add my voice and my example to the field of recovery protocol. After all, that’s where my mind has been these last 4 years.
Today I have launched a Kickstarter campaign with my longtime collaborator, Stephanie, to fund the development and publication of the second edition of our movement manual, Pilates for SCI. This comes with our announcement of Zebrafish Neuro, the project we've been working on to connect mindful movement and paralysis recovery.
In addition, I’ve also been working since the end of last year on an at-home recovery program for SCI individuals themselves. Taking ownership of rehab outside the gym is something I feel really strongly about, and I’ve been beta-testing some video styles for sharing strategies on self-directed reconnection.
Zooming out: Richard Feynman redesigned how physics was taught when he presented the infamous Feynman Lectures in the early 60s at Caltech. They were a singular accomplishment within his long career of impact on his field. He used his gifts to create, and he did so greatly.
I am not rewriting a college course, but I am beginning a transition from full-time recovery into the next part of my life. And before I head back to the same Institute where Feynman began (...not Caltech...), I plan to make an impact using the gifts I have.
What will I create? is the question. My next year and beyond are the answer.
This manual will serve as the foundation for our vision in redesigning SCI rehab: equipping trainers with strategies to work with SCI clients, and including instructional material for the clients themselves.
We get requests all the time to give, and you may have noticed that I never ask for money. Right now, though, I’m calling for your support in bringing this project into the world.