I have only owned one bumper sticker in my life. It was when I was in college and it read… Why Be Normal? At the time, it seemed like an inviting reminder to be unique. Looking back, I wonder if it was actually a prophetic declaration of just how “not normal” my life would be. Yet, my abnormal life has taught me a very important lesson. It has taught me to… be unstoppable!
What makes my life different than most is that in 2005 I suddenly developed a mysterious condition. Doctors have no explanation for it, but it makes sitting in a chair like a normal person a painful endeavor. I can do it, but it is excruciating.
It isn’t just one level of pain, either. The longer I sit, the more it hurts, so I avoid sitting as much as possible. When I do have to sit, I use a special cushion or I tuck my feet up underneath me to lessen the discomfort. Either way, I pay a hefty price.
To be unstoppable is to be creative and adaptable
In order to adapt to the unwelcome reality of my chronic pain and still continue in my career, I have had to make some unusual adjustments. Instead of working at a desk, I have to work lying on my side on the sofa. Instead of typing with both hands, I have to type one-handed while my other hand supports my head.
I am still in constant pain, even in this position, but not to the degree that I would be sitting in a chair. I am in pain, but I don’t let it rule me. Even when my shoulder hurts from lying on it all day, and my hand goes numb, I don’t let it stop me from living a productive and rewarding life.
To be sure, it can be a surprise to new co-workers when they walk into my office and discover me in such an unconventional work posture. I admit it is a strange sight. Yet, I no longer feel self-conscious. Since I don’t make a big deal about it, neither does anyone else.
Of course, I also have a vertical work station to give me a break from lying on my side. However, I don’t use it very often because standing in one place presents circulation problems. To remedy this at home, my dad helped me rig up my treadmill to hold a laptop. I love it, but I’m certain my words per minute far exceed my miles per hour.
To be unstoppable is to balance acceptance with perseverance
I have not always had this strange sitting disability, and I hope that I won’t always have it. For now, though, I have learned to accept this about myself. I am also continuing to look for answers, trying different therapies that might lead to being healed.
I hold onto the hope that someday I might be able to dine out without having the pleasure mixed with so much pain. I hope the same thing when it comes to plays, concerts and anything else that involves sitting. I hope that someday those activities won’t hold the high price tag that they do now – a price in pain that I rarely want to pay.
Even something as simple as riding in a car presents a challenge. If the destination is more than thirty minutes away, I need a chauffeur to do the driving so I can lie on my side in the back seat, only popping up occasionally to take in the scenery. I don’t have to tell you that this is not at all how I had envisioned my life.
To be unstoppable is to view challenges as opportunities
I never realized how much of life is lived sitting down, until that part of my life was taken away. To be honest, sometimes I feel like a freak. Yet, I can also see how my pain has made my life richer.
It was my pain, and the isolation of not being able to participate in anything that required sitting, that compelled me to take up ballroom dancing. Refusing to let my pain limit me and define me was also my motivation for joining Toastmasters International, where I am continuing to develop my public speaking and leadership skills. After all, speakers always speak standing up!
My pain truly forced me to invest in myself in ways that I never would have otherwise, and for that I have learned to be grateful. Still, I wish I was able to sit comfortably like a normal person. I wish that walking and riding my bike weren’t the only postures that gave me a temporary reprieve from my pain. I wish this wasn’t my path at all.
Yet, until I learn what my pain is here to teach me, I will continue to look for the opportunities in my challenges. I will continue to trust that there is a purpose for them and a hope. I might need to get a new bumper sticker to inspire me, though. But this time, it’s gotta pack more of a wallop if it is going to keep me from giving in and giving up. This time, it absolutely must read… Be Unstoppable!
For more on the challenges that taught me to be unstoppable, check out The Backstory of Why I Started this Blog.