They say that when you lose a limb, it’s a long time before you stop feeling it.
This is true. Sometimes, when I wake in the morning, I have to look to believe my arm is not there. Perhaps it is just invisible to my sleep cloudy eyes, I think, surely that’s what it is.
Then I reach over with the other hand and pat the bed clothes, just to make sure. But if my arm is hiding somewhere there, I’ve never managed to find it.
And the thing they don’t tell you is that you will never stop doing this. Ever.
I thought for a time it was just me. It’s not easy, you understand, for the beauty pageant queen of 2011’s graduating class, to find herself with only one arm.
I have a stump, for Pete’s sake, the word itself is enough to get used to.
But I think I thought (in my better moments) that surviving the car accident was the biggest hurdle, and after learning to write with my left hand, I’d be good.
Have you ever tried to eat a sandwich with one hand? No? Well then. I rest my case.
My physiotherapist must have had delusions psychiatric grandeur, because she not only taught me how to hold a pencil, but she also suggested I start journaling everyday. She told me to make a list of skills I wanted to master.
Things I couldn’t do, in other words.
My first entry reads, in red pen, evitng –which is supposed to mean everything.
Have you ever tried to put your hair in a ponytail with one hand? No? Alrighty then.
When my Captain Hook claw arrived and we began to work with that, my therapist was more excited than I was and she told me to make a list of new thing I would be able to do with this new device. She called it an ‘arm’, which is a funny name for metal machinery.
I opened my notebook and wrote with care, sef defnc. This means self defence, which was a joke.
It got better though, and pretty soon I could put toothpaste on my toothbrush and put tomatoes in a bag at the grocery store. Have you ever tried that one handed? No? A claw does actually help a lot.
As time went on, I did not grow less aware of what was missing from my body, but I did start to notice what worked correctly. My legs? They were powerful. They didn’t have to think about how to take a step or how to bend. They didn’t spill food like unwieldy hands do, the traitors.
Legs are gold and so I started to use them more. I ran my first marathon this year, which felt pretty good. (Just don’t forget and try to wipe sweat off your face with the hand-that-isn’t.)
I’ve also grown fonder of my shoulders. Not only do they hold my head on, they give me the swing of my walk, the balance when I run. I can turn and look at you. I can shrug. I actually do that a lot.
So, I don’t know.
The therapist says I have to think positively about the progress I’ve made, and that is true.
But I still begin each morning searching for my arm.
So be it.
The rest of me is going downstairs for breakfast.