An attitude of gratitude

This time last year I contemplated 2014 as my first year without legs and I couldn’t see how I would make it through.

Maya Angelou quote on gratitude

Now I look back on the past twelve months and I can hardly believe everything I have achieved.

None of it would have been possible without the support and encouragement of my family, my friends (new and old), the kind and generous medical professionals at Groote Schuur Hospital, my volleyball team, my trainer Marco, the SADAG team, and my colleagues at Clickatell, Touch Digital and Estalea.

When I reviewed my 2014 New Year’s resolutions, the wonderful Lynn Moss gave me the great tip of focusing on one word for a resolution, to make it more meaningful and achievable. So over the next year I have just one resolution, centred on the word “gratitude”:

Take more time to stop and appreciate all that I have and all that I am.

Realising how fortunate we are does not solve everything, but knowing that our blessings outweigh our lack certainly makes a good start.

Maya Angelou quotes on Buzzfeed

6 New Year’s resolutions to review

I never used to make New Year’s resolutions. Not sure why. Maybe I thought I should just try to be awesome all the time, rather than in one particular area for one particular year. Or maybe I thought it would be pointless, because I would never be able to see them through.

Anyway, this year I decided that making several resolutions would help give my life the sense of purpose that it lacked. As we are just over halfway through the year, I thought I should review some of my resolutions to see if I am on track. These are my New Year’s resolutions and my progress with each:

1) Be kinder to myself.

It turns out that much of my depression is a result of many false assumptions I have about myself and the way others see me. My psychiatrist has recommended keeping a journal, which has helped me to identify certain thought patterns. The most difficult thing in each situation is choosing to believe that everything I have held true about the world and my place in it is wrong. For now, at least – until I retrain my brain to make different connections.

2) Make more time for the people who matter.

I “borrowed” this resolution from my friend Nicola’s list. At first I did quite well, but alas, I have always been bad at keeping in touch with people I don’t see often. I don’t like speaking on the telephone and it’s become so unnatural to send long emails or, heaven forbid, letters via snail mail.

Now that I am dependent on others for transport, I see all my friends less frequently, because I hate inconveniencing anyone or asking for help. Of course, none of my friends would feel inconvenienced by seeing me, but I can’t help feeling they’d much rather be doing something else (refer to resolution #1). That is, however, no excuse for not letting my friends know that I care, so I am resolving to do better at this resolution over the second half of the year.

3) Be able to lift my own weight in free weights by the end of the year.

The journal containing my  NY resolutions.

The journal containing my NY resolutions.

Please, before you dismiss this as a particularly douche-y jock* resolution, let me explain:

Until last year, I had never lifted a weight in my life. Even on the few occasions I went to gym, I stuck to cardio workouts or classes like Pilates (which I really miss, FYI). After I lost my legs, I spent four weeks at a physical rehab centre, where I had to lift weights every day. It was never more than five kilograms, because the aim was not to bulk up, but rather to improve my upper body strength to the point that I could easily lift myself from the ground into my wheelchair and wheel myself around all day without getting ridiculously out of breath.

It was very difficult for me to maintain this level of training at home after my rehab ended, so I set myself this resolution as a goal to keep me motivated. By April I had gotten about a quarter of the way, but I was really struggling. I was very fortunate to be invited to exercise with a personal trainer whose gym is a block away from my home. He is teaching me a lot about mental, emotional and physical training, so it is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

Since I began exercising with him twice a week, I have lost track of the exact weight that I can lift (so I have no idea how much progress I’ve made on this resolution). All I know is that I am in better physical condition than I have ever been before (besides the fact that I now have no legs, obvs). I can do pull-ups for the first time in my life, so I feel like I have already achieved this resolution in spirit, if not in technicality.

4) Learn to speed read.

After making my list of resolutions in January I Googled how to speed read and it turns out that it basically means skimming over the text, rather than being able to take in each word much faster. I could skim if I wanted to, but I am too paranoid that I would miss some vital piece of information, so I have crossed this resolution off my list as no longer desirable.

5) Learn shorthand.

Why?! Why would anyone make this their New Year’s resolution? I don’t know what I was thinking – most people hardly even write these days. And apparently learning shorthand is way more complicated and time-consuming than I thought. I am never going to be someone’s full-time secretary, so this is another misguided resolution that has been crossed off un-attempted.

6) Start helping others like myself.

This blog is my first step towards achieving my last resolution. I have looked into doing counselling courses and discussed studying psychology with my psychiatrist, who has put me in touch with some of her colleagues who can advise me, so I feel okay about my progress with this resolution so far.

If you made resolutions at the beginning of the year, maybe now would be a good time to take stock – not so that you can feel guilty for not achieving them yet, but because there is still loads of time to pull yourself back on track before the next year rolls in. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

*No offence meant to all the non-douche-y jocks who genuinely enjoy weight training. I envy you. Also, I think you’re hot.