Not a TV Husband

But Maybe She Wheel Not A TV Husband

When I got married at 19, I thought I knew how to “wife”. While my then fiancé and now husband and I had a good understanding about doing away with the traditional gender roles a husband and wife play, I didn’t know there was a poisonous thread of preconception I was trying to weave into our marriage. A preconception of what it means to be a bully in a marriage.

 

Growing up, I knew I was fortunate to have parents who loved each other. I saw them sacrifice for each other, spoil one another and love together. But I never saw my parents fight, for they preferred instead to fight quietly and behind closed doors. This wasn’t wrong of them and I don’t resent them for it; however, when I began seriously dating my now husband, I was very behind in knowing the loving way to argue in a marriage.

 

After my mother died, my models for marriage came from my friends’ parents and from movies and TV. Other friends’ parents didn’t make it a habit to argue in front of us either, so I unconsciously began learning patterns of arguing from romantic comedies and TV series. When I laughed along at the antics of Jill and Tim the Toolman Taylor, I unconsciously stored away the pattern of Jill’s to roll her eyes at Tim and for Tim to always admit that Jill was right in the end.

 

But Maybe She Wheel Not A TV Husband Sweet Plum Photography
Photo Credit: Diana Ratcliff, Sweet Plum Photography

Across television, these wives berate their husbands in the form of jokes, insults and passive aggressive teasing. There’s always something that the husband has done or said wrong and it is only the husband that is responsible for the wife’s happiness, with no regard for the husbands. The idea is that the husband should be happy that he has his wife, no matter what, and there’s nothing that she can do wrong.

 

Regardless of the two genders or two nongenders in a relationship, the idea that one person has dominance or authority over another should always be wrong. Women’s suffrage of the early 20th century in this country taught women that they have a voice and a right to be heard. But now it seems like the traditional idea is that there’s still one person in the relationship whose voice is quieted for the other to be heard.

But Maybe She Wheel Not A TV Husband Bruges Belgium
Waterways of Bruges outside of Brussels, Belgium

 

And I am guilty of repeating this mistake in my own marriage. Dusty and I have been married for seven years, five of them with me in a wheelchair and six years in the military.

 

While stationed in Missouri following our return from Germany, Dusty and I both went through a transformative period. For the first time since the accident, I was purposefully doing physical therapy just to stay healthy and not to continue to try to walk.

At this point we’d been married 6 years, together 8 years, and been together through family crises, my accident that left me a paraplegic, moving for school, moving for the Army, long trainings, long distance loving, and countless events that began to shape our identities. He learned how to dress me, stretch my hip flexors, stand by in case when I became independent, and how to be a soldier with a disabled partner. I learned how to be second to the Army in his time, yet feel secure that I was first when given choices. We grew up in our adulthood together.

 

Like young friends do, we also teased each other. Made fun of each other’s failings, jokingly at first but always with an element of our true feelings. Then it began to happen in public, at dinners with friends or with our families or even when meeting other couples for the first time. “Don’t ask Dusty, he can’t make choices,” I’d answer for him when friends would ask where to meet for dinner. Joking? Sure. Truthful of my own frustrations with some of his mannerisms? Yes.

 

And for the first six, Dusty simply absorbed this undertone of belittling and patronizing that I had brought into our marriage. And he took it because he too only knew that it was the husband that was wrong and was constantly needing to get his act together. It breaks my heart to know the man of my life and the hero of my story felt this way for so long. It didn’t matter how tirelessly he worked to make my life accessible, to tune all the kinks from my wheelchair whenever it needed it, to watch for mental and emotional roadblocks in our military life and prepare us for them; if I was unhappy, it was Dusty’s job to fix it. How miserable of a marriage.

But Maybe She Wheel Not A TV Husband back story

But Dusty went through a minor quarter-life crisis in realizing that he simply was not happy. He couldn’t put his finger on the reason, he loved his position in the military at that time, he was hiking and camping all throughout the beautiful Ozarks on weekends, he was enjoying CrossFit… but still he wasn’t happy. We prayed together, I prayed for him and he prayed. And God replied to me, through an article I found on Pinterest. (God totally talks through Pinterest, I’m sure it was His will that wanted me to turn into a wooden pallet sign label maker for our house). Reading through the article, it forced me to ask myself this question.

 

Would I want to be married to me?

 

If I was married to myself and played the role of Dusty, would I appreciate the things I said to myself? Would I want to have the responsibility that I’d just shove over to myself without another thought?

Of course not. I’d make myself miserable after a day. No wonder Dusty was unhappy. It wasn’t that who I am as a person made him unhappy or that he didn’t enjoy being with me or we didn’t love each other or anything in that thread of thought. It was the patronizing and belittling comments that had eaten away at his self-esteem, confidence and happiness with who he is. And I crumbled when I realized it had been my mouth from which those comments had come, no matter what my intention had been.

But Maybe She Wheel Not a TV Husband Copenhagen
Copenhagen, Denmark

And so together we learned how to communicate both the negatives and positives of each other. We’re still learning how to build each other up instead of cutting away the edges we don’t like. And we’re going to be just alright. We have a foundation of communication that has carried us through my accident and more and now we rely on that to teach us how to fight fairly.

 

I urge new couples in a serious relationship to practice fair fighting when tempers run high and expectations are skewed. A couple that doesn’t fight could be pushing down the life force of communication that love between two people need. When I’m angry now, I talk honestly instead of passive aggressively belittling his choices and person. He feels affirmed that I think he’s the incredible, strong amazing man that he is when we’ve finished an argument and I feel the same from him. We now know what is a healthy conversation and what isn’t and that’s an education for which I couldn’t be more grateful. Because I’m not married to a husband on TV. I’m married to true person with a spirit like myself.

But Maybe She Wheel Not A TV Husband Canary Islands
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Losing More than My Mother

Losing More Than A Mother But Maybe She Wheel Julia Rodes

 

 

A week ago marked the 10 year anniversary of losing my mother.

 

These past ten years of grief have shaped how I see relationships. I’ve fallen in love, made the lasting friendships that’ll stay with me, became a wife, a sister and an aunt. But in the first six years after she was gone, I also endured the worst experiences I know I’ll ever live to have. There wouldn’t be any waking up from experiences harder than assault, a traffic accident, a spinal cord injury, waking up to a paralyzed body. What I missed most in those moments was the ability to call my mom, have her take me into her arms and make it all better.

 

I’ve learned I grief much more than just not having my mom in my life; I also grief not having A mom in my life. Because when you lose a mother, you lose so much more than having that person. You also lose the security that a mother gives her child, the comfort that there is someone wiser and always available to help. When a daughter loses a mother, she loses the relationship between mothers and daughters AND she loses the security a mother provides her daughter. My mother surrounded, protected and loved, sometimes judgmentally or intrusively, but with well-meaning and adoring  intentions. I miss the person my mother was, but sometimes more than anything I miss knowing my mom would be there any time I needed her. And how I’ve needed her.

But Maybe She Wheel

I needed our mother-daughter relationship when I fell in love with a soldier and made the choice to be an Army wife. I needed the security my mother would’ve brought when I couldn’t pull pants over my paralyzed legs. I needed her smile when I embarked on mentoring other disabled people on traveling, a passion I inherited from her. I needed her wisdom in medicine to help me manage the chronic nerve pain. I needed her pride when I walked across the stage at my college graduation. I needed her for every milestone in my life and for the lives of my siblings and now her grandchildren. What losing her meant that she’ll never be there to see the adult she helped shape me to become. And I’ll never get to turn around and thank her.

 

In the Hindu religion, time is thought of differently. Hindu’s believe time is not linear like most of the Western world believes, where days and months march forward minute after minute. In Hinduism, time is cyclical and revolves through the four phases, or yugas, of Sat (or Krta), Treta, Dvapara and Kali that repeat themselves endlessly. Think the only period of awkward insecurity is when you’re a teenager? What if we revolved around a period of awkwardness in the circular time when we’re 15 and then revolved through time to again move through that phase at 24, 43, and 68 years old? What if I moved back through the childishly sweet phase of falling head over heels in love with Dusty when I’m 31 and 59 like I did when I was 17?

But Maybe She Wheel

If time is circular, then I will continue to move through phases where I have a mom and where I don’t. Her death is a permanent fact of my life, but that never meant my life would be absent of her presence. As I revolve around and around the circular timeline of my life, I’ll move through periods where her presence is so acute it’s as if she’s alive and then phases where her absence is like a widening void. It’s comforting to think that when I feel her presence, it may be because I’m revolving through a past time as a teenager or child when she was alive.

 

In the linear timeline of my life, my mother is gone and abruptly removed. But in the circular way of thinking, I both have a mother in one phase of a revolution and then do not in another phase. For fans of the Big Bang Theory, this is what I’d call my Schrödinger mother. In circular time, her presence will still be there at each milestone. Her absence will be felt but her presence will still be alive. I can have the relationship, but still have lost the realistic security. I can still look up and thank her.

But Maybe She Wheel

I am an overly fortunate person in that I’ve had multiple women step in and provide that missing security of a mother. Army wives all over the world have taken my husband and myself in to provide comfort and help during our crises, actions that I will not soon forget. Her fellow nurses were there when I fell in love and married my soldier, hosting bridal showers and hastily tying the back of my wedding gown so I could dance. The wives of Army chaplains were there when I awoke paralyzed, patiently explaining that everything would be okay while they fed and comforted Dusty. They were also there to smile with pride when I graduated college two years later. I have incredible, strong, and passionate women who have surrounded me and won’t be quick to let go.

But Maybe She Wheel

 

The cycles of grief have moved through me over the past 10 years and have subsided to echoing ripples in my day to day. She’ll always be painfully missed in my accomplishments, adventures and pitfalls and that’s when the waves will splash over my head. But I know now that she can be both present and absent, gone and alive, in the circular spinning of my life. I’ll be glad the next time I move through the phase where I can feel her presence again.

But Maybe She Wheel

 

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La Palma, Canary Islands

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Dusty tore down the mountain chasing the tires of the mountain bikers in front of him. It was the second day of their group ride and he felt like an amateur against the hardened skills of his fellow bikers. This island, La Palma, is not only the most mountainous island of the Spanish Canary Islands, but also one of the most mountainous islands in the world. It’s a mountain biker heaven, with shops and hostels spotted throughout the island to provide refuge for the thousands that trek here year round. Yet, despite its popularity in the extreme sports world, the island remains mostly uninhabited and undisturbed with several villages and only one main city. At one time this remote Canary Island was patronized by a famous pirate known in the west as “Peg Leg” or more accurately, Jean-Paul de Billiancourt who raided the frequently plundered shipbuilding island of La Palma in 1553.

 

The “mountains” that Dusty twisted and turned his way down are actually the steep sides of still active volcanoes. The entire island is a product of two main volcanoes, with contributions from others throughout its’ history. As a result, the beaches are the black, glittering sand of aged lava and the ground crumbles with broken pieces of the last eruption.

 

He stood with his feet on either side of his bike, having made the ascent to the top of the mountain they’d be biking down soon, and took in the scene as he caught his breath. The green, rocky mountain below him seemed to melt down in the ocean, bubbling at the edges with white sea form. Clouds hazed at the furthest point of the sea, making it nearly indistinguishable to tell which was the water and which was its’ mirror.

 

“Ok, this first section is steep. You’ll need to keep your distance and do a front pivot turn to get through the bends.” The group leader addressed the group of 10, all young guys except one Italian female lawyer. Everyone’s experience ranged, but Dusty felt that he had the most to learn from the group than the others with only a few months experience under his belt. The group leader was German but had moved to La Palm and bought a bike shop/ B&B. He offered to take groups on the trails all over the island, providing transportation when needed and guidance before each section of a trail. “Keep an eye out for each other. If someone goes down, it’s up to the next person behind them to yell it through the line until it gets to me at the end. Ok? Super. Vamos!”

 

Dusty pulled down his helmet over his face and kicked forward on his bike, getting to the edge of the cliff with the others and waiting as the person in front of him disappeared down the trail. He leaned forward to tilt his bike and breathed steadily as the trees and greenery whizzed past in the peripherals of his eyes. He focused on the trail, reading the curves, bumps and roots of endless trees. Finding the motion of the mountain was his goal for this ride, learning the fluidity of the curves and mounds like one learns a dance by feeling the revolutions of their partner’s body. His tires pressed into the flesh of the mountain and he caught his breath as he performed the recommended pivot turn through the bend in the trail. He rode fluidly, rising and falling with each mound, and reared back on his handlebars as the bike fell through the air in a jump. Roots and rocks dotted the ground in between the trees like freckles on a body and he worked his bike back and forth to miss them. The tension in his shoulders became the energy of his hands controlling his speed with the front back and then the back brake. This job, this unit, this German assignment asked more from him than he had been prepared to give. His daily negotiations with corporate alliances here in Europe and back in the United States left him wishing for a community not dependent on money or status. His email had become the chain that kept him to his desk and served as his morning Grim Reaper. But this ride, this island, undressed the uniform of stress and responsibility from his body and warmed his bare, liberated skin.

 

La Palma, Canary Islands
La Palma, Canary Islands
Into the crater, La Palma
Into the crater, La Palma

All too soon, dust rose in the open track of the brief respite in the trail where they’d agreed to stop and Dusty rolled his hand over the bars to clutch his bike. He stepped to the side with the others and awaited the arrival of the last few members of the group. He took out his phone and smiling with freedom, began capturing the views around them.

 

La Palma, Canary Islands
La Palma, Canary Islands

 

While Dusty rode his hours on the island, I sipped café con leche leche (a drink that we had learned was a local favorite) by the pool of our lodging and watched the waves of the dark aqua ocean. The patatas and salsa verde I’d ordered were too delicious to even wait too cool and my burnt tongue groaned with the warmth of my coffee. I was in a paradise of black, blue, green and white swirling colors but I couldn’t shake the cloud that seem to hang only over me like a cartoon. Lately I had been hit with so many hints from life that confirmed my insecurities about being a real, capable adult. During the past weeks, I felt like I could hear life cackling at me whenever I forgot to make that phone call at work for my boss or ended a conversation with “but you know, you can, like, do whatever”. I felt incompetent and powerless to be able to change. But mostly, I was so insecure with myself that I didn’t even want to be around me.

 

But maybe, I thought, as I looked at the game of beach volleyball playing down on the black beach, I could find something I liked about myself here. I inhaled that resolution and smiled at the startling sweet smell of the air, a side effect of the copious banana farms throughout the island.

 

Banana farms, La Palma
Banana farms, La Palma

On the days we explored together, we trekked down to the hiking trail Ruta de los Volcanes along the Cumbre Viega mountain ridge on the southernmost part of the island. While the majority of the island is covered in tropical greenery, we spotted in the southern tip of the island small spines interspersed between large red rocks and yellow crumbling earth. We moved slowly, party for the crumbly, rough terrain of the path and also because we simply could not stop admiring what we saw. First there was the sparse shrub covered Volcan Martin (which can be seen the road and erupted in 1646) and down further was Montana de los Charcos (its 1712 eruption is responsible for flattening much of the southern part of the island). Dusty climbed the ridges of the steeper parts of the path ahead of me and stood on the edge to take pictures of Crater del Duraznero (caused by the San Antonio volcano in 1949) and Crater del Hoyo Negro (formed from the 1949 San Juan volcano which is responsible for flattening the southern part of the island). We descended from the volcanos to the Punta Fuencaliente, the southernmost point of the island complete with an old lighthouse to watch the sea.

 

Fuencaliente, La Palma
Fuencaliente, La Palma

The volcanoes themselves reach a height that, on a clear day, you can see the top of the mountain on Tenerife, the next island over. These heights, paired with the remoteness of the island, give a chance to see more stars at night than ever known before. NASA and the Spanish government joined forces to study the clear, unspoiled vantage point to the heavens and now the Gran Telescopio Canaries and Los Muchachos Observatory on one volcano of the Parque Nacional de la Caldera de Taburiente. This national park is a massive crater formed by successive volcanic eruptions and now is one of the highest spots on La Palma.

 

La Palma, Canary Islands
La Palma, Canary Islands

That morning, we drove northeast from our little town of Los Llanos and couldn’t resist stopping at a little café that seemed to dangle precariously from the cliff edge. But upon entering the small outdoor tables, we could see why the location had been chosen. From the deck of El Mirador de Time, we could see in almost every direction up and down the coast of the island. The expansive banana farms rolled up and down the rises of the island and their sweet smell made the air thick and syrupy. We stayed to order omelets with salsa verde and cafés before continuing on our day.

 

Mirador El Time, La Palma
Mirador El Time, La Palma
Mirador El Time, La Palma
Mirador El Time, La Palma

Our destination was the top of one volcano, where the top had formed a crater called  la Caldera de Taburiente.  To reach the crater, we drove past La Cumbrecita, a vantage point to see the island, and parked at the beginning of the Rogue de los Muchachos trail. The ground was all rock this high up, a sandy red and brown that steamed from the sun and dusted our shoes. We walked along the edge of the steep ridge climbing to the top when suddenly it the entire Atlantic Ocean and the edges of the tiny island opened up. The warm sun greeted our faces as we gazed down at horizontal banana farms, growing up the sides of the volcanoes, their large green hats covering fat yellow fruits. The brightly painted orange and yellow houses and buildings spotted along the edges of this island, so small I could reach out with both arms and wrap the edges in a hug. We could see the small towns nestled into the slivers of air between two volcanic cliff edges leaning in to kiss. Small clouds below us hid parts of the black beaches along the island edge, as if trying to shield our eyes from the nudity our fellow European travelers felt comfortable enough to express. We continued to walk along the highest peaks of the crater on thin, amber paths that fell off down into the crater on one side and down the volcanic side on the other. We gulped thin air that was no longer sweet from the wafting bananas below but had a faint sour of sulphur emitting from the volcano. Dusty couldn’t be happier; this were he found his source of contentment and solace from life, when he is wrapped in the warm embrace of Mother Nature and chasing the freedom of Father Sky. We spent the day charging ourselves in the power of the view that volcano offered us until hunger brought us back to our car and down the road below the clouds.

 

NASA observatory, La Palma
NASA observatory, La Palma
La Palma, Canary Islands
La Palma, Canary Islands
Top of the crater, La Palma
Top of the crater, La Palma
La Palma, Canary Islands
La Palma, Canary Islands
View from the top, La Palma, Canary Islands
View from the top, La Palma, Canary Islands

But I didn’t find my bliss until a few days later, when we discovered the true infinity pools of the island that so many hotels across the world try to recreate. The ocean waves pounding against the dark lava cliffs form inlets into the cliffs over the centuries but uneven ones that twist around to form a mouth. The result is a natural pool in the cliffs with water that rocks with the current, but will sit in the sun all day and warm to a pleasurable temperature. In high tide, the waves crash against the opening of the pool and the cold eater will splash the swimmers soaking in the sun warmed bath. Dusty and I drove the winding roads around the perimeter of the island, there being only one road that cuts through the center of the island from east to west, to the northeast corner of the island to Barlovento. We parked along the cliff edge overlooking the ocean and climbed down the stone staircase to las Piscinas de Fajana, a group of several infinity pools with seats carved into the lava rock and home to colorful, tiny fish who enjoy their visitors. Waves with white foam crashed on the sides of the stone pool, the sound like the heartbeat of the Atlantic. And she was welcoming us in with the sun warming the stones where I sat on the edge of one of the pools, my legs dangling in the water waiting for Dusty to finish undressing. The waves were loud enough to dull the sounds of us talking, completing the ambiance to the sunlit circle of warmth. I floated in the water, tilting my head back to soak my hair and yelped when Dusty pulled my legs to him and wrapped them around his waist. We took our GoPro camera and filmed the tiny, darting fish swimming around us and taking ticklish nibbles of our toes. Dusty stepped out of the pool and stood on the stone edges of the pool to capture the waves splashing into the pools at high tide.

 

Las Piscinas, La Palma
Las Piscinas, La Palma
Las Piscinas, La Palma
Las Piscinas, La Palma
Las Piscinas, La Palma
Las Piscinas, La Palma
Las Piscinas, La Palma
Las Piscinas, La Palma

As I watched him taking pictures, I understood something about my insecurities. I may be a little awkward of a person, probably unprofessional and a little uncouth, but what was more important for me to realize was that I am lucky. An incredibly, jealously-provoking, want-to-hate-you-but-can’t lucky person. I’d grown up thinking the Canary Islands were one of those places that only either the really rich or the really lucky get to see. And here I sat, letting the rippling aquamarine arms rock me in the sun and watching tiny red and yellow fish dart in between my toes while my love smiles and walks back towards me. I am one ridiculously lucky girl and in that moment, I felt humbled by the island’s gift of understanding and felt her smile in the warmth of the sun.

La Palma, Canary Islands
La Palma, Canary Islands
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When There’s Nothing to Talk About in Marriage

The natural progression of conversation for Dusty and I seems similar to what many couples experience growing from dating to marriage and going through hardships. There’s the intoxicating infatuated whispers and phone calls that last for hours, then the sobering talks of truth and shared hope for your futures, the first exciting proclamations of doing real “life” things together and the doubt-filled disagreements that inevitably follow.

 

Recently, we found ourselves disagreeing almost constantly. There wasn’t an aspect of life maintenance that we weren’t talking about, however we never felt further apart. As I wrote about in a post on arguing in marriage, it’s ok to have conflict when you’re trying to do complicated things together. There’s nothing uncomplicated or simple about trying to live with a new disability, especially when it’s two people trying to do it together. But when began to do nothing but disagree, we talked about what could be going wrong. And disagreed some more.

 

Norway
Norway

Then it clicked. When we weren’t talking about where the military was moving us next or if he was able to get that leave for our next holiday or whatever paraplegic what was bothering my where, we weren’t talking at all.

 

It’s a common trap and the reason that we’ve seen many of our friends’ parents become divorced; after years of just talking about work, house, kids or cars, when couples are once again faced with alone time they realize they have nothing more to talk about. I even remember thinking “yes, but what Dusty and I have is so incredibly special and it’s totally true love and God wants us together so laws of the universe don’t even apply to us, so there”. And then I would bounce off with my Pumpkin Spice Latte in hand.

 

No matter the strength of the love or uniqueness of the couple, sometimes conversations take effort. That’s not an indication that something is wrong, it’s an indication that the two people are trying. I’d rather have effort over ease any day, it means that we’re both invested in our marriage. For better or for worse.

 

We truly do have plenty to talk about. I’m *fingers crossed* getting a Great Dane service dog in a few months, we’ve experienced countless weirdness in just as many countries, we have friends that are getting married/popping out kids/moving to the unknown… but we had gotten so comfortable in our groove of only talking about the things we needed to talk about before the next day and hadn’t made time for anything else. It’s like this one sweater I have from college that has permanent coffee and Nutella spills.. while comfortable, this is not a place to stay.

 

So now we have a rule. Unless there’s something pressing, we wait awhile to talk about life things when we get home at the end of the day. For at least the first two hours in the evening, topics like our upcoming purchase of a car or where we’re planning on renting in Missouri when we temporarily move there in the spring all off limits. Instead, I tell him about the super happy big ol’ dog I met and he tells me about weird news he read (that’s why we decided to go to Iceland in January, after he read about the guy he took a GoPro down into the erupting volcano). We’re not the most productive couple by making this change, but who cares. We have more important Internet GIFS to make us laugh together.

Bergen, Norway
Bergen, Norway
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The Day He Dared to Touch my Chair

I have a thing about people touching my chair. In fairness, most paraplegics do and it’s part of Wheelchair 101 to learn how to keep people from touching it. Here’s a tip- next time you see a wheelchair person, look to see how fancy their chair is and check to see if there are handles. In the states, people who live in chairs do not have handles on the backrests. Handles are an invitation for someone to grab the chair. So generally, I can know if a person is a full time wheelchair dude or if they just have a temporary injury before even meeting them.

I thought the handles rule applied everywhere, but that’s where my American expectations of disabilities represents a culture specific only to the states. There’s no American Disabilities Act allowing me to have access to every bathroom in every building here in Europe and the preservation of history makes most of Europe hard to maneuver in a chair. So I’ll see more wheelchair people being pushed by chairs with handles than I’ll see a handle-less chair like my own. I thought this was a little demeaning of the disability name when I first arrived, but I now know that I was just a snob.

 

When I started having a really hard time keeping up with Dusty when we would travel or be able to enjoy the views while continuing to roll, Dusty suggested getting detachable handles for my chair. “How dare you?!” was my reply to his helpful, honest and practical suggestion (again, read above. Snob to the core).

We had taken off for another weekend riding the trains to see what I refer to as Rapunzal’s Tower in Nuremburg, Germany. We were lucky, it was a beautiful fall weekend and there was no reason why it wasn’t going to be a low stress adventure. Until we saw the castle that held the tower. Which was on top of the highest part of the city. On what had to be the original cobblestones from when they had actual peasants and the real Rapunzel in the tower. Getting up that hill was terrible. I was exhausted halfway through and Dusty was alternating between pushing me from behind and pulling my arm out the socket from in front. By the time we got to the terrace to look out on the city, I was completely over it. At that point, I could care less if Flynn Rider and Rapunzal from Tangled stepped out of the castle themselves, I just wanted to lie down on the brick and sleep.

So I gave in and I now have two handles that I put on when we’re heading out to travel. And when the going gets rough, Dusty pushes me. He, l (I can’t play up enough how crucial it has been in our marriage that Dusty is a patient and understanding man. I, on the other hand, am like one of those pufferfish; make the wrong move and I could blow up real fast), respects my boundaries with my chair through 3 years of trial and error. As soon as I don’t need the help, I’ll ask him (sometimes calmly, but unfortunately mostly pufferfish-style) to let go and he jumps back quickly to duck for cover.

I’m getting better at understanding that it’s okay to need help. It’s not the best feeling in the world to know that you’re dependent on the help of others, but I don’t know anyone who can be a paraplegic and live on a metaphorical island. It’s one of those growing/humbling/deeply embarrassing moments when I relinquish control to ask for help, but it’s something that I hope I continue to progress.

But in the meantime, don’t touch my chair.

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