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Physics & Life.

I believe there are two ways of viewing life: how we wish things were and accepting how things are.

One isn't superior to the other, but you have to be able to distinguish between the two. It's important because living under the concept of reality was forced upon us when we were diagnosed with spinal-cord injury or disease.

We are prepared for war and with it, the possibility of death, but we aren't prepared for unwanted limits being thrust upon us and forcing us to accept and internalize a set of principles regarding life and happiness with which we may have never had to deal.

Unfortunately, there are aspects of life we don't have to confront and tend to believe don't exist.

Blissful Living

Long before I was disabled, I knew about the existence of poverty, homelessness, government assistance and suicide. Since I wasn't confronting those realities regularly, I had the luxury of choosing not to be a part of that world.

Yes, I visited the veterans' hospital over the holidays, fed the homeless from a shelter on Thanksgiving and even sent money to various hospitals during charity drives. Although my efforts were akin to bailing out the Pacific Ocean with a teaspoon, I felt reasonably comfortable I was making a positive difference. I was blissful living the first part of my life under the umbrella of concept number one--my virtual world.

On Nov. 2, 2009, I found myself thrust into a world that no longer reflected the concept I had been living under, and I found it impossible to adjust.

My legs didn't move, no matter how much I willed them to move. I couldn't get back to work, no matter how badly I wanted to work. I couldn't pay any bills regardless of the number of creditors looking for me, and there was nothing I could do about it.

All the well-wishers in the world couldn't have given my life a positive slant that first year. Yes, I was still alive, a fact that every doctor, nurse, family member and friend would thankfully remind me. They reminded me so much that it was beginning to have a bigger negative effect than positive.

I believed my life, for all practical purposes, was over. The only reason I'm here writing this column now is that I was able to shift my mind to concept two--accepting reality.

Not A Perfect World

I believe I made the shift largely because of my naval training and education.

I began my U.S. Navy career as a nuclear electronics technician and was slated to be a nuclear reactor operator. My point is that it all started with learning and internalizing the subject of physics.

I had conveniently forgotten much of it until a few months into my rehabilitation when I remembered Isaac Newton's first law of motion. It basically says that to get a body moving or change its direction, a force must first be applied to that body.

It's a law that was obvious and didn't require any contemplation until suddenly my legs were no longer a source of locomotion for me. Then, that law became the focus point of my life.

In order for my body to obtain locomotion, I would now need assistance, equipment and new body parts adapted to the task. In a sense, my arms were now going to have to do more than I have ever asked them to do, and I needed them to be ready.

I could choose to complain all day about how this job was for my legs, and in a perfect world it was, but I was no longer living in a perfect world. But concept two dictates that I never was living in a perfect world. I only believed I was, and that particular luxury was gone forever.

Act & Exert

But living with reality doesn't mean life is terrible. Life may not be all sunshine and rainbows, but it isn't all rain and clouds either.

In fact, understanding basic laws of nature allows the understanding that one can't exist without the other. Realizing that life not only was a gift but also carried a modicum of responsibility, I could either be an active participant in this universal ecosystem or be a drain.

I needed to act and exert a level of force and alter my downward trajectory or allow inertia to keep me spiraling downward until either I hit bottom or someone else exerted his or her energy to try and save me.

As businessman John Shedd once said, "When it is rose leaves all the way, we soon become drowsy; thorns are necessary to wake us ..."

Additionally, once we heal, it's time to go forth and rejoin the world. Humans weren't meant to remain and congregate in hospitals.

U.S. Rear Adm. Grace Hopper once said, "A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for." The same goes for us. Heal, then let's meet for coffee.

Scoba Rhodes is a U.S. Navy veteran and author of Rules of Engagement: A Self-Help Guide for Those Overcoming Major Personal Trauma.

The opinions of the author do not necessarily reflect the position of Paralyzed
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Title Annotation:and finally ...; living with a disability
Author:Rhodes, Scoba
Publication:PN - Paraplegia News
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2018
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