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Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Exhilaration of Rediscovering Independence

Saturday 17th September 2011     2.14 pm
59 minutes ago, I embarked upon my latest adventure- living alone with my Barley dog, (an oxymoron of sorts I'm aware, but you know what I mean!), without any carers, parents or husband for company and support.
Before you start to worry, Garry has not finally cracked trying to cope with his testing life as my husband/carer/counsellor and confidant combined and run screaming for the hills- he has simply had to go away for 11 days with work and I am simply living in my own flat unaccompanied by carers whilst he does so.
The enormity of these circumstances, is I'm sure escaping  many of you who have 'normal' lives, (I quiver as I write this ridiculous term, but at 2.29am and consumed by pain and fatigue I struggle for another adjective to equate), however for someone such as me who has been stripped of any form of independence for a number of years, the challenge that lays before me feels undoubtedly daunting, yet all the same strangely exhilarating!
Having hugged and kissed and waved Barley and I goodbye, Garry has just set off upon his long drive to the south coast- thus initiating the beginning of this challenge of mine to strive to regain a sense of the old independent me, that has naturally become a little lost and hidden beneath the complex layers of issues and injuries!
To give this situation some perspective, the last time that Garry had to go away for work, I had to live with my parents for two and a half months as I was at the time pretty poorly and bed bound for round 80% of the time and therefore not strong enough to look after myself and Barley.
Currently still bed bound a fair amount of my days, I'm unfortunately not going to be living in complete solitude on this occasion either, so am regrettably still reliant upon others to check on me and help with Barley upwards of two or three times a day; despite this, the butterflies refuse to subside at the prospect of my challenge- I'm predominantly going to be caring for myself, a situation that hasn't been so since 2006!
To many, this may be a strange thing to get excited about; after all, it's the basis of our day, from which all of the exciting things in our lives are built upon to simply exist independently- but after the frustration of years of relying upon home nurses, carers and loved ones for everything from dinners to dressing and bathing to blow-drying- this seemingly simple circumstance subsequently becomes a momentous mile stone indeed!
 Despite my excitement at Garry's departure, there is of course no doubt at all that I appreciate and love my husband more than anything in the world and will no doubt be missing him immensely within hours I'm sure; but the real and old me that is hidden deep beneath the insecurities and concentration problems born of my pain and the medication for said pain, has always been a fiercely independent person and deep down still desperately yearns to be openly once more.
In my lucid and logical reflections, I recognise and remember that that independent person is who Garry fell in love with. That person is the person I strive to rediscover a little more everyday and with this adventure I believe I will move considerably closer towards achieving this.
 My first real taste of that wonderful emotion that is iindependence came about when at sixteen years old I received my scholarship to dance school and I left my sheltered and secure home on the Isle of Wight to live and study in the daunting yet dynamic city of London. By 18 years old I was renting a flat alone and by 23 I once again left my comfortable circumstances to move alone to Gatwick to embark upon a new career as cabin crew for Virgin Atlantic Airways to travel and explore this wondrous world of ours.
It was my time working for Virgin Atlantic that I regard as one of my most exciting and I look back upon this period with such fondness as I remember the feisty, energetic 'Old Kaz', who would dart about the country visiting friends and family in her days off between trips, before jetting back off to New York, Barbados or Australia. I have said it before and I have no qualms in saying it again- that truly was the time of my life!
It was during this golden nomadic era that I met my now husband and began the whirlwind romance that would see me semi moved-in, ( well, living out my suitcase and car boot whilst in the country!), within a mere couple of months.
Although things moved quickly with this new and exciting relationship, I still had my independent existence at work, be it in my time in my hotel in whatever country I had flown to that week, or in exploring the sights and sounds of a new city either by myself (which I dearly loved), or with my crew, who I would invariably have never worked with before.
That fateful summer's day of 2006 that I experienced that minor yet momentous car accident, saw my independence ripped from me like a plaster seemingly super-glued too the skin. From that point onwards, I was reliant upon my new beau whom I hadn't even left the toilet door open in front yet, to lift me into the bath, dress me and even place me upon the toilet!
The independence that I had loved so dearly since the age of 16 when I arrived in this vibrant and exciting city to pursue my dream had gone- but why should I never experience that feeling, or a degree of it ever again?
Well 12 years on and I am back in that city that I fell in love with so dearly as a teenager and ready to do my best to rediscover that wonderful emotion that many of us take so much for granted each day as we simply walk out of our own front door or drive ourselves to work.
 This time around I may not be able to dart around the capitol from bar to club on dangerously high heels; I may not even be able to make it further than wheeling myself around my own little area of SW London with my dog as companionship, but this is still nonetheless an adventure- my adventure, which considering for the majority of the last five years the nearest I have come to such has been merely making down the corridor to sit in the living room with my husband, I feel that there has been marked improvement and there will hopefully continue to be so as I strive to regain that essence of the old me once again.

Well, it is now Sunday afternoon and I'm pleased to report that Barley and I are still alive and maintaining some semblance of civilised living- if you can call consuming the left overs of Friday night's takeaway for Sunday brunch whilst curled up on the sofa devouring the Sunday papers doing so, then yes, we're succeeding and surviving!
As with most things since becoming disabled, my aspirations and achievements have somewhat adjusted to what is actually achievable for the new me and not the old. There is no doubt in my mind that becoming disabled and subsequently reliant upon others for simple things, has certainly drained me of a certain sense of the spirit of that person that took on these challenges and adventures.
I may no longer be able to hold down a wonderful job that I loved.
I may no longer be able to keep fit and maintain my old size by running, cycling and swimming.
I may no longer be able to to visit friends and family whenever I feel like it and keep up with an active social life- but what I can do is appreciate those small achievements such as this.
For the first time since becoming disabled I am strong enough to be able to live alone for a week and a half- and for the new me that is bigger and more important than all of the above combined!
Well, wish me luck as I embark upon my adventure...
Regaining some sense of that old adventurous independent me, is the thing making me smile today!
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Until tomorrow everyone, I hope that you've had a wonderful weekend!

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