What do puppy breath, the smell of the top of a baby’s head, a kitty’s purr, and the afterglow of trauma all have in common? I suggest we figure out how to bottle them so we can imbibe when needed.
It’s been slightly over three weeks since my skydiving accident. That’s both a long time and not long enough. Emotionally and mentally I am ready to re-enter my pre-jump days. I am anxious to get back to my normal physical routine. I am over the initial “Tee hee, I get to lounge in bed as long as I want” free pass. Frankly, I am annoyed now when my back pain encourages me to slow down or stop. Unfortunately my compression fractures don’t care.
What am I not over? What am I a little sad to see dissipate?
“Like any long-term relationship we’ve had our moments”
The impact of the accident, the 20-hour horror show in the ER, and the subsequent reality of painful recuperation cast a glowing aura around me and my partner. My partner and I have been together a while now… about 10 years. We’ve been living together for the last five. Like any long-term relationship we’ve had our moments… good, bad, really really good, devastatingly awful, and so on.
Lately we had found a quiet, safe space to co-exist in. With both of us home full-time over the last 18 months, our quantity of time spent together has been high. But, the quality has suffered. Add to the at-home mix a couple of adult children and you get a perfect petri dish for fun family dinners, lots of grocery store runs, management of schedules, and extra cleaning. What you don’t get is a lot of room for intimacy. Not just the physical kind, by the way.
I survived my ER experience, the most horrible episode of my life, because I had a champion. For the entire duration of the medical nightmare my partner refused to leave my side. At the time I didn’t truly understand the impact this would have on my heart and soul.
In the aftermath of the accident — the shower, the pain medication station set-up, the hunt for a gajillion extra pillows and the like — I noted that I was seeing him differently. My experience of his presence, of his essence, altered. It felt seriously similar to those initial dreamy-eyed smushy feelings we get at the very beginning of a relationship.
“Back to school has never been this good.”
I had to confess: “You know,” I told him, “you kinda walk on water for me right now. Better enjoy it, cause we both know it’s not going to last long.” We both chuckled knowing full well the truth of the statement. The thing is, it was bi-directional. The fear around the potential of my being paralyzed or worse yet, losing me altogether, altered his perception of me as well.
Interestingly enough, this new rose-colored tint on US coincided with the exit of both our adult children. Back to school has never been this good.
We both have realized just how much we were taking one another for granted. Allowing ourselves to be bogged down by actions and circumstances that really don’t matter. Fretting over situations where we have no control. We had lost our perspective running around, surviving everyday life.
The possibility of the unimaginable actually happening laser-focused us on what’s truly important. The hit of NRE (new relationship energy) has been intoxicating. I know it’s not sustainable. I get that it wanes. Heck, it already has somewhat by now.
We were gifted an abrupt and unwanted awakening. Unconsciously we shifted our behaviors and maxed out our goodwill accounts. Each of us taking note of the small acts of kindness — my acts being particularly tiny, given I actually can’t do much of anything other than lie around. But the intent is there and better yet, it is now backed by action.
The 21/90 Rule:
“the accident wiped away any haze or confusion”
But I also know the 21/90 rule – 21 days to create a new habit, 90 days to make it a permanent lifestyle change.
Before the skydiving accident, we had been in a bit of a benign funk, and we couldn’t seem to motivate ourselves to actively seek out what to do differently or how to change. For whatever reason, the accident wiped away any haze or confusion. We really do know how to behave. We really do know how to make the other feel loved, safe, secure. All we needed was a reminder. And, 21 days.
While there’s no actual physical way for us to capture any puppy breath, maybe a mason jar filled with little notes where we can keep our real-time feelings towards each other during the first few weeks of this crisis might just be the ticket to a lasting afterglow. Or, at least a way by which we can course correct. All we need is another 69 days to make it permanent. (My internal 13-year-old boy is snickering over that particular mathematical equation.)
Here’s hoping we figure out a way to bottle the afterglow of trauma, because the idea of once again breaking my back — or anything else, for that matter — is off the table.