Every morning I wake up, raise the head of Jeff's bed, do some minor adjustments of his stiff body, wipe his eyes, give him his morning pills, turn on his voice-activated remote control, put on his beanie, take off his night boots, empty his pee bag, start his breathing treatment, then head to the kitchen to make coffee.
That's just the first 15 minutes of the day.
I would have thought that after three-and-a-half years of living and dealing with my husband's spinal cord injury every minute of every day, things would have gotten, well, easier - more manageable.
I guess in a way, they have gotten easier. We're no longer bombarded with something new every day like we were in the beginning. I wrote a blog post - one of my most popular posts - about just this subject about a year after Jeff's injury. I titled it Relentless, and that's still a word that accurately describes our life.
But things have settled down a bit now in the sense that we've established a routine that works for us. And each day we work that routine.
But it's not exactly clockwork. While much of what we do every day is repeated physical maintenance of Jeff's condition, there's a lot of other stuff that comes our way too, like administrative duties, and on-the-fly troubleshooting. We are constantly vigilant. Continually on the ready to handle the barrage.
And so I've come up with a new analogy for what we experience on a daily basis.
Living with a spinal cord injury is like being followed by a horde of slow moving zombies.
Jeff and I have always loved a good zombie flick. During our dating years, we snuck little bottles of liquor into a movie theater to watch the remake of Dawn of the Dead. And once The Walking Dead aired on AMC, we were instantly hooked.
I remember one of my first impressions when we started watching The Walking Dead. Sure, the zombies were ugly, but they moved so slowly. How scary can that be?
But what if a zombie was lumbering after you, and you tripped and fell? And now that zombie's dreadful fingers are just inches from your feet. In your panic, you can't regain traction, so you frantically scramble backward without putting much distance between you and the growling monster that, in any second, will be upon you.
Now imagine a whole group coming at you. From all sides.
You're overrun. Overwhelmed.
But you fight back. You have to. It's your only way out.
And somehow, whether by experience, determination, or sometimes just sheer luck, you emerge from the zombie scrum to make your escape.
As you close your eyes and catch your breath, exhausted from the battle, you slowly turn around, and that's when you see it. Another horde. Not upon you as before. But coming for you nonetheless.
That's what this life is like.
That's what maintaining a body with an injured spinal cord is like.
And so to further illustrate my point, I'd like to present some visual examples. With neither Photoshop skills, nor the time to acquire them, here's a look at our zombie life - in crappy pictures.
Some days the horde is off in the distance - dark shadows on the horizon reminding us that there's things that will need to be addressed soon:
Other days, the zombies are all up in our business:
Sometimes, the whole day is spent troubleshooting:
Other days it's just slaying as usual:
Every once in a while, a routine task can turn into a wild goose chase:
Then there's the always invigorating surprise attack:
And of course, we can't forget about that one thing that can just ruin your entire day:
The point is the zombies just keep coming.
They can't be stopped.
They have to be dealt with.
And lately it's felt like we're at the bottom of the horde just doing our best to pick them off one by one.
Pretty soon, the pile will thin, and we'll be able to catch our breath ... just long enough to make out the shadows looming on the horizon.
Gotta run ... the zombies are a-knockin'.