Expectations.

I’m finally home after around a month and I barely recognize the stuff in my own house. Mainly because I just stay in my own room most of the time, but also because I don’t completely remember my own house and I can’t get used to how bright everything seems to me right now. It’s like staring straight into the light all the time. Furthermore, who knew coming up the stairs would be such a struggle, especially since I can’t even walk up the stairs on my own. A basic task that I can’t do alone any more. I used to run up and down the stairs like it was the easiest thing in the world, I used to memorize exact excerpts from the textbooks I had, and I used to be a very active member in the school. I guess I can’t be active if I’m hopping on one leg and losing my memory.

I shouldn’t be complaining though, at least I am without a tumour now and I don’t have to have half my body paralyzed permanently. I won’t die now, but I wish I listened to my body a bit earlier or went to an eye doctor earlier. The family doctor didn’t tell me anything useful except that it was a tension headache and I should go home. Maybe I’ll go back just to show her what her ignorance had caused (It’s not really her fault, but it’s nice to find someone to blame sometimes).

Looking back on what I have done before, I should really be more proud of myself. All the medals I’ve gotten and all the awards I should be ecstatic. But I’m not. I have unreasonably high expectations for myself that I deem normal. The “be the best and expect nothing less” mentality was a norm. Why aren’t I in first place? Why am I not number one? I got second place in DECA provincials (a business competition), I got the second highest average last-last-year, and I even lost my 100 in accounting this year when I”bombed” the exam with a 85 because my tumour was causing memory problems. Not to mention it took me a whole week to study for bio and accounting, I skipped the math and chem exams due to my nausea and vomiting, and despite doing both English and music exams, I was nauseous the whole time. From valedictorian to nothing, I’ve been through it all.

Looking back at my elementary medals, my DECA medals, my plaques from awards at school, and my TDSB sports ribbons and medals etc, I should be really proud of myself. Except I’m not. I expect this from me. I am Jessica. I think it is absurd to enter university a bit later than everyone else, and it’s absurd to miss some of school. What am I, a loser? I have unbelievably high expectations on myself; that’s how I make myself good. I expect perfection, but I’m beginning to realize that’s a bit much to ask for. Yes, there are times that I slack off a bit, but nothing so slack-y that I will ever fail anything. That goes against the very statement of being Jessica. So when you start telling me I’m going to go to school later or have to go to a special school first, that hurts my ego a lot. What do you mean I can’t go back to school yet? What do you mean it will take a few months to recover? I don’t understand.

Between what I expect from myself and what an alternate universe’s slacker-Jessica wants, there’s got to be a happy medium. There has got to be a way I can get the marks I want without killing myself. There has to be.

I’m beginning to realise how to do that now. I can sleep early and still do well. I can spread out my time. I can do a lot of things to help me adjust and get back to normal, and I have to do it. I used to be very independent, now I can’t shower by myself. I’ll get back to showering by myself just like I got back to eating myself, and I already got back to going to the washroom, not a commode. I’m making leaps and strides in my recovery, but unless those leaps take me back to school, it’s never enough to satisfy me. But now I have a goal in mind.

Since I end these with what I think are clever one-liners now, here it is:

Don’t kill yourself over what you can’t change, make it better with hard work and determination because that’s all you can really do for now.

It Was Okay.

Lately since I got here (Holland-Bloorview Children’s Rehab), I’ve been saying that a lot. “It was okay”, is like a catchphrase for me.

“How was your day today?”

“It was okay.”

“How was your physiotherapy/occupational therapy/psychology/your meeting with your social worker?”

“It was okay.”

Mainly because it’s going literally okay. Originally, OK stands for “zero killed”. So in that sense, I’m okay. But really, I’m not okay. I feel really bad because I can’t do things I normally do by myself. Although, I’m improving, nothing is ever fast enough. Yes, they tell me I’m improving faster than expected and yes, they tell me I’m above average at times, but every time I struggle with finding a word (like when I couldn’t remember the words hammock, planetarium, hourglass, or cannon) I get upset. It’s like you recognize the object, but you’re at a lost for words of what it is. Not to mention my right hand is weaker than my left and I type really slow because of it. At least I can type now right?

However, I just want to go home. I haven’t been home in three/four weeks. I was either in the hospital or in rehab. That’s a long time to be away from home. I haven’t even been on a trip for that long. I guess this is more of a journey and less of a trip. My recovery journey is less beautiful than you would expect. It’s not rainbows and butterflies, it’s tough work. It’s assessments that make you feel stupid for forgetting a word, it’s physical assessments as well that test how well you can do stuff like roll over and bridge, it’s also hand assessments that test how well you throw a ball or cross out shapes. Overall, it tests how your brain will react, how fast it reacts, and how well your hand reacts. Slowly but surely, both of those things are coming back. But when you can see how you aren’t getting 9/10 out of ten, it still hurt me on the inside as a tryhard. Or when I see I only got through half the shapes to cross out or dot, that hurts me inside. I wish  I could have done the whole thing but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t hit the target every time, I can’t always remember the words, and I don’t even have the memory to remember a list of ten words. The main thing is that I’m trying my hardest to be faster, more agile, and to improve my memory.

I’m really trying. So let me be inspired by the kids who were singing songs at the campfire, and let me be jealous of the teenagers that could actually sing. That’s fine. That’s good jealousy. To say the least they inspired me to try harder and be better than I was yesterday. It won’t be right away that I recover and can go back to school, but I’ll wake up for breakfast tomorrow ready to start my day right. Maybe I’ll have a better than okay day. A spectacular, marvelous, fantastic, or exceptional day perhaps. I’m sick of frowning. Maybe I’ll try smiling tomorrow. Everything is only a maybe, but a maybe is better than a no.

So let us rejoice for the idea of improvement because that’s all that is pushing me to do better than yesterday.

Sometimes.

Sometimes I wish I could have everything, have it all if I could.

Sometimes I wish I could be whatever I want. A superhero, a scientist, a surgeon, or a marketing specialist even.

Sometimes I wish I could fly. Let’s be honest here,  it will be really cool if I could do that.

But now I can’t even walk. I can only limp through the halls and use the commode. It feels like death learning how to do math again. Basic math. Like $9.99+$2.29+$4.80, or 8×9, 189-12. I’ll relearn eventually, but for now I feel so stupid. I feel so dumb for not knowing how to carry over my numbers, not knowing how to multiply or divide, and not knowing how to add or subtract.

I had a brain tumour. Keyword is had, because the moment it was removed I lost the movement in half my body until later this year. I’ve been improving, but it’s not good enough. It never is. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, I just had a tumour the size of a peach or apricot taken out of me from left side of my thalamus (which affects my right side; noncancerous). But I feel so bad nonetheless. I had put my parents in so much stress and worry. They were the ones that massaged my legs until I could move again, they were the ones that bought me my food when I wanted it,  they were the ones that went to multiple places to get me what I want. They were the ones that were there for better or worse for real. 

My friends are coming today,  and I’m so excited. Irene, Karen, and Jenny are coming! They’re really coming! First Chipotle tacos are coming, then a caramel machiatto is coming. Yummy.

I felt so sad a couple days ago. I couldn’t do anything myself to being able, to move my hands and legs is a huge difference. I don’t think I can recover fast enough to be satisfied with my progress. But I’ll manage, I always do. I won’t be back in school in time but I’ll but better and ready for harder material.

I’m going to go to Holland-Bloorview rehab hospital tomorrow. It looks like a resort there. It’s mostly for kids, so I’ll get my own computer and TV, not to mention they will have classes for me too. Maybe with how fast I’m improving I’ll be back sooner than predicted.

In the famous words of Arnie, I’ll be back.

Strength.

What is strength anyways?

It could be defined as physical strength, and even then it could be arm strength, leg strength, and core strength and more. It could also be mental strength,  the brain is a muscle of course. So as much as the gym is strength training, life is strength training as well. Everyday you’re faced with various challenges. Think of every problem you deal with as a rep.  Maybe today you’re trying to pass a math test, each chapter you study could count as one repetition. Soon enough, you’re “strong” and can do spectacular on your test. But if there are so many varieties of strength, how do we compare our strength?

I think everyone has some sort of strength which also comes with weaknesses. For instance, if you’re a powerlifter, chances are, you won’t be the most graceful gymnast. However, both of those skills are recognized as a talent to want. I’ve wanted to be all of those things at some point. I wanted to be the top scholar, fastest runner, best at makeup and nail art, funniest (or punniest), most beautiful, team captain, and pretty much everything else that’s possible to “win” at. Competition drives improvement. If we didn’t have a desire to be the best, nothing would ever change in the world. Diseases wouldn’t be cured, we should all look the same, and without change, it can only get worst. So competition is great.  Dog eat dog worlds are scary,  but still great. Even numbness creates strength. I can barely feel my right leg right now, but it’s stronger than my left leg.  Maybe I’m trying to compensate for what I don’t feel, but I guess that in itself is a metaphor. If it doesn’t feel right, try something else or try harder. Even my legs are trying to improve themselves subconsciously.

Strength is about improvement.  Strength is about not giving up. Strength is about saying fuck you world, I have more to accomplish. Strength is about crying but for a good reason. Strength is about being unselfish, but still giving yourself a chance at what you want. It is not losing yourself to please others, but it is also not losing others to please yourself. I realize that sounds ironic.  How can you do both? I guess that means that strength also means making the right decisions based on the situation. No, you probably can’t be a vegan and be a top bodybuilder, but who’s there to stop you if you tried?

You’re probably thinking I’m being melodramatic.  “You’re not even dying yet Jessica,  what do you know about any of this?” But if you think like that, then where is the line of when you have the right to say these things and think this way? Who knows. This isn’t “1984” , there’s no thought police. But there is always Big Brother. There’s always some sort of set of rules to guide us (possibly in the wrong direction) and there’s always people willing to go against those rules. If you make it your life goal to follow all the rules, it can be a show of strength. If you make it your goal to go against those rules, that’s strength too.  After all of this, I still have no idea what strength really is. However, I still believe strength is about yourself. If you feel stronger, you probably are stronger.

So, strength isn’t completely comparable. You can compare individual components of strength, maybe an arm wrestling contest or a math competition, but no one can be the “world’s strongest person”. Maybe I’ll win at something today,  but there’s no guarantee that I’ll be the best tomorrow. At any moment, there’s someone better than you at something else. That’s the beauty of it. You can always improve. We want to be selfish and terrible people so we can become the best person we can be.

Life is a game against ourselves. For a place where we compete against others all the time, we don’t get many “great job,  you improved ribbons”. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep track of our own accomplishments.  Today, I won the most UNO games against my parents and I was the patient that walked the most circles around floor 9. Congratulations Jessica, you did something today–realizing your greatness is the first step to being truly great.

So let’s all throw our hands in the air (wave them around like we just don’t care) and say my name is __________, and I’m great.  I’m strong. I’m amazing. And there’s gotta be something that that I can kick your ass in today.