Wheelchairs, wings, and world travels

I never thought I would see Norway from a wheelchair.

Meaning, I always wanted to see the country, but never imagined that I would experience it in a wheelchair.

If you have read my blog for any amount of time, you know that these posts usually stick to some aspect of the creative process and writer’s journey. But sometimes a writer has to go on a life journey that interrupts the controlled journey on the page – and turns your own life upside down.

Let me add a disqualifier: This is not a tale of “woe is me.” This is clearly not the worst thing that could happen to a person, and there are people who have far more agonizing and lasting physical crucibles than what I am about to share. But for what it’s worth, I have learned much from this crucible, as small as it may be. And when we learn something from a journey, we have a God-given duty to pass it on. So I share my journey here, in hopes that something good will come of it, not only for my own growth, but for anyone who is struggling and may find some encouragement from this.

Perhaps you can relate.

When 2023 began, I was soaring.

Racing forward with projects, still giddy from the high of typing “The End” on the last page of my 7-part historical TV series. I was planning a trip to Europe so I could explore the places I had written about – and so I could climb mountains.

The wind under my wings was tangible, and I couldn’t wait to push this script into its third draft and summit a couple of Scottish and Norwegian mountains.

But then the pain started.

I had to stop running. Then therapy started. The pain got worse with the therapy. By the end of May, I was on crutches, unable to walk and unable to even sit or lie peacefully because of debilitating, seizing hip and leg pain unlike any I had ever experienced. The diagnosis process was months long, and for some time I was on the watch for debilitating bone disease, cancer, and multiple sclerosis.

By mid July, the serious diagnoses were ruled out and I was handed something I thought I could deal with – severe muscle strain that would in theory heal, but no one could tell me how soon.

So I went to Norway, as planned.

Well, not quite as planned. I didn’t plan to fly out in a wheelchair, and I didn’t plan to need to be pushed through the streets of Bergen and carried up staircases. But that’s what happened – and I’m so glad it did.

By the end of August, I was still learning to walk again. But the new therapy has been working. As I write this during the first week of September, I can walk up to three miles a day at a normal gait. I can drive again. I can cook for myself again. And it feels like a long-awaited miracle.

In many ways, it feels the summer was lost. I have never spent so many months on end crying and begging God day after day to take the pain away. I have never been so afraid of what a diagnosis could mean for the rest of my life.

But then there is perspective… and somehow, I find it most clearly when I look at the pictures from the trip to Norway.

Sometimes we have to face the prospect of everything being taken away before we realize what we have. Sometimes we have to feel isolated and alone before we can recognize how dearly loved we are by friends, family, and God. And sometimes we have to be broken physically and mentally in order to realize on our own we are incapable of keeping ourselves together.

Until this year, I didn’t realize how much pride I took in a deluded sense of self-reliance. No, I am not (nor will I ever be) a marathon runner… but I was active and I was strong. Or so I thought.

No, I’m not the soul of reason and perspective, but after some of the greater losses I’ve experienced, I should have enough resilience and patience to get through an injury without breaking mentally and emotionally. Or so I thought.

After saying goodbye to so many of the things I had expected to do this summer, I had very little left to live for this year.

Very little to look forward to. And so I decided that, regardless of whatever diagnosis I received, I would still go to Norway. And thank the Lord my friends were willing to make it work, despite my physical limitations.

That’s where I found (and still find) perspective.

The beauty, the ruggedness, the sunsets… these were all made by a God who knows what He is doing. Even when the doctors were confused and I didn’t even know what questions to ask, God wasn’t surprised by what was happening. And although I entered depression that made me want to stop living, if only to escape the constant pain, He knew what I needed to keep going. He gave me the wings I needed.

That place is sacred to me now.

It’s where I actually began to recover, as well. I don’t know how much of the turn was because my spirits were lifted and how much of it was because of the ability to move and rest as needed. But it’s where I got to stand on top of a mountain and look out for miles on end. (Yes, I admit, one of the mountains I literally had to be carried up and placed on my feet so I could stand for a picture.) But it happened. I was there. And it’s where I was reminded how small we are and how much beauty there is around us.

Unlike most of the posts on The Inquisitive Inkpot, there isn’t one key takeaway I want to share. Probably because this one was about life, and life doesn’t have just one key takeaway. But unlike the last stretch of silence between posts, this one wasn’t because I was racing along triumphantly, unable to stop and think about what was happening.

It’s because I was crawling, waiting to walk again, and learning to appreciate the smallest things like the feeling of grass under my feet, and the biggest things like mountains.  

And I am so grateful for all of it.

3 Comments on “Wheelchairs, wings, and world travels

  1. Shiloh, it’s so good to hear from you, and to hear you’re on the mend. Beautiful pictures. So glad you were able to have the experience to carry you forward.

Leave a Reply