While on the phone with the sister of a new client today, I became acutely aware again of how much my mind has adapted since I got hurt. Most importantly my conception of time has dramatically changed. To sum this change up we might simply consider that it now takes me 5 minutes to put on my jeans as opposed to the one it did before I got hurt. Time expands or in some sense life just takes a little longer to live.

For a new injury this shift in conceptions of time is entirely frustrating. Activities of daily living that they once did with ease now require immense amounts of energy and effort. On top of this they are told that the only way they will get better is if they work at it, but that working at independence may take years, not months.

However, it is when you reach your benchmarks or goals that you are able to turn around and gain an incredible amount of perspective on your activities. For a new injury this may mean the ability to transfer independently. For an older injury it may be the persistence required to maintain employment so that they might retire one day. In either case the similar theme is persistent action aimed at a goal.

If you notice, this edict for life post-injury is based on action. Sometimes there may be an instant gratification to this action. Someone may gain an immense amount of independence by simply learning how to dial a phone with paralyzed fingers. But in other cases, activity aimed at maximum independence requires years of repetition before it becomes efficient and rewarding.

The key is to remember that no matter how long it takes to do something, by being involved in a life project of independence all spinal cord injuries can experience a level of agency in the world. This feeling that one can make a difference or contribute is, in my opinion, vital in the rediscovery of happiness and meaning post-injury.

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