A cut in the finger and the 2% rule

A lot of people have told me over the last few months that I have inspired them. While I am flattered, honored and grateful to have any kind of positive impact on others, I want to take a moment to acknowledge a couple of inspirational words given to me from two different friends today, just a few hours apart from each other.

I’ve been struggling a bit recently with the reality that the one year anniversary of my accident is fast approaching. In the medical world, this can be significant since some doctors and practitioners say that most or all the healing after a Spinal Cord Injury happens in the first year. While I have always refused to accept this, it does weigh on me a bit and add some unnecessary stress to my recovery. On another level, it’s surreal to think that almost an entire year, a full cycle of all 12 months will have gone by since this accident turned my life upside down and launched me into the world of SCI recovery. As I try to manage these emotions, avoid being distracted by them and translate them to my everyday recovery, I am truly inspired by the seemingly random words of support I received today.

First, a friend and former colleague of mine who I’ve not seen for a few years and who lives in Europe emailed me today saying that he’d been reading my blog and he’d noticed some of my doubt and frustrations in my recent writing. He told me that he had recently suffered a badly broken leg which kept him out of commission for a few weeks and prevented him from riding his bike, something I know he is very passionate about. He said that while he was lying in bed, unable to move for weeks, he was able to truly appreciate the extent of my situation and frustration.

Now, he has begun to ride his bike again despite the excruciating pain that comes with it and wanted to tell me that he thinks of me and my recovery every time he’s on his bike, especially since he describes his injury as merely “a cut in the finger” compared to what I’m dealing with. He tells me that with his cut in the finger injury, he doesn’t think he can be a role model for me, but still sends his support and says, “I KNOW YOU WILL SUCCEED AND WIN THIS FIGHT!” Well, the reality is that his words mean a lot to me. For someone who I’ve not seen in a long time to contact me out of the blue, share his experience, and impart his words of support means a lot, especially in this moment, on this day.

The second inspirational moment of the day came just a couple hours later. My friend was driving me back from my exercise therapy session and having seen how hard I was working and how far I’ve come these last few months, he told me what I’m dubbing “the 2% rule”. His words:

“Look man, I know it probably seems like an eternity for you that you’ve been in this wheelchair but think about it like this: say you live til you’re 100. Now think that even if you have to deal with a year or two in a wheelchair but you get back on your feet, it’s only about 2% of your life that you’ll have spent in that thing. In the big scheme of things, that’s really not that bad. Keep thinking of the activities and things you love to do and how that motivation will get you better. You’ll get through this thing soon enough.”

He didn’t make a big deal out of his words, he just said them in the matter of fact way of speaking he always has, as if what he had just said was the most obvious thing in the world. It gave me great perspective to hear this. I appreciated his reasoning and it brightened up my day. Although I’m not sure if I’ll live to 100, I think he’s right. If someone asked me if it was worth it to have a couple of really rough years of adversity and struggle in exchange for being able to do what I love to do and live a generally happier life, I would say it’s a no brainer. I’ve been really caught up in the struggles and challenges of my present frustrations, but I have to think of the bigger picture and believe that if 98% of my life is spent out of a wheelchair, then I can deal with an exceptionally hard 2%.

Today, it took a couple of seemingly unrelated things to happen in a short amount of time in order to snap me out of a funk and get me back on track. I’m grateful to these two friends and to everyone who continues to motivate me and support me. Who knows where will my inspiration will come from tomorrow…

37 thoughts on “A cut in the finger and the 2% rule

  1. I loved reading your blog this evening — you are doing amazing and need to give yourself a pat on the back and realize how far you’ve actually come in a year — You WILL get to where you are going even though the path to getting there is completely unfamiliar and unknown. Don’t be so hard on yourself, Arash!! πŸ™‚ Sam

    • Yeah that’s been a bad habit of mine for a long time. I tend to be quite hard on myself but I will try to do my best to appreciate the progress so far and look forward to more changes in the near future. Nice to hear from you Sam -AB

  2. Sometimes you really do just need some honest and down to earth friends who tell you exactly how they see it. Sometimes I think we cannot see the forest for all the trees around us and it can take another’s perspecitve to change our point of view slightly. I love how you drew positivity from your friends’ words. It can really make a difference. xo

  3. i’ve mentioned that my nephew is my inspiration, and any time that i am frustrated, i remind myself what he would give to be walking in my shoes and that was as big as his problem would be for the day. like your friend’s cut in the finger, i am suddenly all but floating and no longer overwhelmed… he inspires me every day of my life.

    you and my nephew are teaching us so many wonderful lessons. one is to never take good health for granted, and one is to remember that no matter how tall that mountain, we get there one step at a time, even if we have to crawl (cristina’s world) or drag ourselves to our goals.

    you are also teaching us to not to give up, but to be proactive and positive and not let this beat you. you are our heroes, and i mean that.

    keep shining, and yes, keep imagining yourself walking -leaping over that mountain!
    lisa/z

    • Great words Liz. Thank you. That mountain you describe just sometimes seems so large and overwhelming, like I can’t even see the top of it. But it’s words like yours and my friends that help me through and keep me motivated. I will never give up, I just refuse to accept a life without walking and standing and running so I have no choice but to keep at it and climb that mountain one step at a time. Great to hear from you -AB

  4. Despite the fact that none of us want to be in your shoes, and that none of us want YOU to be in your SCI shoes, the one thing that you will keep with you forever is that you’ve lived two lives. One as a whole and healthy man (which with your attitude, you will attain once again), and the other as a SCI victim.

    This gives you a unique perspective on life that the vast majority do not have.

    As your friend says, you will go on to succeed, but what will make you an even greater success is the knowledge and empathy you will take with you into the future. It is a rare privilege to know more than one life and to be able to carry that forward. To know the extreme sorrows and the extreme joys. Your heart is like no other!

    And it is a rare privilege to get to know you if only through your blog.

    Said the Gringa with the paper cut. (tell your friend thanks for the paper cut comparisson, and the other for the 2% … I really like the 2% breakdown … hang in there honey YOU are awesome!)

    • I really enjoyed reading your comment. I hadn’t thought of it this way. I had thought of two lives but not how you described it and not that I could be learning a lifetime (or two) worth of lessons in the time I’ve spent on this planet. I do think a lot about how much perspective and knowledge I’ll have following this accident and how I will live my life knowing the things I know now, but all of it depends on me getting over this and actually recovering from this situation. Thanks for sharing your words with me -AB

  5. We all have our moments of doubts, they are part of life’s realities…on the other hand that is what makes us stronger…the time needed to mull over stuff, ponder, a way of recharging our batteries if you want.
    Without that our lives wouldn’t have that flavor we are constantly searching to enhance it. I admit it can be a very bleak, frustrating and discouraging moment but then it is what gives us the possibility to be in unison with our minds and soul as an aftermath.
    But with the will you display you can only go up.

    • I agree with you. Although the dark days are really hard, I do think that they provide something important and give me reason to keep fighting. Everyone tells me that it’s natural that I have low moments and while that’s true, those moments are still very difficult to deal with. But you’re right, I think it’s a matter of recognizing those moments and moving past them positively. -AB

      • I really identify with what’s being said here. Recently, I had a great discussion with my doctor about my triggers. Realizing and admitting I’m stuck in these unhelpful loops of thought is so important. Then, she says, DISTRACT myself. But I know, in the moment, way easier to get conceptually than put into practice. But hey, that’s my current “homework” I’ve got going on πŸ™‚ And yes, so true, a person’s WILL is key. No matter the outcome, as the intricacies of the future are many, the transformation the dark days will have on your brighter ones makes it worth it. No doubt at all~!~!

  6. What wonderful people you have in your life – you are truly blessed to have that support and love crossing your path! It is amazing how the Universe sends you what you need, when you need it most! Sending good energy your way!

  7. A wonderful post dear Arash! Yes sometimes it’s just the little things someone says in passing conversation that helps shed light and give perspective – that inspires. Every moment feels like eternity when we are hungry to achieve our goals…but time is so relative… and we need to always remember this. Thankfully we can connect and inspire each other this way… I confess, YOU have been one person who I reflect upon often for my own personal inspiration. Your courage and determination is magnificent. Never forget this as you face the darker days – and always know there is light just around your corner. x Much Love, Robyn

    • Thank you Robyn. Funny you say that about me because I think of you often too during my recovery and during some challenging moments. Time IS relative and it is a construct of sorts. I keep thinking, if the year mark is so important to some doctors, then how could they explain that people have been known to improve years after this accident?? I mean, it’s not like the body has some magical clock that heals and improves for 365 days and then on the 366th day, just gives up and says it’s done. I have to keep this in mind although it really tests my patience with this injury. I just want to get better already, NOW, but I can’t control that. Neither can you with your healing. But we keep fighting… Much love Robyn -AB

  8. Arash, I just heard about your injury from Kristen Jentzen or i would have reached out sooner. I am moved, humbled,and inspired by your positive attitude and insightful posts.
    I want to come over to Berkeley and take you out to lunch or dinner or just visit. Let me know what would work for you.

    Thinking healing thoughts for you.

    Warmly,
    Your friend and (favorite) prof πŸ™‚ Leslie

  9. Sometimes daily progress is hard to see changes… But look over the longer time frame and its there. Just like I don’t notice my kids growing… But everyone else comments… I see them every day. But friends and family less often… They notice it… Keep blogging… Blogging your progresses over time it will get bigger…. πŸ™‚ oh! Don’t worry about what doctors say… I believe they give the worst case senerio… Then we appreciate the progress so much more and fight harder to prove them wrong!!! πŸ™‚

    • Totally agree with you. Someone else described it as being able to see the forest through the trees. The day to day is tough to see, much like you describe with your kids growing. When I look back, I DO see the improvements and they’re crystal clear. I just have to keep at it and hope that the progress continues forward -AB

  10. Read The Secret. BELIEVE you will walk. I am praying and rooting for you. Saw the video about the Exo device!! It is about damned time.

  11. After reading your blog (found through Upworthy) I have found an unexpected calm that has eased my spirit. It’s obvious to say you’ve inspired so many with your will and commitment and attitude. But for me, more than just inspired, you’ve renewed my belief in humanity. That seems extreme, but in my world, people of substance seem like a dying breed. You had something unfair and challenging and devastating happen to you. And I am very sorry for that. I wish that I hadn’t received this renewal of spirit at your expense. But I am grateful regardless. It’s perspective and willpower that I struggle with most often. Knowing that you, a mere human, are facing this challenge with such strength and determination will carry me through. And your friend’s 2% rule will become a fixture in my everyday life. Thank you for sharing and for your honesty and power. I’m a fan. πŸ™‚

    • What a great comment to read. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I know what you mean about restoring your faith in humanity and people of substance. Just know that there are some of us out there fighting the good fight, thanks to the support of those like you -AB

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