Total Recovery

Last night, after navigating through snowbanks and traffic, I arrived at OJ’s. While sifting through some books, my mind conjured up the memory of a book OJ brought while I was still in the hospital – and the mantra that we adopted and have shared these past months as our own.

Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul is part of the wildly successful, multi-book series produced by Jack Canfield. Some segments of the inspirational stories in this volume rang true, but it was the tale written by the African-American author and poet Maya Angelou that most struck a chord.

I don’t recall the name of Angelou’s story, but in it she recounts the experience of visiting her son, Guy, in a hospital as he battled illness. It was undoubtedly painful for her to see her son suffer. But, from what I recall, Angelou held the fervent belief that her son would pull through, pinning it all on a two-word phrase that she repeatedly intoned to herself: Total Recovery. She would recite it over and over as she walked the hospital hallways. It was an ever-present thought in her mind, helping to guide her through the darkest moments and unspeakable fears.

And so, OJ and I embraced Angelou’s phrase as our own. Despite its Hollywood-esque overtones (see Daniel Craig in the latest James Bond epic, titled Total Recovery! or … be among the first to catch the release of Angelina Jolie’s new thriller, called Total Recovery!), we embraced the slogan with gusto. Even today, in emails and letters, cards and phone calls, we discuss healing in the only way possible – with positivity. We regularly invoke those two words – even if one of us is feeling under the weather with the sniffles. We are joined, as we often are, in a unity of thinking, placing our trust in the knowledge that I will reach Total Recovery. In fact, OJ takes pleasure in extending her creativity to witty slogans like: “Total Recovery… in peace and love” or, as she wrote in a note taped to my mirror, “To Total Recovery… and beyond.”

And yet. What does total recovery actually mean? Should I define it by whether I return to my pre-accident level of physical activity? Does total recovery refer only to my physical state, or is there something else, something more at stake? Does it mean that I will strive for the optimal outcome and live with what may come? Then again, how will I even gauge whether I’ve reached total recovery? Is there any guarantee of an endgame; will I wake one morning, gasping at the realization that I’m quite suddenly back to myself?

Perhaps there is no finish line in this marathon of motion – and emotion; rather, recovery may just be a matter of perseverance, dogged determination come what may, to just keep going, improving, moving beyond what I see is possible today. Perhaps it’s just a life-long journey of healing my body to a state of wholeness – however that might be defined.

Maybe it’s a matter of cultivating one’s glass-half-fulness

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