After we hung up, I spent a long time going over our conversation in my mind. I thought of my disappointment: no matter the extent of my effort, I didn’t make as much progress as I expected. I envisioned I would still be needing help years ahead. Yet every day I woke up and followed the planned routine. Was I impatient? Was I setting high standards for myself? Was Eric right in that I always beat myself up? Were my nurse aids right in that I was too hard on myself? My older brother had once told me that after I described the progress I’d made I would always add, “but.” And it was true. When my friends are happy to see me balance or walk with Eric’s help, I think, “But more than two years have gone by.” When Eric says I’ve made a lot of progress, I mentally disagree. And when he and my nurse aid get excited about the increase in my arm movements, I wonder about the cause of their excitement.
The issue, then, lies on the definition of “progress.” Maybe I should lower my standards. Maybe I should stop adding, “but.” Maybe I should enjoy my improvements instead of pointing at my lack thereof. Maybe if I changed my definition, I would believe that my persistent efforts would make me reach the end. Maybe I should replace skepticism with faith.