​New Year: From Opportunities to Accomplishments

Posted by Howard Menaker in Life After Paralysis on January 10, 2022 # Lifestyle

Howard standing and wearing a mask.A new year brings new opportunities, new challenges and new ideas.

2021 certainly had more than its share of bad news and setbacks. Just as we thought we were emerging from the coronavirus pandemic, we were hit by variants, more severe and more transmissible than the original strain. But hopefully, for many of us, the year also held its successes and accomplishments. Did you move your foot for the first time since your injury? Did you stand again and feel the weight of your body return through your legs? Were you more able to lift items, feed yourself, or just scratch your nose? Any of these, or any similar milestones, should be remembered, cherished and celebrated.

What will 2022 hold? As recent history has taught us, forecasting the future is a fool’s errand. One of my favorite expressions is, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans.” No matter what we predict or plan, we are guaranteed to be faced with outcomes far different than what we had expected.

But we do know this: with hard work, with an optimistic view to the future, with the support of loved ones, and with help from talented and caring health care professionals, we CAN have a good year. Our spinal cord injuries are no doubt the greatest challenges we have ever faced. But we know they are not a sentence to an unfulfilled life, not a promise of doom and gloom. Recovery and resuming the activities we love are not easy. It is hard work. But I can tell you from my own experience that it is worth all the effort.

Almost every year, we make New Year’s resolutions, even knowing that the odds are we will break them all before February. But even with that knowledge, making resolutions is a valuable exercise to begin the year. Decide what is important to you, find what gives you reward and joy, and make those your priority. With a spinal cord injury, everyday activities often take more time than we had expected or more effort than they did before our injury. So, decide each day what is really important to you. Don’t try to “have it all” or meet the expectations of others.

Howard and his husband at a restaurant next to a marinaYour priorities are what count. If you want to work on your physical recovery, find a good physical therapist and commit to working with them. If you want to broaden your mind, make a list of books you want to read or listen to and tackle them one by one. With the endless offerings of the Internet, we have many more options than our physical limitations would at first seem to dictate. We can go to virtual art exhibitions, see and hear concerts online or even experience entire Broadway musicals. We can enjoy happy hour with friends across the country via Zoom. We can take courses online from some of the most brilliant educators and take master classes from the most talented people in their professional fields. And the list goes on.

And that is the greatest lesson of 2021: despite the pandemic and despite our injuries, a myriad of opportunities and options are ahead of us. We just have to resolve to take those opportunities and turn them into accomplishments. We know there will be disappointments and hard moments throughout the year, but with the right mindset and our own fortitude, we will look back fondly on 2022 and what we were each able to accomplish.

Howard Menaker is a retired communications and public affairs executive, with over 30 years of experience in international corporations and trade associations. Previously, he worked as an attorney, specializing in civil litigation. He now devotes much of his time serving on non-profit boards of directors, including a prominent theater company and a historic house museum in the Washington, DC area. He and his husband split their time between Washington and Rehoboth Beach, DE.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.