One time several years ago, while we were walking in a grocery store, someone approached my family to ask about my injury. When she heard that it was paralysis and then recovered from the shock of realizing how serious that was, she smiled encouragingly.
"Keep it up," she said. "That's some determination."
After she had walked away, my father laughed. "There's a fine line between desperation and determination," he remarked.
The woman's kind words and my father's response have stuck with me. It's true: life with a spinal cord injury can sometimes seem pretty desperate. It's often a battle, which is one reason why setting goals and staying motivated are extremely important.
At times, that line between desperation and determination does become very fine. How to tell the two apart? I don't take much time to think about it. But I do have to laugh about the distinction again today. This winter, after years of waiting, I've finally gotten to something that I have been determined to try: using a treadmill.
As you can see in the video, it's not conventional. Yet it's walking — and more importantly, it's working. I don't think that I could have done this last year. Almost seven years in, and seeing progress? Yes, and I am thankful for it. This newest exercise is another promising, hopeful step forward.
Still, there is a vital difference between desperation and determination. The word "desperate" is derived from the Latin word desperatus, from the verb despero: "to despair," "to lose hope," "to give up," and "to be hopeless." If you are desperate, you are in despair. You have no hope. Determination, on the other hand, comes from the Latin verb determino: "to bound" or "to limit." To determine means to set a limit and to fix a boundary: metaphorically, to resolve on reaching a goal, or to be firmly decided about something. Broadly, determination is about resolution and direction. Desperation involves giving up and feeling like you have no hope. Determination involves giving direction and keeping hope. Personally, I find my hope in Jesus Christ, and that helps me move toward a bigger goal than what I can see.
For now, I hope that this video update encourages you (and maybe gives you ideas for working out if you have the ability, especially if you, too, are constantly recovering or maintaining your health with physical therapy). Reaching goals may not always look conventional, and might take time and creativity. I don't know what the next day holds — and have had some huge setbacks along the way — but walking on a treadmill is a pretty big deal when you were told you would never be able to walk again at all. Never give up.