Twelve years ago today my life changed forever. A quick recap goes like this; I was a passenger in a vehicle that rolled on an interstate, I was ejected at 75 miles per hour and lay busted, broken, and for a moment, dead in a ditch. Life returned to me after a Paradise experience and the long road of recovery commenced. The list of injuries is long, many of which should have put me permanently six feet under. My neck was badly broken required the fusion of three vertebrae. The right shoulder and humerus suffered six fractures. I experienced an open-book pelvic fracture and my sacrum was in three pieces. Adding insult to injury were a concussion and several broken ribs. Still, here I am, taking nourishment and living life.
Daily existence has both its joys and struggles. Many physical capabilities and some activities are distant memories. Pain is a constant companion, and the emotional and spiritual highways bring dips and climbs and uncertain corners. I’ve learned much these twelve years about myself, the world and others. Here’s a list of twelve learning curves my experience brings me.
- Let people love you. This sounds simple enough, yet we humans, while craving love and care so often don’t want to need it. We’d rather not have attention which points our weakness or need. It takes an admission of our brokenness to allow someone to love and care for us. Let them. They need it. You need it. You’d do the same for them.
- Some people are stupid; love them anyway. Through this experience I’ve heard nearly all the well-intended dumb comments people make. From, “God intended this,” to, “here’s the invalid,” to, “so glad you’re 100%,” the words are meant to be helpful. Even if they’re idiotic. Well, so what? Deal with it and be thankful for the intended love.
- Pain heals. I can truly say I know what full on, total and utter pain is. Much of it improves. Similar to a loss, the sharp sting slowly fades but scars and the dregs of injury remain. Often we think we should just ‘get over’ difficult experiences. I don’t think it works that way. We learn to live with the experiences which make us who we are.
- Pain endures. Just as pain heals, it also endures. For myself, the lasting effects of injury arise all day, every day. Pain is my invisible and constant companion, the only variance is severity. What does one do? You go about those things that can alleviate some of the pain, and try to avoid what makes it worse. When that fails, you give thanks for all that is still good in your life.
- You don’t always know another’s experience, even if you think you do. Sometimes we make assumptions about others based on very little information. Yes, to ass-u-me is to make an ass out of u and me. Don’t do it. Listen carefully for the clues which may indicate what is truly going on in another’s life.
- Celebrate. Life is so short and can be gone in the twinkling of an eye. Take time to celebrate something each and every day. Big parties, small gatherings, and quiet moments to offer thanks are all ways to celebrate life. Grab every occasion to celebration and gratitude.
- Dark times come; light always wins. To this day I still experience some very dark days, even some when I wish I would have simply stayed dead in that ditch. It sure would have been easier. That darkness is horrible and really sucks life out of a person. Through it all I remain a person of hope, for it is one of the very few things stronger than fear. If darkness surrounds you, hang in there. The light will come. I am living proof of this.
- Medical personnel are heroes. One cannot say enough about those who serve for the healing of other. Doctors, nurses, therapists, and techs are extremely gifted people. Sure, there are a few rotten eggs out there, but give thanks for those whose toil is tireless so that health is restored.
- People have goodness within them. A myriad of individuals and communities proved this to me. People stopped along the side of the road to assist and comfort at the accident site. Countless people showed encouragement and love through cards, letters, emails, gifts. The number who prayed for me is immeasurable. These are humbling thoughts but also evidence of humanity’s goodness. Look for it in all your encounters. It is better and more gracious than assuming the worst.
- Get up, dress up, show up. This one is difficult. My physical pain is considerable each morning, and simply arising is a chore. The alternative, however, is bleak. I decided long ago that I could not slip into the abyss and merely become a spectator of life, not a participant. Daily, a conscious decision is made to engage life. There are people whom I need, some who need me and a whole world to experience.
- Life gets redefined; live into it. No one’s life is exactly as we planned one, two, five, ten, twenty years ago. That’s part of the wonder and excitement. So many times in this journey I’ve heard the word, “normal,” as in, “You look so normal,” or, “Glad things are back to normal.” I assure you, there’s nothing normal about this journey. If anything, we define a new-normal. We could gripe and moan about how things should be, how they were supposed to be. What good does it do? Our lives are as they are from a culmination of life experiences. Change what you can, accept what must be accepted, live into today.
- I have so much more to learn. This is probably the most important lesson of all. It would be wonderful to say I learned the above lessons so well that I carry out each one to be perfection. It would also be a lie. Regularly, I fail miserably at living out the lessons learned. That is an important part of life. If one realizes this there is great freedom to dust off your boots and get back at the business of living. We never know what may come our way. Learning a thing or two along the way grants and open road of a full, rich, and abundant life.
I think I’ll take the ride.