Oct 4, 2013 — 1:08 AM
In my spiritual tradition, fall marks the harvest season…. A time to consciously take stock of everything life has brought in the previous year. In my personal practice, the wholeness of that honoring is important. I include not just things I consider “good,” but everything I’ve experienced, be it sadness, struggle, pain or loss. To me, it’s all valuable, all part of the bounty. And it all deserves a place at the table.
Among the many things I’m harvesting this fall is eleven years of paralysis… today. It was Friday, October 4, 2002 when a seemingly inconsequential branch of a tree in which I was standing broke, causing me to fall 25 feet and break my back. (So much for inconsequential.)
Over the years, the anniversary has been many things from a day of exuberant joy to one of dark sadness to life as usual without hardly a nod. I have truly no idea what to expect this year.
The fact that my experience of this anniversary consciously began just minutes after midnight is, I think, an interesting indicator. We’re an hour into Oct. 4 and I can’t sleep. I wish I had a clue what exactly was being indicated. Right now, the only thing I know is that this will be the longest anniversary I’ve ever experienced. I’m really quite curious to see what unfolds.
I will say I have some desires for what unfolds. I’ve been deep in a transformative cycle the last few months, brought on by the tumor on my brain. This pass through the cocoon parallels the last one, when I was first paralyzed, in fascinating (and annoying!) ways. And just like last time, it has caused me to question my mission on this planet and just exactly how I’m fulfilling that mission.
I’ve been sitting in the question for a long time it seems, listening to the wind blow through this mostly empty place. I’d really love it if today brought Clarity — yes, with a capital “C” — wrapped real special in a nice, tidy bow. I’m talking about whole caboodle, no ambiguity, absent of doubt clarity… Do you think that’s possible?
The other thing I’d like is integration.
I’ve been working on that for so long, in so many different ways. And I feel, these days, poised like I have never been before to actually achieve it. Imagine all the loose, lonely strands of your existence effortlessly weaving together into a most magnificent manifestation of you, fully actualized and empowered to serve this world and everyone in it. Your bright, shiny light radiating at full wattage for the good of all. Do you know how excited that makes me? The idea of all of us walking around like that? Boy, that’s the world I want to live in. And it’s been my journey for a long time. I know such things don’t usually arrive in a single day with a crack of lightning and a good poop, but I sense that I’m coming full circle and I’d be very happy to arrive.
I’d also be very happy to sleep right now. So at nearly 2 AM, I’m turning this anniversary over to my subconscious. I’ll let you know how things go.
I did, in fact, sleep and woke to a certain hopefulness if, for no other reason, than I would finally get to see what this day brings. The first gift (in the first moments of my day) was a big outpouring of love from my Facebook family reflecting back some of the light I’ve shined over the years.
It is always super encouraging and deeply healing for me when that happens. It reminds me of the moment in my wedding when I entered the room, my mother and father holding each of my hands, and our 100 guests rose to their feet. Seeing the look on their faces as we came down the aisle, there was simply no denying that I (and Dean) are loved. Whatever voices in my head, whatever echoes from the dark chasm of patterned belief could not, despite their might, drown out the silent love gushing all over the floor. So, too, this morning. I was reminded that I am loved, lovable, and that I am, indeed, doing good.
Then it was meditation, a tiny bit of work, attending to my body, and getting “attacked” by my son and husband — always a delight if, occasionally, bruising. Then finally I was off to the one thing I had planned for the day… A visit to my newly favorite wild space, Franklin Canyon.
Driving over, my heart was pounding so hard I actually had to pull over. I can’t even remember what triggered it, but I think the sheer potency of this day, this particular anniversary, coming as it is in the middle of my tumor saga, laden with potential and nicely sprinkled with the desires I named at 1 this morning, was a little more than my nervous system could handle.
After many big breaths and some time intentionally meeting my nervousness, I was back on the road, though the first 15 or so minutes in the park were again very intense.
So what happened in the company of the squirrels and trees? Well for one thing, I started taking stock of the last eleven years.
Eleven years is a fairly long time so you’d expect the list to be long, and it was. But what impressed me more than the sweeping life experience and the numerous accomplishments was the distance between my pre- and post-injury selves.
Before I hit the ground, I was frequently depressed, sometimes for years at a time. I was mostly dreaming my dreams without actually experiencing them. I was afraid to take certain key risks. (One might say I was paralyzed.) I was cleverly and consistently resisting love (while often bemoaning my lack of partner and family). True, I’d never broken a bone and yes, I had perfect control of my bladder, both changed by the fall, but I was kind of a mess.
Compare that to my post-injury self. Deeply in love and married to a great guy. Mama to a shockingly fabulous son. Published writer, nationally touring storyteller, successful speaker and coach. Multiple professional dreams fulfilled living a life of service. And it all happened after I was paralyzed.
As unlikely as it sounds, paralysis taught me how to live…. a shiny, radiant, purposeful life.
I remember a conversation I had early on with my mother. I was sharing some lovely feedback I’d received from people touched by my story, and commenting that life can be truly wonderful even in the company of great challenge. And my mother said, “Yes, but how?”
I didn’t have an answer. In fact, the question itself sort of shocked me. It’s not like I exactly set out to have a wonderful life post-injury. It seemed like it was just happening.
But, of course, that wasn’t true. I was making choices, flexing certain muscles. I was developing new ways of engaging with my life, in large part because I had to. And something miraculous was happening. In the midst of the madness and the WHOPPING big loss, I was learning how to succeed. I was living into my potential, turning my life around, and making it everything I wanted it to be. And it was stunning and golden… and no one was more surprised than I.
In the woods today, the voice in my head was clear: “It’s true, you know how to do that stuff… Isn’t it time you taught others?”
Now to be fair, those lessons are embedded in every story I tell, so it’s not like I haven’t been teaching others. But this was a call to greater intention and, in some ways, a challenge to claim ever more fiercely the road I’ve travelled and the place I now sit.
Of course being me, I quickly started asking questions, most specifically about next steps. And then I got piss-y when no answer came.
Always impeccably calm, the voice in my head finally said, “You don’t want to know your next step. You want to know everything. Who to call, what to do when, when to wait…. You want your entire future mapped out and detailed with dates, times, color-coding, and a day-by-day diary explaining the ultimate outcome of your every move.”
“YES!!! YES!!!” I yelled. “That’s it exactly! Capital “C,” whole caboodle, gift wrapped, big bow!”
But the jig was up. And I couldn’t help but laugh.
As I packed up to leave, the voice was clear again: “You know your next step. Go home and write the anniversary post.”
OK. I could do that.
Having now mostly done it, I’m not exactly sure what I’m claiming here, but I expect there is going to be a slight shift in my work. I don’t think it will seem very big to you all, but for me, it will reverberate like a giant gong struck against my back. I think that’s the sound of integration.
Driving home to my computer to write, my heart started to pound again, as if I could feel the gong being brought into the room and placed behind me. I flipped on the radio and there was Diana Ross, belting in her whispy voice, ”I’m coming out! I want the world to know. Got to let it show.” Joyful, belly laughs rolled out of me. And what really cracked me up is that I hate that song. I’ve always hated that song. It came out when I was in 7th grade and I remember thinking then that it was inane drivel.
“Very funny,” I told the voice in my head.
I could practically hear her snickering back.