My name is Lyena Strelkoff. I live in the Los Angeles area with my husband, Dean, our one-year old son, Aidan, and my service dog, Reba. I’m a speaker, writer and performer, more or less in that order, and I LOVE my job. I also love cooking and eating gourmet health food (no, not an oxymoron), listening to funky female power pop, and dancing my heart out.
I’m also paraplegic. In 2002, I fell 25 feet from a tree and broke my back. Everything I do, I do from a wheelchair. That makes my life challenging sometimes, but it doesn’t define it and it certainly doesn’t ruin it. Incidentally, I don’t believe it makes me a hero either. What I am is a woman creating, working, loving, mothering, learning, laughing and growing, in the context of disability. I’m happy to say it’s a wildly satisfying life – wickedly hilarious, sometimes stupidly hard, mundane and beautiful, and, well, pretty much everything in between.
I make my living telling transformational true stories that help people make the most of their lives. It started shortly after my accident, a few months after I got out of the hospital. I discovered then that people didn’t see me correctly. They both over- and underestimated my abilities and generally misunderstood spinal cord injury. It left me feeling isolated and lonely. It wasn’t their fault, of course. No one had ever told them what it was really like. But that was something I could change.
I was also really eager to share the amazing lessons I was learning. Hitting the ground was an impact adjustment for my life. I’d been plagued by anxiety and depression before the fall, but catastrophic loss transformed me utterly. My new path was so rich with wonder and wisdom, I had to share it.
It began with an informal afternoon of storytelling called Road to Recovery. I meant to educate, entertain and maybe inspire a small group of family and friends. But something more powerful happened. To my surprise, sharing tales of transformation was transformational for my audience. That moved me to create a full-length, autobiographical, one woman play called, Caterpillar Soup.
Caterpillar Soup was supposed to run for three weekends but got extended to six months, and shortly after, I began touring nationally. Then universities and organizations started seeking me as a motivational speaker. Turns out, when you make your experience artfully transparent, warts and wonder both, people see not only you but themselves in new ways, and magical things happen.
It’s an extraordinary thing to be with people in that way. And I’ve often felt, after a live event, the desire to extend the experience. So, in addition to sharing my stories as a speaker and performer, I’ve started this blog to expand the opportunity for magic. My hope is that it will be a place to laugh, learn, heal and grow together. Because, ultimately, it’s not about the chair, or any other obstacle we might face. It’s about the choices we make, the spirit we bring, and helping each other thrive. I’m so glad you’re here.