“I’m sorry if this sounds harsh, but no one, including time, owes anything to you. Your life is a series of habits that are formed from choices you make and then continue to make every single day. If you want healing, then you have got to figure out a way to face what hurt you. If you want growth, you need to put in the work. If you want a healthier relationship, you better start learning how to communicate what you need. We all think we’re products of what happens to us. That we’re handed the lives we have and expected to keep them. We’re not. What happens to us is simply a starting point. So your choice, the one you re-make every single day, is to let what happened to you hold you back or to use what happened for you to propel you forward.”Emma Grace
It occurred to me yesterday, as I was talking with a few other patients at my disc regeneration treatment, that we often look at people who have overcome adversity and assume that from day one they chose to fight. We put them on a pedestal made up of unattainable levels of strength and resilience, and assume they possess something that we don’t. I’ve found that’s not actually true at all. For every person we look up to, there was a time before things were good, before there was anything to be inspired by, before there was a story worth telling – there was a time when things were just plain shit. Before every pain that transformed itself into a lesson, there was, first and foremost, only pain.
From the exact moment when I hit the ground on that sunny Saturday in June and felt the pain ricochet through my body, I had known that this was going to be major – but I never thought it might be permanent. The brutality of this truth has been too much to comprehend. I had been clinging to some glimmer of hope that this was temporary – just a glitch in my summer, but not in my LIFE. I’d completely underestimated the severity of the situation, and I couldn’t imagine ever accepting it.
Sometimes life throws us challenges we never saw coming. There are moments when we are brought to our knees with the insufferable prospect of having to carry on in a new reality, one we always knew was possible, but never what we intended for or ever even thought would occur. Regardless of how unpredictable these moments are, one thing is for certain: we are capable of adapting to them. We might think we can’t live with or without something, but we can. We might think that something is impossible to overcome or that we will never come to terms with it, but we will. And we might think something will break us but, time and time again, we discover that it won’t.
It’s kind of a hard concept to explain, but I’m going to try anyway.
It’s comforting to believe that we can assess a risk and act accordingly rather than acknowledge the reality that we can never truly prepare for or avoid the moments that will ultimately shape us. The fears that keep us up at night are very rarely the things that ever actually occur; our real problems are more likely to be the ones we could never, in all our wildest fretting, have dreamt up – ones that shock the air out of your lungs on an unsuspecting Thursday when you’re finishing up at work, texting your husband to get dinner started because you’ve bought a pair of tickets and made plans for the two of you this evening. That bittersweet moment when everything was going just right – but then, suddenly, it all just goes so terribly wrong.
Over the course of the past year and a half, I could feel myself moving tangibly through the denial stage of my injuries and grief and into whatever came next. Suddenly, without any effort on my part, I understood with newfound clarity that what happened, really just happened. There was no rhyme or reason to it. There was no explaining it or wishing it away. It simply happened and it couldn’t be undone. Instead of this information feeling jarring, it felt freeing. The accident was something I didn’t ask for or intend, but it was also something I could never reverse. If there was nothing I could do about it, there really wasn’t much use in spending all of my energy praying for the clock to spin backwards. It was time to move forward.
There’s an inexplicable freedom at rock bottom that you can’t possibly imagine while you’re on your way down. As you’re falling, you’re scrambling to grab on to any remnant of the world you used to know, becoming more and more frantic as it moves further and further out of your reach. Perhaps one of life’s greatest ironies is that it’s only once you’ve hit the ground that you can embrace the solidity of where you land. I imagine we would all be a whole lot more accepting of change if we knew this to be true.
Sometimes life leads you down a road you don’t want to go. It might be dark, it might be uncomfortable, it might be painful – and none of that can be taken away. But, if you’re really lucky, there might be something else down that road too. There might be something that doesn’t take away the hurt, but makes you feel okay for having endured it. There might be something or someone you stumble upon that makes you look back at the formidable road, stare at it in all its unspeakable glory, take a deep breath in and whisper, “You were so worth travelling down!”
I’m not saying that I think we need to find a deeper meaning in every difficult thing that we go through. I’m well aware that sometimes things are just hard without reason or merit. But I have to admit that, sometimes, it’s nice to find some kind of meaning behind it all. Sometimes it helps to heal a part of yourself that you didn’t even realize was still hurting. Sometimes it’s liberating to find purpose in the painful parts of your story so that you can see them through gratitude-tinted lenses. Sometimes it’s nice to look back and say, “Yeah, that really sucked – but look at where it got me!”