“A Gradual Awakening.”

“When you accept hell, it’s not hell any more. Hell is resistance. Suffering is resistance to what is: non-acceptance. When you can accept discomfort, doing so allows a balance of mind. That surrender, that letting go of wanting anything to be other than it is right in the moment, is what frees us from hell.”

Stephen Levine, “A Gradual Awakening”

Very few people have any idea of just how strong they are until they are forced to be. The vast majority of us don’t realize how much strength and resilience is hiding, dormant, inside of us, surfacing only on occasion for passing moments of stress or tension, until something big arises that wakes it up and makes it as familiar to us as the back of our own hand. Our strength is as much a part of us as our humor or intelligence; as integral to our makeup as our values and beliefs, whether we’ve grown to know it and accept it yet or not.

One of the many side effects of a near-death experience is that your ability to filter the things that really matter from the ones that don’t increases drastically. Things that used to be hazy shades of grey become stark black and whites. Situations that seemed all-encompassing suddenly hold much less weight. There’s an unspoken superpower in “the worst” of your particular situation having already happened – it enables you to see more clearly. But, when you’re going through one of life’s more difficult chapters, there’s never a clear-cut moment when you finally turn the page and begin writing whatever comes next. Coming out the other side feels a lot like watching the sunrise. You can stare at the sky, unblinking, and see the colours change and light bloom right before your eyes, yet there is never a single, exact moment when you can point at it and say, “Look, now it is day.”

I feel like we get caught up in thinking that our “real” life is always just about to begin, that our next chapter, the one where “things get good”, is always just around the corner. When we’re in an in-between phase, it can feel like we’re constantly waiting for reality to start. The thing is, life doesn’t actually begin once everything is aligned perfectly in the precise way in which we’ve always envisioned it – it’s happening right now.

I’ve had my own fair share of dissociation from day to day these past few months. Times when I have moved from mobility exercises to treatment tables without ever engaging in eye contact, conversation, or any amount of connection with anyone other than my assigned technician for that day. Moments when I’ve become so frustrated by all the things I can not do, that I have refused to appreciate all the things I can. Days when, in between spine treatments and P.T., I’ve zoned out on the couch, with ice packs on my back, “NetFlix & Chilling” the hours away. Hours that, in reality, I could have spent walking or hiking, stretching or practicing yoga – embracing the movements and activities that I can do, rather than mourning the absence of running all the miles. If this is where you find yourself now, amidst the hazy unfolding of your own life’s course, I want you to know that it’s okay.

It’s okay to not be over something you thought you should be over by now. It’s okay to be angry at the things that hurt you. They hurt because they changed you, and you’re allowed to grieve that change. You’re allowed to miss who you were before it all occurred. You’re allowed to move forward but still wish it didn’t happen. And, when you’re ready, it’s okay to also move on – to step forward in whatever way you possibly can.

Don’t let the storm limit what you can see. Light is bound to appear again. These heavy feelings are but a short note in the history of your life. It’s easy to forget the depth of your power when everything feels tough – but tough moments are common just before a breakthrough or great victory. Lean on the fact that you are more than a survivor. You are more than your past. You are more than what hurts – you are everything that’s healed. You are a hero that is ready to emerge. Your transformation will inspire others to do the hard things that they need to do. So, even if this moment is a struggle, keep moving forward.

Don’t let fear stop you from listening to your inner calling. Don’t let an unclear path discourage you from taking those first few steps into the unknown. The greatest YOU arises when you gently start embracing the space beyond your comfort zone. You don’t need to have all of the answers right now to eventually be successful. You just need to be willing to take the very next step. Embrace the challenge, one step at a time. Remember how strong you are and how much you’ve already overcome. You don’t need to move fast – even moving slowly can get you where you want to go.

The time in between where you are now and where you want to be isn’t just a filler chapter, it’s your real story. It’s your life. Don’t push your current happiness aside in pursuit of a future one. Don’t live your life waiting for a feeling that will never truly fulfill you or complete you. Don’t let yourself spend your days constantly climbing and searching, only to get to the top of your mountain, look around apathetically and ask, “Now what?”

If this injurious journey has taught me one single thing, it’s that your joy in life is mainly based on one thing, and that’s perspective.

There’s a big difference between whether I see my skydiving accident as something I’m lucky to have survived or something that is unlucky for having happened in the first place. Whether I’m thankful that I landed on grass or resent not landing on my feet. Whether I am grateful for being able to walk or am angry that I can not yet begin to run.

In all honesty, I don’t really know the exact moment when my darkness began to morph into light, or if I’m even fully there yet? It really doesn’t matter. I don’t need some magical, pivotal moment to tell me that I’ve arrived, to nudge me forward or tell me to move on and begin the rest of my life, because I’ve already begun living it. I feel like a completely different person to the girl I was back then – even before the flying became falling and the pretty landscape became a painful landing pad.

Instead of looking back and wishing things were different, instead of looking forward and hoping for things to change, I’m doing my best to simply look around. I ask myself, “What magic is hiding in the corners of this world that I simply can not see right now? Where do I need to squint a little harder and focus a little more energy? What beauty is right in front of me, in this exact moment of my life, as this exact version of myself?” …because what we find here is what can fill us up. It isn’t something we might one day have – it’s everything we already have. It’s being right here, right now, embracing every step of the process, and knowing that I am exactly where I need to be.


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