Strength and Freedom

A heavy snow is falling on Yellowstone right now and it feels so silent, like secrets are being told and no one is whispering.

More than once a day I wonder if my choice to be on the road, alone, traveling to places that all hold some element of danger, just as crossing a city street might, is the right one. I wonder about this because of the loneliness, the lack of proper camera equipment with which to adequately capture the scenes and the money struggles that make every day a challenge.

And then a tragedy, such as Newtown, occurs and I read a story about a couple struggling with divorce and when he finally comes to his senses and decides to stay with her, she dies from cancer without ever revealing her illness.

Life is short and as I always say, there is no way to know which day will be the last.

Time and again I go back to the moment when I realized that my life was not supposed to look like that of the average American – the “norm,” with the expectations of what and who we are supposed to be. I had searched for that normalcy my entire life – I craved being like everyone else with a good education, job, house, family and vacations but those things were not coming my way. Life was different for me – I had those things but they always disappeared.

And then the injuries began, each more debilitating than the last. Over the years a loss of everything, despite my constant scraping and focus on once again becoming a “productive member of society.” I couldn’t stand what was happening to me, couldn’t stand who and what I was. I only saw failure.

With each new injury, or re-injury, and surgery I remarked, maybe now is the time to begin following my heart, before I can no longer walk. My remark was more of a quip – snide and sassy – as my stubborn mind still believed it possible to beat this thing and become normal.

And then there was that day back in ’06 when I lay all alone in a hospital bed. There was an infection in my spine, caused by a third laminectomy on the same disc.

Unknown to me the hospital had advised my dog sitter, when he called to find out when I would be coming to get my dog, that if he wanted to see me again, he had better get there quickly. It was an 80 mile drive.

The hospital mistreated me in several ways and it is amazing that by their negligence alone that I did not die.

I lay there alone, too sick to know how bad things were. There were only two phone calls for me to make – I called my mother and asked her to fly down and keep the hospital from killing me. And I called my sons’ step-mother to tell her that I might not make it.

As I waited an entire day for my second surgery, with spinal fluid leaking from my back and my head hurting so bad that I could not lift it, yet too stubborn to push the button on the demerol because the thought of those drugs in my body was too much for me to bear, my body weakened and my mind quit caring.

Out of the blue the phone rang and answering it was such a chore. Any movement sent a raging pain through my head and the sound of the ring vibrated against all of my nerves.

“Mom,” the caller said.

I tried to bring myself out of the fog and respond but it was difficult. My son and I had not talked in years but it was his voice on the other line.

“*****,” I said.

Silence, only silence. I said his name over and over but there was nothing. And then I heard the click.

I have no clue as to how many hours remained before surgery but that call played over and over in my mind. In my dying breaths I wondered had I answered the phone wrong – said something wrong – perhaps he didn’t hear me. My mind was playing tricks on me.

A small spark ignited in my will to survive as I fought back so that he would not have to regret not speaking to me before I died. My concentration kept me going because finally there was a semi-coherent thought to hang onto, something to focus on.

Still, by the time my surgeon spoke to me in the operating room, I asked him to let me go.

“I can’t do this anymore,” I told him.

He nodded. “Anything else?” He asked.

I shook my head, my eyes pleading into his. He nodded but not at me.

My doctor decided to ignore my request and go through with the operation. What he did not know was that the infection had entered my brain and that I had meningitis.

My survival of the infection and the surgery can only be described as a miracle.

Afterwards my anger was palpable and I was out of control. To my credit, that is what narcotics do to me and it is something that I have no control over. But, I felt sorry for myself. I hated the world. And I did not believe that the infection would go away and that I would survive. My fear of dying stayed with me for another month after the surgery.

But, slowly my smile returned and I realized that I had been given a second chance to live and to follow my heart.

It took years to define my heart and it is still a work in progress. There was pain and physical limitations to deal with. And the relearning of simple tasks because, despite no one having told me, I had brain damage. My thinking and abilities were different – something that eventually turned out to be a good thing, for the most part. And there were two more surgeries to remove tumors from my spine.

A lot of changes and a lot of healing.

Eventually I came crashing into my dream, with no way out. No way to say no for to do so would have stopped me cold.

And so I am here, hopefully following the path that was intended for me all along. And praying that others will be saved the pain that I have endured by listening to their hearts and following their dreams.

I will end this long story, which I keep repeating in one form or another because if feels so important, with a quote that a friend sent this morning. She always has good timing!

“A person without special gifts, just an I won’t quit! attitude, will succeed.”

Everyone wants to be a success in life. But, unless you make a commitment to never quit no matter what, it may never happen. The one thing that makes a person successful is persistence. It’s not talent, not ability, nor education. Just plain old persistence! Life will always present you with opportunities to succeed, as well as reasons to quit. Rise above the temptation to quit and find an incentive not to give in. Today, make an I’ll never quit! commitment to yourself. Because you can do anything if you try.

Today’s Affirmation: I have made a commitment to myself to never quit.