I have a friend I see once every summer, the nephew of the owners of the resort where I stay. Jamie has a degree in philosophy and we have the most amazing conversations. The things we talk about influence my thoughts over the next year until I see him again and we pick up where we left off.
The summer before last, Jamie asked me, “If you could go back in time and not go out on your bike the day you got hit, would you?”
I mulled this over a long time. My first instinct was to say of course I would, then I wouldn’t have been hit and I’d have my pre-crash body back. Of course I want that.
But at what cost? Because I was hit, I have people in my life, including Jamie, who wouldn’t be in it otherwise. Some of those people I’d have met anyway, but would we have the basis for strong bonding that we have now? I might still know them, but would they be members of my chosen “heart family?”
Because I was hit, I have a book out. That was a goal before I got hit, but I didn’t have a story that needed to be told, that others were hungry to hear. Would I have been stifled by the demands of full-time work?
Most importantly, because I was hit, I now know how deep my reserves of strength go. I know what I’m really capable of. How many of us ever find this out about ourselves?
And if I hadn’t been hit, how do I know I wouldn’t have been in the wrong place at the wrong time a week later, and not lived to tell about it? Or perhaps experienced something even more scarring, like a mass shooting? There is something to “the devil you know.”
It blew my mind to answer Jamie the next day, “No, I wouldn’t go back and change what happened. What happened is my life. I don’t know if I’d like the alternate version of me as well, and I’m fairly certain you wouldn’t.”
Now, I don’t believe in platitudes like “things happen for a reason.” https://blogs.psychcentral.com/hidden-disabilities/2018/05/platitude-culture-ii-when-attempts-to-be-helpful-fail/ I believe in cause and effect. If something good happened out of something bad, that’s to my credit, not because I was fulfilling some predestined move in a cosmic chess game. I believe we are called upon to “be the God” in those situations. But there you have it; I’ve not only made lemonade from life’s lemons, I’ve made awesome chilled Dust Cutter huckleberry lemonade with a splash of vodka. And for the life not lived, I don’t know what’s in that glass, but odds are it’s not better than what I’m already holding in my (reattached) hand.
This year I’m also reflecting on my new tiny home and how I came to be here. Before I got this opportunity, I had another, in my dream community on Vancouver Island, close to my Happy Place, Qualicum Beach. The house would have cost half what this one did, and been paid for upon my arrival. I wasn’t able to get residency in Canada and I can’t afford the six-month split between two homes, so I had to withdraw my offer on the house https://blogs.psychcentral.com/hidden-disabilities/2018/08/emigrating-to-canada-with-a-pre-existing-condition-maybe-not/. It was devastating and took me to the darkest place I’ve been since I was on a ventilator.
I’m finally able to feel gratitude for that lost opportunity, because if I hadn’t been through all that, I wouldn’t have had the courage and sheer chutzpah to say yes to this one when it came along, and to keep fighting for it when it looked like I might lose this one too. There were a lot of reasons to say no; I needed the energy from the knot of anger, hurt and loss to blast through those barriers.
Everyone in this audience has had to face some kind of loss—loss of opportunity, ability, health—and I do not mean to minimize that or engage in toxic positivity https://blogs.psychcentral.com/hidden-disabilities/2019/05/toxic-positivity-its-a-thing/ by suggesting that there may be a silver lining for some of us. Are you able to see it? Would you like to share?
I’ll leave you with a favorite verse from a favorite song by Julie Miller (I love the Wailin’ Jennys’ version):
You have come by way of sorrow,
You have come by way of tears
But you’ll reach your destiny
Meant to find you all these years
Meant to find you all these years
And let me give thanks for you, my readers, who keep me challenged. May your silver linings be rich, and may you find joy today and always.