This is Part 2 of 3-part series… Click here to read Part 1 first!
I laid in my hospital bed in the rehab center one afternoon staring at the ceiling. The bed was strategically set with the head at a 45 degree slant—the only position I could be in with any comfort. If I didn’t move at all, and took slow, steady breaths, I would feel only slight aches instead of the usual sharp pains. “This time last year I was hiking Half Dome,” I thought to myself. I let my mind wander off in my memories of Yosemite for a while longer, then pushed the nurse call button. At this time last year I was pulling myself up metal cables bolted into the smooth face of a giant rock, 8,800 ft above sea level, while 25mph winds blew against me. Today, I can’t even sit up on my own, let alone get myself out of bed and walk to the restroom.
Once the nurse had helped me back into my perfect position in bed, I started to think about how damaging those kinds of thoughts were to my mind. Contemplating the stamina and pure grit it took me to get to the top of Half Dome made me feel as if I once had super human strength, and now had a huge chunk of kryptonite hanging around my neck. The frustration of not being able to jump up at any time to go for a quick run was starting to wear on me.
It wasn’t hard to find gratitude in surviving this traumatic crash. For whatever reason, I was still here, and people told me it was quite the miracle. I’ll admit though, I struggled to find a silver lining in it. I remember the first time I was able to walk around my block at home, I cried most of the way. I was so proud of myself for doing it, but so distressed about how difficult it was. This bank robber, this man who crashed into me, had really messed things up. My plans to backpack Havasupai that November were obviously canceled. My newly planted, young peach tree died because there was no one to take care of it. My dog had to be taken away from me to live with my sister for two months because he was too active for me to handle. My car was completely destroyed—though I was unable to drive anyway. And I had a daily battle with anger toward that man who hit me. Physically, I was quite miserable. Mentally and spiritually I was beginning to fade as well.
Gratitude, however, has a tendency to slowly fill in the cracks in one’s mental and spiritual wellbeing, and I was no exception to this. I couldn’t do much about my physical misery, but I could control my mind. Why couldn’t I use that same grit and stamina I had in Yosemite to get through this, my own personal Half Dome? What good would it do me, after these robbers had broken my body, to let them break my spirits as well?
There were three things I knew for sure at this point:
1. Although I was in for the long haul, I would eventually heal.
2. I had an incredible amount of support from family and friends.
3. I had gotten a great story out of this. I mean, who gets hit by bank robbers unless you live in the 1800s Wild West? It was a story worth sharing.
With all the time I had on my hands, I began scouring the internet for ideas. I sent emails to local newspapers, community clubs, and non-profit organizations, while also reaching out to a couple of local outdoor events to see if they’d be willing to sponsor me in training to participate as best I could in my current condition. Giving myself a good 4 months for proper healing, I was looking for something small that would motivate me to keep pushing myself to get my body stronger. I landed on a 5K put on by a local track club in my city. The event was to be on New Year’s Eve, starting an hour before midnight. The idea was for the participants to attempt to beat the New Year to the finish line. It was perfect. Knowing I’d only be well enough to walk it at that point, I worked it out with the coordinator to start 15 minutes earlier than the rest of the runners. She was ecstatic to have me be part of their race. So much so that she invited me to come give a mini motivational speech at the club’s annual banquet, two months before the event. This was the beginning of a complete mental turnaround for me. No broken bones were gonna keep me down. The old adage, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” became very literal.
What good would it do me, after these robbers had broken my body, to let them break my spirits as well?
With my doctor’s approval, my family was all on board with the 5K, and a couple of them made plans to be there with me for it. The word began to get out. Friends and family were rallying together in support of me doing the walk. My sister took it even further by creating t-shirts with a large “Unbreakable” logo on the front, and selling them to anyone that wasn’t in the area. The intent was to have them do their own 5K on New Year’s Day, wherever they lived, and send pictures to me throughout the day for motivation. It was incredibly inspiring for me, to say the least.
The event became even more motivating when the local news asked to interview and film me in my training for it. The story was worth sharing on the Monday night news. I readily agreed, and about a month before the walk, a camera followed me around the small gym with my trainer, while I awkwardly performed the physical therapy exercises, my neck brace still wrapped tight around my broken neck. The news anchor peppered me with questions, while my trainer pushed me to lift the tiny weights just a few more times. Though I couldn’t find a silver lining at first, I discovered that it’s sometimes easier to just create one yourself. Gratitude, I had found, was the gateway to optimism, which in turn opened the door to endurance, determination, and true grit.
I was finally beginning to feel like myself again.
Gratitude, I had found, was the gateway to optimism…
Two days after the news clip aired, I got a Facebook message from someone I didn’t know. The message was confusing at first, going on and on about how sorry they were for what happened to me, how worried they were about reaching out, and how they prayed for my quick recovery. A few paragraphs down, my jaw dropped and my hand quickly covered the gasp escaping from my mouth when I read this: “You see, I’m the wife of the man that hit you.”
For more inspiring articles about strong women, read A Really Different Kind of Family, Do Women Need to Be “Empowered” to Display Strength?, Anatomy of a Strong Woman, Can You Start a Career Later in Life? Absolutely., Do High School Girls Want to Be Sophisticated Ladies?, Growth is Found in Life’s Challenges (Video), and True Beauty is Found in a Woman’s Strength