alt: Why my husband’s injury is one of the best things that could have happened to restart my creative career
As the doctor walked out of the examining room, my husband leaned in and said, “I need you to be strong, my rock.”
I felt my lip quivering, tears threatening.
“I am strong and I am your rock, but I’m gonna need five minutes to panic, okay?”
The emergency room doctor predicted my husband would be off his feet and unable to work for 6-8 weeks. A slipped ladder and a broken calcaneus (the heel) changed what life would look like as we marched toward summer. In short, all financial and household responsibilities were now mine. It seemed all right to panic a little.
A few days later, we learned the time would actually be closer to 12 weeks. And then a week later, surgery reset the clock to 12+ weeks. At this point, it seemed all right to panic a lot.
But I don’t actually believe in panicking. I believe in focus. I believe in goals. I believe in believing.
Well over 20 years ago, I was standing smack dab in the middle of one of the hardest times of my life – a teen mom whose husband was in prison, trying to get off of welfare, and trying to get my GED so I could make a better life for my son and myself.
During that time, the first time someone really asked me what I wanted to do, I could barely make eye contact as I said, “I like to write.” Instead of just accepting the usual offerings of CNA training or secretary work, I spoke about an “impossible” desire. In doing so, it’s like the opportunity was just sitting there, waiting for someone to come along and ask for it. I spoke the hard words of a hope and then found myself meeting the editor of the local newspaper — my first step toward a lifelong career and dream come true.
Two years ago, I made a list of goals and steps. “I want to be a speaker,” I said, and then I put some work behind that statement, joining Toastmasters and finding opportunities to practice. Speaking is in addition to writing, of course, but I had already accepted myself as a writer and now I needed to advance myself as a speaker. I needed to learn how to share my stories orally to step into a different way to communicate. So I spoke the words, and then I started the work. And then this year, following the five minutes of panic in that emergency room, I dug my heels in even more.
I began to speak out loud what I wanted, writing my speaking acceptances as if they were already a done deal. I auditioned for TEDxColoradoSprings, and then wrote and spoke out loud that I was chosen. Later, I was.
I jumped on the chance to reach out to the Colorado Springs Domestic Violence Summit, sending a letter of introduction almost immediately. I was invited to send a proposal. I did so, and then wrote the date of the summit on my calendar, fully expecting an invitation. I was invited.
And then several opportunities have just found their way to me. I’ve been operating from a place of “this is” rather than “I hope this will be,” and it works.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not talking about magic here. I’m doing the work and remaining wide open to acceptance and possibility. It’s the same perspective I had as a young writer.
The first time I met the editor of the first newspaper I ever wrote for, I was 17, a “single” mom, and oh so very nervous, but I also fully expected to wow her and get published. Call it naivety but I have operated from this place for a long time. It doesn’t mean I always get what I want, but rather I work as if I will. It makes a difference in the way I think and operate.
The last several years have been a tad financially difficult. I had to accept that part of the reason for that was my fault – my inability to be a business-minded woman. And I think we get too comfortable in life sometimes, even when the comfort isn’t in a comfortable place. Each time I’ve been in one of the hardest places, I’ve found my drive again.
So while it was a terrible thing for my husband to hurt himself the way he did, and more for him to be unable to work, it was actually the push I needed. It was a reminder that I am capable of relying on my skills and talent, that I could speak my goals and make them come true.
I have found through the years that when I’m comfortable, I start to drift. Pressing on and aiming for big goals when times are hard seems like the worst time, but our motivation is often so much higher then. We have more to gain, more to learn, and more to strive for because we are reminded of what isn’t working and how hard life can be. I give myself time to panic a little, and then I spring into action. The alternative is simply not acceptable.
My foundation is strong, despite how many times life has tried to knock me down. And if there is one thing I’ve re-learned this year, it’s that I can push back when life is heavy, that I can indeed do hard things, but more than that, I can push past the comfort zone I previously allowed myself to rest in for too long. As we get ready to enter a new season, I can’t help but think about how beautiful the journey has been even when it felt a little hopeless at first. We made it through, but we didn’t just make it – we thrived and continued to grow.
When we embrace the challenges that life can present, we have been given gifts of opportunity, even if we don’t recognize the wrapping.