Today was a really good day. It was a good, inspiring day.
A few months ago I was thinking how I wished I could connect some of my clients together so they can share their stories and make connections and know they are not alone. I am a Speech Language Pathologist and I work in private practice with people who have sustained injuries in accidents – usually car accidents. Most people think it is such a rewarding career – and it certainly is in many ways. But it is also exhausting emotionally and often quite sad. Really sad. People have great lives – like you and me – and in a split second, their life is forever altered – often at no fault of their own. People then begin the long journey of recovery and re-building their life. I try to help them with that. But it is a lonely journey and I often wish they could talk with other people going through the same thing. I of course know many other people, but privacy, logistics and time make it hard for me to link them all together. But a few months ago, I suggested to Michelle (she is the owner of the private practice I work with – and I love and adore this amazing, intelligent, kind woman) that we should create a “conference” of sorts for our clients to come together, meet, and inspire each other with their stories. Being the amazing woman that she is, Michelle jumped on the idea and hosted a day for all her practice and some of their clients – over 100 people (it was like a wedding!). We decided to invite 4 key speakers, have a group activity and then lunch. It was hosted in a beautiful venue. It was an amazing success – in my opinion.
Two of my clients spoke. It was great to be able to see how far they have come. Of course, the journey is a long one, but they both told inspiring stories of their ups and downs along the way. They told their stories in creative and funny ways. My first client compared living with a brain injury to the Wizard of Oz story – brilliant. The second speaker shared his journey highlighting how his parents and sister had been his lifeline. Very touching.
The last speaker was one that I had heard before. Ironically, he was a speaker at a conference I had attended several years ago – right after I had met Rob. His presentation had struck me then. He had talked about sometimes in life needing to draw a line in the sand, stepping over it and leaving your old life behind and moving forward. It was symbolic for me as it represented leaving the pain of my divorce behind and starting to create a new life with Rob. I still have the string he handed out on that day representing that line. So it was great to hear him again today – he basically gave the same presentation. Although, today, different things struck me. Being on a constant quest for quotes – his presentation was a jackpot! My favorite one was: “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened”, Dr. Seuss. Not only is it cute – it is powerful.
Another quote that I loved came after he told a story about a man he met. He was one day listening to a man complain about the long flight he had endured across the world ( from Australia I think). The man was telling his woes about how long the 24 hour flight was and then he had a layover in Maui, which was a pain, an inconvenience. This speaker said he was struck by that and he said “Appreciate the journey. A stopover in Maui ain’t so bad”. How many times do we complain about the tiniest things that are actually embedded in the greatest blessings?
A third concept I loved – and this is really for me to learn (and now use) on a professional level. We talk so much about the “Recovery journey”. But really – there is no recovery. You can not go back to being who you were. This applies to any challenge in life – you can never be the same again after enduring pain, suffering, trauma etc. It always affects you. So you can’t reclaim a previous life, or recover per se. You have to DISCOVER who you now are. It’s not recovery – it’s discovery. You need to discover the new ways to live with the new you.
Finally – the last point that struck me: when things feel overwhelming, and cause stress and anxiety, reduce things to their simplest form: Ask yourself “What do I know for sure” and then go from there. What you know for sure is really the important stuff and if you take care of that, start from that point and move up – you will be ok. Don’t get overwhelmed with the “What if’s”, the “Maybe’s” – stick to the sure things to start with.
What I do know for sure is how grateful I am for my life – and everything in it. I am grateful that I have found my greatest fortune in some of my greatest misfortunes. I am blessed to be reminded on a daily basis in my work about how precious life it. I am blessed to be surrounded by survivors and heros, by people who want to better themselves, people who inspire me. I am blessed to have a job that not only pays the bills, but feeds my soul (even though it can also leave me starving sometimes:). I am grateful to come home and kiss my perfect, healthy, cheeky children. This morning when wondering what to wear for this conference, I turned to my 10 year old fashion consultants (Zach and Zandra) who helped me pick my outfit (and made me change several times). When I got home, I was walking up the path and the door opened and Zach immediately asked me “How was the conference”? I told him it was great, to which he responded, “It’s because you had a great outfit”. How cute is that? How blessed I am to have my son greet me like that! How blessed I am to have a husband tell me I always look amazing, to send me a text before the conference wishing me luck and telling me he knew it would be great and that he loved me, and then to come home to his interested and listening ears (and hugs and kisses). How blessed I am to have an eternal perspective to try to rely on when things go array. It’s not easy – but it is there to help pull me through.
So tonight, I won’t cry because the conference is over, but I will certainly smile because it happened and appreciate how much I learned and how much I have been given in my life.