Sometimes we meet people, hear stories, and they just move you. Sometimes it’s just something to help you get through your day, improve your attitude, or just smile a little. Sometimes, it’s something much larger. Today, I want to share a story, a person, who might help you become larger in your life. And maybe, it will help you become larger in someone else’s.
Please meet Carol…
I once took a college course where the first thing the professor asked us to do was write a letter to ourselves. It was supposed to contain our dreams, goals, and aspirations, a letter about who we thought we would become in the future. While there was some variation amongst the letters, mostly surrounding chosen professions, some things seemed to show up more often than not like marriage and family. They were certainly at the top of my list. As much as those goals were all good and gave me direction back then, I could have never imagined how my life would turn out. Who would ever write a letter to themselves that says, “I think I’ll become a blind, triple amputee.”
In June of 2008, I became just that. At 33 weeks pregnant with my second daughter, I became sick with what I thought was the flu. Little did I know that less than three weeks after an emergency c-section, the complications of sepsis would lead to the loss of both of my feet, my left hand, right ring finger, and, even more devastating, my sight. In a matter of days, everything that I’d written in that long-ago letter became the dream of another life, of a person that in my mind no longer existed.
For a time, I wondered why I was still alive when I couldn’t be any of the things I was before? How could I be a mother or contribute to my family? But, life comes down to choices – give up or pick up.
Through the dark haze of all I’d lost, goals, dreams, and aspirations became my saving grace. At first, rolling myself from back to stomach seemed like a feat to be celebrated. Over the next two years, I gained independence little by little. Yet I still asked why. Why pick up and carry on when I couldn’t do what any of the things I used to do? I couldn’t hold either of my daughters or help them get dressed or change their diapers. I couldn’t drive or snowboard or cook. All the things I used to be were gone.
But, I made the choice to pick up every day when I did therapy. Each morning I woke with a willingness to try and in so doing developed a new positive perspective. You might have to find your how or why to make that choice, to keep going. But, by taking those small steps forward, you empower yourself and get closer to reaching your goals.
My motivation came from my family, especially my daughters. More than anything, I wanted to be their mother, not just another person in the room. I wanted to raise, teach, and be a full part of their lives.
Your motivation may be different, but it need not be any less powerful. We all experience hard things – loss, trials, challenges. When it gets hard to put one foot in front of the other, which in my case was very literal, sometimes all you can do is make small goals to keep you going. Small goals lead to big aspirations and big aspirations take you to places you never could have imagined.
What I didn’t know when I wrote that letter to myself was how much setting and achieving my goals would change my life. As you continue to move forward, you’ll realize that you have to let go of the things that hold you back like fear, opinions, and expectations. Letting go leaves you free to embrace the moment and experience the small victories on your journey.
I assure you that the choice to continue isn’t all hard work. Fun should be a regular part of your journey. My goals have led to skiing down the slopes with my family, floating in the waters of Barbados, and traveling the world.
I am many of the things I hoped I would one day be like a wife and mother. And while those are the most important roles in my life, my initial choice to pick up has led to places I never expected. As a blind, triple amputee, I never imagined I would become a motivational speaker or write a book. The choice is yours. Life is a gift, if you don’t open it, you’ll never experience the beauty inside.