I felt my horse, Valkyrie, start to spook beneath me. I wasn’t surprised. I couldn’t see or hear anything that might be frightening her, but she has always been a little unpredictable. I smiled and looked over at Rebecca, who was next to me riding Rajah . Rajah is a tall, powerful Shire, renowned for his cool and unshakable disposition.
“Pretty nice to be on a totally reliable horse, isn’t it?” I asked her. And in that moment Valkyrie burst into a frenzy of bucking. As I tried to get control of my horse, I heard the pounding of hooves behind me and a sudden cry of pain. For whatever reason, Rajah had panicked and thrown Rebecca from the saddle.
I swung down and went to where she lay under a fence. Calm as always, she was already doing a self-assessment, checking to see if she had sensation in her toes. But it was obvious that she was badly injured.
We spent five days together in the hospital after the x-rays showed that she had broken her pelvis in two places. On day six we came home, but she was restricted to a wheelchair. It’s been thirteen days since her injury, and now she’s able to move slowly with the aid of a walker. For a professional bellydancer who taught Zumba and dance three days a week, and did sprints and weight-lifting workouts on her days off, it’s quite a change to be unable to get out of bed without assistance.
We’re lucky in that she’ll make a full recovery– it’s just a matter of time. But as we took her in to the hospital the day of her injury, there were a lot of unknowns. The injuries might have been much more severe, changing her physical abilities forever.
Now, Rebecca says that her accident was the best thing that could have happened to her. The gifts that emerged from the event have been tremendous. Perhaps most evident has been the community of family and friends we’re surrounded with. From people bringing food, to people giving money to help with medical expenses, to people giving that most precious gift of all – their time and company – Rebecca has had tremendous love and energy sent her way. But there have been other, less tangible gifts as well.
The Benefits of Tragedy
Sensibly, we all do our best to avoid serious injury. It’s no fun to spend days or weeks in a hospital, and even less to experience injuries that give us chronic or permanent pain and disability. Strangely, however, it’s often serious injury, illness, or death that wake us up to the fact that our lives have been caught in a rut. It’s all too easy to gloss through life, never stopping to take stock of what you have. For many of us, our focus is so strongly on the future that we completely neglect the present moment.
To those of you who read this site regularly, that statement might seem very basic and obvious. But it’s one of those things we often hear and rarely understand. Indeed, hearing it too often can dilute the powerful lesson it has to teach.
Suffering a tragedy of any kind gives us moment to pause. The all-important things of life, such as work and deadlines and duties, are suddenly seen as minor, and the oft-neglected things of life – human relationships and attending to our present moment – come to the forefront.
Here are two ways to discover this for ourselves –
Let’s Get Injured
Sooner or later, most of us will get the chance to have this sort of experience forced upon us. But it doesn’t take a tragedy to open us up to recognizing what we have. It can be as simple as taking a few days off – not on vacation, but just around your own home and life. The key? The key is to do nothing during this period. Avoid distraction so that you are able to pause and observe the process of Living. Don’t watch TV or movies – just pay attention to the quiet rhythms of your life. What you see might be quite delightful.
Let’s Get Old
It can be especially interesting to talk to people who are near the ends of their lives. Often, the hectic, aggressive energy has left them, and they’re content to sit on a porch and watch the birds, to talk to friends on the phone, or to experience memories. This is why living forever (if we ever gained the technology) would be such a curse – it would probably mean that our hearts would beat interminably, but would never actually pulse with the dance of life. It’s the gift of death that reminds us how important it is to live.
We can achieve ‘oldness’ if we simply realize that we’re all on the route to death, and that our day could be tomorrow. Tomorrow might be the day we are diagnosed with terminal cancer, the day we get into a car accident, or the day that our heart clenches and stops. We’d don’t like to think about this, but imagine how our lives would change if we were constantly aware of the imminence of our own death! How we would Live!
A Heart-Felt Wish
The only reason this site is here is because of you. It’s about you, and written for you. My hope is that it might open the door to help you really relish the process of Living, to fully immerse yourself in the beauty, pain, joys, and sorrows which are Life. There is something so beautiful in Living, and it’s all too easy to get distracted and let life slip by unnoticed. My wish is that these words might urge you to dive into life with your eyes wide open.
I need to express a special thanks to Rebecca for her amazing spirit in the last thirteen days. To have gone through such a radical shift and dance with it so gracefully has taught me much about the beauty of life and the human spirit. I also want to thank the many people who have given of their love and support in so many ways. Finally, I’d like to thank all of my dear readers, who waited so patiently during this period of inactivity on this site.
P.S. Rebecca says to give a special thanks to Rajah for changing her heart forever.