I went to play pool last night with my team and as always, in a bar setting one never quite knows what one will see. Yet last night with all of its drama and tribulation restored my faith in the human spirit.
There was a gentleman there who was a veteran of the war in Iraq. His body wracked by injury, he wore a brace on his left leg which dragged behind him, his shoulder was twisted at what appeared to be a very painful angle and he used a walker. Yet this man was dancing safely inside the confines of his walker and playing pool. He shot the pants off of everyone he played. He balanced his cue stick upon the walker and shot. He showed joy in spite of his many challenges. I took the opportunity to speak with him and walker dance a couple of tunes.
At the end of the night I asked to photograph him, a request he graciously declined but was happy to allow me to share his story with you. I asked him about finding joy in the midst of such challenges and thanked him for his service and sacrifice. He told me “There are those who are paralyzed despite being “healthy”. They don’t even realize it. They don’t pursue joy internally or externally. It is in the living that we thrive. There are those who would prefer not to see me struggle and would rather I sat at home and withered away. Yet socialization and activity ensure that I will continue to be productive and to give to others and society. Don’t ever forget that no matter the challenges, the choice is ours as to what good we will share with the world.” With tears in my eyes, a lump in my throat and renewed resolve, I hugged this man and wished him well. I left my card with him and offered him and his family a free holiday portrait should he want one.
The human spirit. May we all inspire others through the testament of how we live our lives.
Strength means many things – sometimes it means perseverance in the face of challenges, sometimes it roars and at other times it is a quiet voice. Strength can also be boundaries – healthy boundaries that stem from our love for ourselves. Strength is often visualized as that of a Phoenix, the fire bird rising from the ashes.
Yet sometimes Phoenix is tired. I have a story to tell about Phoenix. I am Phoenix. Despite significant challenges – physical, emotional and mental at times- I carry on, break myself apart, get rid of the puzzle piece that no longer fits, pour the sand and mortar back in and rebuild strength from vulnerability. Yet sometimes life can drop a Phoenix to his or her knees. Today I received a diagnosis that I cannot reverse but may be able to live gracefully with. Clinical deafness. Though I can hear sound, I am largely unable to ascertain words. What does this mean for me going forward? I don’t know. How will it affect my ability to learn and be financially productive? I don’t know. I admit to letting the Phoenix lie down for a while and rest. The Phoenix was weak.
Yet if one looks at mythology, how can a Phoenix rise if she never rests? I needed time to process the change, to accept whatever limitations this diagnosis may place on my life and to figure out how to continue dancing boldly into my life. You see, we don’t have to have it all. We must have ourselves – the love and knowledge of ourselves. We don’t need all 5 senses to be valuable. I don’t need to have it all to make a difference, to show beauty to the world. What is needed above all is love and support and the knowledge that one thing “missing” does not make us less of a person, give us less value to offer the Universe, does not mean that we are not ENOUGH. What it means is that Phoenix rests, then rises with the knowledge that all we have in any given moment is ENOUGH. That rising and simply breathing is enough. That one challenge does NOT a failure make. The biggest blessings are often disguised within the roadblocks. How does the Phoenix rise? Passion. Choose a goal, no matter how small it may seem and take a baby step toward it, then another. Crawl, toddle, run and fly up from the ashes.