Thursday, August 18, 2011

Next Sport: Change

Life throws some interesting curve balls, huh? Some I've been trained to catch, yet others knock me clear off my feet or I miss them completely. I'm still learning to catch them.

Growing up, we had a pitching machine in our backyard. It was awesome! My brother and I would go out there and hit off of it into the homemade net cage my dad made for it. We'd take turns feeding the machine so the other could hit. It's a fond memory of mine. My brother was in baseball since I can remember, and most summers were spent at the local baseball diamond. As I grew older, my love for baseball turned into the love of looking at the teammates in their uniforms! Ha! I think I flirted with half the team each year. My brother would just roll his eyes. My brother was a fantastic baseball player. He was always on the All-Star team (which led to me checking out a new flock of boys - lol), always the best player, and could play just about any position. He was trained well. (I'm sure from my expert ball-feeding abilities into the pitching machine! Ha!)

You see, however, that pitching machine only pitched one way. Straight. There was no option for it to throw a ball any other way, thus the accuracy of hitting the ball was quite high the more I hit. If it were to have been thrown in another direction at some random moment, I probably would have ducked! That unexpected curve definitely would not have been expected!

I've found the same to be true in my life when it comes to things I've practiced and have somewhat perfected. The accuracy of my knowledge and wisdom is pretty right on with the things I know. But when a curve ball gets thrown my way, most people say that the options are either "fight or flight." But there's another option. "Freeze." Unfortunately, I was raised in a household where the option was to "fight." Sometimes it's healthy, but most times it's not.

I'm stubborn. I know this about myself. I strive for perfection, and it's easier for me to just do something myself then to have others help. Growing up in school, I haaaaated group assignments. Why? Because I always ended up doing the project and everyone else got the good grade, too. I don't mind working with someone who is my equal, but I haven't found too many of those in life. Most of the time when left for someone else to do, I get screwed over.

Recently, I've met someone who is like the other side of my brain. It's actually pretty scary because we somehow know what the other is thinking before it's even said. In my opinion, we work pretty dang good together. This is a rarity in my life. But, I've also had to learn to be patient during the process because my head is thinking faster than I allow someone else to complete something. I think it's the whole " would rather do it myself" syndrome. Maybe it's perfection. Maybe it's control. Either way, it's something I realize I need to continually work on. But, it's nice to find someone who works just as hard towards the final product as I do.

I've also realized I've become frustrated when people just throw stuff together haphazardly in order to show someone else up - to beat them to punch. People who try to "one up" someone drive me bonkers! Yet another thing I need to work on - learning what to allow myself to get worked up about and what not to allow myself to be concerned over. Change will always be occuring in my life. The last year has brought about more change than I think I could handle, but at the same time, I think it's made me that much stronger. Mary Engelbreit said, "If you don't like something, change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it."

I like the old Japanese proverb that says, "The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists." I want to be more like bamboo, but also know when to be strong like oak. There has to be a balance in my mind. Similar to the pitching machine as I was growing up. Because it threw straight all the time, I knew what to expect and anticipate. But had it thrown a curve ball every so often, maybe I'd be more equipped to knock another one out of the park. President John F. Kennedy also said, "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."

Life is full of change. Every day my life changes. I just have to learn how to catch the curve balls. :)

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courge to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Desperado

I have so much to catch up on with blogging, but the last couple weeks have busy and full of ups and downs! So, let me back up to the week of my anniversary.

On Wednesday, July 27, 2011, I had hit bottom. I was questioning "Why?" more than ever before and honestly didn't think that anyone cared whether I was on earth or not anymore. I had decided that it was time for God to heal me, and He hadn't, so life would be better if I would just go away. The anticipation of my 11 year anniversary was simply too much to handle. The deep-seeded emotions that were a part of me that day do not have words and are hard to convey in a blog, but I was not in a good place at all. I was afraid of myself and what I could possibly do.

The evening before, I had to work at our annual gala for Free Wheelchair Mission. It was a good evening, but one that is always hard for me because even though we do good things to get wheelchairs to people in other countries, I honestly wish that wheelchairs weren't even necessary in this life! I'm not a fan of being in one every day, but at the same time, I truly don't know what it's like to not have one either. It's a weird, emotional night for me. Needless to say, the next day it was as if the bottom let out.

I was searching. Wondering if anyone cared if I was alive or dead, if anyone still cared that I was still hurting 11 years later, or if anyone would even take the time to say anything to me on Friday. All of my thoughts were full of sorrow and grief, and my mind had slipped - rather zoomed - into a deep depression. I cried non-stop that morning and decided it was best that I not go into work. My way of keeping myself "safe" is to escape into sleep-mode. So, that's what I did. I crawled back into bed and slept. Whenever I woke up, I would force myself back to sleep. When my mind is in this mode, life is easier to handle when it's not in reality. I didn't eat. I didn't talk to anyone. I didn't turn on the television. I didn't care.

Late that evening, I decided to create an event on Facebook called "Walk A Mile In My Shoes." I honestly did it out of desperation. It was my way of crying out to people as if to say "hey, it may be 11 years, but I'm not okay with this yet!" The event was centered around inviting people to walk one mile wherever they live in "honor" of my 11 year anniversary on Friday, the actual day of the accident. The title came about as a way for me to "throw mud in people's faces" yet at the same time be genuinely sincere about the event. Part of me wanted for people to be reminded of the fact that I can't walk as they walked that mile. I wanted them to be reminded of all the things I can't do anymore. But the other side of me wanted them to truly take a moment to reflect and pray for me. I sent out the event to every friend I had in my Facebook account, anticipating maybe 5 people would do it.
I woke up the next morning to see that 40 people had already signed up! I was shocked! Why were these people doing this? Why did they care about me? I created this event as a way to prove to myself that no one cared... and it was backfiring on me! People actually cared! Throughout the day, friend's of mine invited other friends of theirs who decided to sign up to walk a mile. I think I spent more time that day picking my jaw up off the ground than pouting about why I was still in a wheelchair! I went to bed that evening with the first person having already completed a 5K in China in my honor!!!

The next morning, I woke up unusually early. I opened my eyes and a sense of peace and calm had swept over me. I laid there quietly in the stillness of the morning, thinking about how much my life had changed since 11 years ago. I was strangely content. I leaned back and looked behind me where my clock sat on my nightstand, and I smiled. It was the exact time of the accident 11 years ago. I inhaled slowly and exhaled with the calm that had entered my body. "Interesting," I thought to myself. I reached for my phone and got onto Facebook to see if anyone else had decided to join the "Walk A Mile In My Shoes" event. I was even more shocked! People from different countries, people I didn't know, friends of friends, my own friends, and family had decided to do this and over 140 people had committed to walking a mile on my behalf! I was stunned! I had nearly 20 messages from people posting encouraging words to me, pictures of them walking, and even my cousin decided to go so far to go through a hike in the woods (which is one of my favorite things to do!) knowing that I couldn't do that as easily anymore. The thoughtfulness of people I didn't know and people I did know took my breathe away. I was blessed, and people cared. I was reminded by God through other people that I was needed here on Earth. I felt so humbled.

Jennifer had posted a picture as her profile picture that I hadn't seen in quite some time. It was the last picture of me standing in my favorite place, Yosemite National Park. She and I were on Sentinel Bridge in front of Half Dome at the same time Alpenglow was getting ready to happen. I stared at that picture for a few moments, thinking back to who I was at that time when the picture was taken. I observed my face, my clothes, my stance. I remembered my thoughts and experiences, and I then tried to make a parallel to my life today. And there wasn't one. Looking at that picture made me realize how far I truly had come in life - regardless of the wheelchair! "Why do I want to go back to being her?" I asked myself. I couldn't find an answer. For the first time, I thought that it's probably okay to let the past stay in the past. It was a strange feeling to let go of that girl who I wanted so desperately to go back to being. But I realized I don't need to be that Alyson anymore. I don't need to yearn to be where she was or do what she could do because I'm so much wiser and stronger that I was then. This horrible circumstance created me to be a better person in so many ways, and I was thankful.
Just think. Two days prior, I was ready to throw in the towel and be done. I had confided in only two or three people of the way I was feeling. I wanted to end it all, and remember, my way of protecting myself from doing anything stupid was to just sleep. But because I reached out for help in more of a desperate manner than one of clarity, I was reminded how loved, cared for, and appreciated I was in life. The point is, I REACHED OUT! I was also able to remind myself how far I've come and hold my head a bit higher realizing that I had a purpose. It wasn't so much the act of people walking that helped me. It was the fact that people took the time to send an encouraging word. Yes, seeing them do something I can't do anymore was extremely rewarding. But hearing how I make a difference in people's lives was the true take away.

I don't say any of this lightly, and if you are considering that death is the only option for you, please reconsider. Reach out. Tell one person. There are people who care, even when you don't think there are.

My life verse is James 1:2-4. I carried that with me a lot that day, but I also carried Romans 8:38-39 with me more so that day. "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Thank you so much to all of you who decided to participate in "Walk A Mile In My Shoes." You gave me a new perspective that I had no idea existed, and God used you to show me that life is worth living, no matter what the circumstance may be. Please remember (as I have been taught) how important it is to encourage people. You have no idea what they may be going through that day and may need YOU to just let them know how much they are appreciated. Love you all!