Thursday, February 27, 2014

Resiliency and Self-Respect Knows No Bounds

     “Anything can happen to anybody at any time. But it’s what you do with the anything that makes the difference.”  This was the message I gave when speaking to a group of high school students recently. They were amazed by my story and many questions were asked. But the two questions which kept coming up were, “What kept you going?” and “What kept you from giving up?” 

       I have reflected on these very questions over the past 17 years, and I recognize that there are many tools in my Survivor’s tool kit which I call upon daily to keep me on track, and keep these fake feet moving forward.  And believe me; I use more than one of my tools every day.

      I have used time as a tool; time to grieve my losses, and time to heal from them. I have used distance from the events which have taken my life from me, stirred it all up, and dumped it out. And I have used the tool of choice; the choice of picking up the pieces, putting myself back together, and redefining who I am.
      But one of my biggest tools—one of my biggest “guns”—is resiliency. The ability to bounce back no matter the circumstances is in part driven by my genetic make-up, pure unadulterated 
stubbornness. The other part comes from a much deeper place, a place of respect, of self-respect.  

      I have been watching the Olympics lately—and watching and watching. You could call me a fan, a groupie, addicted, and you would get no argument here. I love the Olympic winter sports. There’s something about watching men and women fling themselves down a mountain, or speeding at 80 MPH on solid ice with nothing between them and the ice, but a glorified piece of fiber glass that excites and entertains me.  But what I like watching and hearing about the most are the back stories of the athletes themselves.

      It’s not necessarily the medal winners that I like to watch and hear from either. Although listening to the top three tell of their sacrifices, and dedication, their training and devotion to their sport is 
inspiring; it's the ones who don't win, the athletes who come in 21st, or 10th, or 4th who I appreciate most. They give me strength, because even if they don’t make the podium, they don’t give up. I have not heard one of them say, “I’m tired of trying,” or “I just can’t’ do it.” I have never heard any of them say “I’m a loser.”  They pick themselves up, dust the snow or ice off, and keep going. They respect their efforts, their sports and fellow athletes. But mostly, they respect themselves.
     Through my constant vigilance to the Olympics, I have come to understand that resiliency is driven by self-respect. When you respect yourself, recovery is doable. “Never say die,” becomes your motto
      No one gets through this life unscathed. We all get our share of bumps and bruises. We all fall from time to time. But it is the survivor who dusts the snow off, who keeps skating along, even though the podium has become elusive and the competition has ended. It is the survivor who will keep competing, and falling, and picking themselves up, because they respect themselves too much to let their losses get in the way of their living. 

      Survivors know that losing is a temporary status and not a state of being. That even in the midst of loss, they respect themselves and believe that they are winners. The survivor understands that no matter what obstacles occur in their lives—whether they appear within a matter of minutes or years—there is always a way to the podium.