Life is not about what others give us but what we choose to take
– Ronit Baras
Sometimes, the things we expect the least – both good and bad – can teach us the best lessons in life. Last month, I said to a group of 26 child leaders that in many things of our life, the important thing is not what others give us, but what we choose to take. When I said that, I did not consider the possibility of taking a lesson from others without any intention on their part.
Two weeks ago, we learned a very valuable lesson from a good friend of ours. Tom, our friend, had never planned on giving us this lesson. In fact, if it was up to him, I think he would gladly not teach us this lesson at all because of the heavy price he had to pay for it.
I hope that when you read this story, you will choose to take as much as possible from it. Remember, it is not about what I write, but what you choose to receive.
Life Before and After
“It was Saturday morning and we took the kids to a festival on the north side of town. Since we arrived early, we strolled through the nearby farmers’ market and sat on the grass when the phone rang”.
This is how I would have written the beginning of this story prior to receiving that phone call. Here is how I would write it after the phone call:
“It was a beautiful morning and we were very happy we could all go together to a festival on the other side of town. Our weekends in the past two months had been full of exciting and wonderful activities and we were all looking forward to some time together.
We arrived early and decided to take a walk through the farmers’ market next to the festival. We love markets. We stopped at a stand with lots of interesting kinds of tomatoes. We never knew there were so many different flavors and shapes of tomatoes. You learn something every day. At the entrance sat a man playing a guitar. The music was heavenly. We stood there to enjoy his playing for a while. From far away, we heard a woman singing opera, inviting people to buy eggs. She had a wonderful voice. When we approached her, we saw she was wearing a funny hat that looked like a chicken. It was so cute. “What a great idea“, we told one another. We bought some fruits and vegetables. I told Gal we had wonderful kids and it was so much fun going to a market with them and seeing them happy and excited to buy fruits and vegetables. We met someone who had played African drums with Gal and Tsoof. He complimented Tsoof on his drumming at another festival and on the way out of the market, a stall holder admired Gal’s (new) hat.
We left the bags in the car and went to sit on the grass and enjoy the sun while Noff played at the playground. We had a lively conversation about moving to another state or country to study something we want to turn into a serious career and being independent. Suddenly, the phone rang”.
Can you notice the difference?
Sometimes in life, we need a brick to be thrown at us to stop and enjoy every moment and store it in our memories. This time, a brick was not thrown at me at all, but I am determined to take all the lessons I can take from a brick thrown at someone else.
On the other side of the line was another friend of ours.
“Hi, Ronit, how are you?”
“Good, Jay, What’s up?” I asked, excited to hear his voice. Jay never calls like that over the weekend, unless he is in the area with his family and wants to tell us they may be coming to visit.
“Listen, Ronit, I have some bad news”.
My heart skipped a beat.
“Tom had an accident … (‘Oh, no’, I said to myself) … He crashed in a light plane … (‘No, God, no, don’t tell me, please don’t’, I thought) … He is being evacuated by helicopter as we speak … (‘Thank God, he is alive’, I was a bit relieved) … They are taking him to a hospital in Brisbane … (‘Which one?’ I asked in my head, but could not move my mouth) … He can’t feel his legs (‘S#@T! No, No, I don’t want to hear this’, my mind screamed) … He called me from the helicopter … (‘What a relief, he can talk and he can move his hands’) … I will call you in a few minutes to tell you which hospital he’s going to. Can you please go there until I arrive? (‘Sure, we are leaving straight away’) … I will drive up now and it will take me a couple of hours to get there”.
We sat at the hospital café and waited for the chopper to arrive, while trying to call Jay, who was on his way to Brisbane, to get some more information. Funny, but when things like that happen, you have the illusion that every piece of information may change everything. What can we do with this knowledge anyway?
Tom arrived at the hospital about an hour and a half later. Since the kids could not enter the emergency room, Gal took them to another festival and I went into the emergency room with Jay to see Tom.
Tom’s neck was wrapped to stabilize it and the first thing he said was, “They told me I might have to sit in a wheelchair all my life”.
I wanted to scream. I do not think I cursed so much in my head as I did then. “Who is stupid enough to say such a thing? It’s so frustrating to find out all those doctors and nurses, or whoever escorted him in the helicopter, understand so little about motivation, the power of the mind and positive thinking”.
I touched Tom’s legs. He told me he could feel my touch, but all the way down his legs, he felt numbness. I massaged his legs for an hour, while he was in enormous pain and very angry and upset over the accident. From time to time, he said, “They said I might end up in a wheelchair”, and Jay and I said, “You are going to walk. Everything is going to be fine. Think happy, healthy thoughts. You can feel your legs a bit now and things are only going to get better”.
Tom went over the accident again and again, repeating the same scenario and beating himself up over it.
“I never thought it would happen to me”, he said.
Amazingly, this is the first thing people tell themselves.
“Of course not. No one plans on being in a plane crash or they wouldn’t fly in the first place. This is why it’s called ‘an accident’. It was an accident”, I said to him.
“Let go”, Jay said to him, “Just concentrate on healing and walking. You need only good thoughts right now”.
A nice doctor came and explained to us Tom’s T12 vertebra was smashed. “It’s too early to say, but they will have to operate as soon as they have all the scans”, he said.
Thank God! Some facts without doom and gloom.
The surgeon came after another hour. He had a cold and gloomy look on a face that did not move. “After watching so many people in the emergency room, you probably become numb to patients”, I said to myself, trying to understand why he showed so little sympathy and emotions.
The surgeon examined the X-rays and the scans. Jay and I had to leave and stand behind the curtain. When we came back, Tom said the surgeon had told him they would operate either that night or the next day and he had not ruled out the possibility Tom would end up in a wheelchair.
Jay and I looked at each other in frustration. That man might have been a spine surgeon who had studied hard how to drive screws and attach metal rods to people’s backs, but he did not realize at all that recovery starts after he finishes screwing his patient’s back (no pun intended) and for the recovery, which takes a lot longer, the patient needs a strong, positive mind and a belief he can pull through! The doctor may be smart and experienced, but he definitely did not understand anything about the human mind.
Dr. Almighty Surgeon, why do you not say, “I do not rule out the possibility of you recovering completely and walking again in no time”? Why look at the empty half of the glass?
I kept massaging Tom’s legs and used Reiki to calm and heal as much as I could. “If it doesn’t help, it won’t hurt”, I said to myself.
“What do you feel?” I asked Tom.
“I feel that you love me”, Tom said.
“I do love you, Tom, and it’s good you can feel it”, I said.
At night, they threw Jay and me out of the ward and we drove to my house to recover. They had not decided about the time of surgery yet.
When we got home, I helped the kids to bed and we talked about how Tom’s crash would affect our family.
“So we are not going to the parks tomorrow?”
“No, one of us may need to be in the hospital.”
“What about the Cooking and Garden Festival?”
“We’ll have to skip that too.”
“What’s going to happen with the library books we need to return?”
“We’ll find time for that.”
“There are still 3 loads of washing to do. Let’s do the one with the school uniforms for Monday. The other loads can wait.”
“Tom said he would be in the area on Wednesday and come to visit us. I guess he couldn’t wait… Now, we’ll be visiting him instead.”
“What’s going to happen on Monday?”
“I don’t know. It’s hard to think so far ahead.”
“Mom, Monday is the day after tomorrow.”
“I know, I know, but I’m finding it hard to think beyond tomorrow.”
“I need to get to the airport to bring Tom’s wife on Monday morning.”
“Who’s going to take us to school?”
“Everything will be fine. One of us will go to the airport, the other will take you to school. Oh, I have a coaching session on Monday morning. OK, Dad will go to the airport.”
Then, my mind started racing into plans.
“Gal has some things to finish on Monday. Bummer, Mondays aren’t good days for extra stuff to do. If only the accident happened on a different day… Oh, never mind, nobody ever plans an accident. What’s going to happen on Thursday? We need to go to an important event in the evening. Too long from now to think about it. So many things can happen until Thursday.”
We had a different pick-up time for Noff on Monday, because she had no dancing in the afternoon. “Mom, can you pick me up at 3pm on Monday? I want to come home early and play”.
“No, honey, I may not be here on Monday afternoon. I may be in the hospital.”
“Will Tom’s wife stay at our place while she’s here? I hope so. We’ll invite her. Which room should we put her in? Eden said she was happy to give Tom’s wife her room. I’m so proud of you Eden! Who will take her to the hospital every morning? We will, it’s OK. We can do it in the morning when we do the morning drop off. It’s only 10 minutes from our house…”
Why do we need to lose happiness to realize we were happy before?
– Ronit Baras
The more we talked, the more we realized how inconvenient accidents were. Funny, whenever there is a major disruption to our life, we attempt to restore order by dealing with lots of small things and view every small thing as very uncomfortable (although the main damage may have been caused to someone else). Why is it that we realize how comfortable our life used to be only when we lose this comfort?
Lessons I have learned from just 8 hours of my life
Although Tom’s accident was a random thing that entered my life, I have chosen to take great learnings from the first 8 hours after it. Here is a summary:
- I should get up every day and say “Thanks to my body for functioning perfectly, so that I can use every organ in perfect order and that every cell knows what to do” and I should not take this for granted.
- Some doctors know very little about motivation and the human spirit. I need to take care of myself and my kids in such a way that I never have to use them. Some doctors are angels and may save your life. I wish that when you do have to get the help of a doctor, it will be the right one.
- Remember health insurance. Be happy to pay it every month and say to yourself, “I’m happy to pay this money and hope I never use it”. It is better to pay than to have to deal with yet another big problem when you need to concentrate on getting better.
- Letting go is essential. There is no point going over what you could have done the second before your accident again and again. If you could, you would have, but you could not and that is it. Guilt feelings are poison. When you need to fight (for health, for wealth, to overcome tragedy or to mend a broken heart), do not poison your mind. I heard others asking again and again what had happened that had caused the accident and realized that while listening, my mood, my motivation and my energy dropped significantly (and I did not even have to recover from any injury).
- Let go of blaming others because blaming is past oriented focus and drains your energy. Although it is tempting to blame others in hope to ease your load, it will not change what happened and it is a heavy load to carry long term. Whenever anyone talked about what the other guy who was in the plane had done, I felt like my body was getting weaker from the negative emotions.
- Life is full of tests. Some tests are small and some are big, some are easy and some are hard. Some seem unfair and painful. The difference between people who pass the tests and those who do not are whether they have the courage to show up and sit for the test, whether they aim to pass or excel and whether they are willing to do whatever it takes to pass the test. “Shoot for the stars, even if you fail, you will land among the stars”. Aim high!
- Stay positive. We are not fortune tellers, so we cannot tell what might happen to us. And if we do not know anyway, it is better to think positively. Look at the full half of the glass. Tom could have died. He could have drowned (because the plane crashed into a creek). He could have hit his neck and been paralyzed completely. He could have tried to move by himself instead of waiting for the paramedics to rescue him and made more damage. There is plenty to be grateful for.
- I learned that Jay, who was Tom’s best friend, was awesome and inspiring. He was very positive and every time Tom’s energy dropped, he said, “You will fly a plane again”. I have known Jay for over 4 years and thought he was future oriented, but this was a live demonstration of walking the talk. A day later, when Tom was being taken to his surgery, we walked behind him and when they closed the door behind, Jay shouted to Tom from the other side, “Think positive, Tom, just think positive”. I learned that Jay was an inspiring person.
- Kids are kids. Even when big things happen, they are still preoccupied with their daily routine. This is fine. If they are worried, tell them, “We will do all we can to make things work”. It is not an illusion. It gives them a good belief that motivation, dedication, determination are factors in any success and in overcoming any challenge.
- Good friends are precious assets. I am honored to be Tom’s friend. Tom did the same thing when he heard about Gal’s cancer and came with his wife to visit us. I remember us sitting at a restaurant the week after Gal’s surgery with Tom and his wife with Gal’s head bandaged all over. It sure helped Gal’s motivation to be “normal” again. I am happy that I get an opportunity to show my love in return, even if it is sad that I need to show it under such circumstances.
Life turned around just after the phone call. In just 8 hours, without anything happening to me, my life shook and I needed lots of faith and positive self talk to remind myself I was no help when I was in panic and that everyone around Tom was going through a test too, a test of friendship and of courage. On my Facebook page, I wrote:
“A good friend of ours crashed a light plane on Saturday. He cannot feel his legs. We need to practice what we preach so much now”
Life is a card game – you never know what cards you will get – but I believe I have the power to make the best of the cards I receive and so do you.
A second before you started reading this, you did not know what was you were going to find, but now that you know, you have the power to make the best of your new knowledge.
Remember, it is not about what I write, but what you choose to take from it.
Wishing you health and happiness,