“When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.” – Helen Keller, writer
“The bitch who did this!”
Cameron was a petite, pretty woman, and on her forty fifth birthday arrived at my offices, for her first consultation. When she called to book it she said she had some anger issues to resolve. When she walked into my office, she had an awkward gait. I was to learn she had a prosthetic, left leg, the result of an auto incident, five years earlier.
Cameron wore granny glasses with her auburn hair. She had a friendly, engaging style and was eager to talk. She indicated she was married and had two children now in university. Cameron was a dental hygienist and her spouse, Dave, was a firefighter in a nearby town. She then added they had a sound relationship.
When I asked her what she was angry about that brought her to me, she replied tapping her left leg, and with a gush of colour erupting on her face, “The bitch who did this!”
“Tell me what happened, Cameron!” I said.
She took a few seconds to carefully, calm herself, then she replied, “It was a Friday morning, the kids had left for school, Dave was at work, and I was going to get groceries. She went right through the stop sign, and slammed into me. And, she walked away…a senior by the way…without a scratch…can you believe that?”
“But what about you?” I asked.
“Me? I was in hospital for three months, had physiotherapy for 18 more months, and it ruined my life…I’m just so angry at her…at what happened to me!” she said, her face reddening again.
“Can you imagine anyone saying that?”
“What upsets you the most about what happened to you, Cameron?” I asked, getting her to focus on the primary source of her anger.
“Do you know that old biddy’s excuse for going through the stop sign, Ken?” she asked with a belligerent tone.
“I have no idea…what did she say?”
“She said it was due to her medications…she had taken too many that day, and it had distorted her perception! Can you imagine anyone saying that?” her anger still burning bright in her eyes.
“Yes I can actually! There are millions of medicated drivers of all ages around these days. I read there are, on average, six hundred seniors injured or killed, on the road in the U.S. every day. Probably similar proportionally in Canada, too! But, I am wondering what you want to achieve by working with me…what is your primary goal, Cameron?” I said, again asking her to focus.
“Ken, I didn’t mention…Mabel…that’s the woman who hit me…she is actually a nice, old lady. She took full responsibility for what happened, was very apologetic, and even came to visit me in the hospital. Even today, she still sends me a Christmas card every year…wishing me well. And yet, I’m still angry about it…still angry at her, and it comes out, repeatedly, in other areas of my life. That’s why I called you.”
“Well, it sounds like you have been victorious over a great challenge, Cameron…but you have been thinking you were victimized by it. Does that sound accurate?” I asked.
“Well…sort of…but I still have only one leg! And, she is still out there driving around as if it never happened! It’s just not fair!” she said, her frustration growing yet again.
“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” – Scott Hamilton, skater
“…her irresponsible behaviour with her medications…”
“Cameron, it sounds like Mabel has endeavoured to support you, and she probably also learned some vital life lessons, in the process, for her future. But, what is the specific behaviour you saw in Mabel that still bothers you so much?”
Cameron was quiet for a moment, then she said, “I think it is her irresponsible behaviour with her medications…Ken, she could have killed me!” she said, leaning toward me for emphasis.
“Cameron, we only notice around us the things we need to notice, to help us survive. Nature designed us this way. So, when we notice specific people, it is because they reflect a part of us we deny, and need to learn to appreciate more, to survive in our own future. So, can I ask you a question that may sound bizarre, but will get us to the truth of your situation?”
“Sure, go ahead!” she replied.
“Cameron, who would perceive you as irresponsible with drugs or your medications, now, or in the past?” I asked.
Cameron looked at me with a blank stare…as if I had asked her to jump out the window. There was a long pause as her face moved towards confusion, then to frustration, then she said, “Ken, I was not a druggie in my school days…I’m not an alcoholic or anything like that…that’s just not me!”
I said, “Cameron, I’m not suggesting you were…and I’m not suggesting you perceive yourself this way. But, who else, because of their values, viewed you this way in the past?”
“My husband Dave!”
Cameron paused, staring off out my office window. Then, she shifted in her chair and resettled herself trying to find a more comfortable position. Then, she returned her gaze to the window again, and her eyes flushed with tears started seeping.
She took a few moments to collect herself and then turned to me, saying, “Ken, I had very difficult births with both of my children. There is a family history of premature births, and I was taking a medication to ease my discomfort.”
I said softly, “Cameron, was there someone, at that time, who perceived you were irresponsible in your use of that medication?”
“Yes! My husband Dave! He had seen a documentary on that drug thalidomide which caused so many deformed births, and he was terrified for our baby. He wanted me to stop and I tried, but just wasn’t able to function without it. I was still working then, and we needed the money to pay the bills.” she replied, her tears flowing freely now.
“Cameron, that must have been one of the toughest decision you ever made. But, I also know it was the correct one for you because there are no mistakes in our lives, only learning opportunities!”
“But Ken! I’m still haunted by that memory. What if my oldest son was not OK? What if I had made the wrong decision staying on that medication?” she said, dropping her head while anguish filled her voice.
“It didn’t happen that way and you are engaging in ‘what if self sabotage‘ because you haven’t uncovered what you learned that day that changed your life, forever.” I said.
She seemed surprised by my comment and looked up at me, saying, “I’m still not sure why I choose to stay on the medication…but it did work out OK, in the end.”
“Pamela Anderson has more prosthetic in her body than I do. Nobody calls her disabled.”
– Aimee Mullins, athlete
“…it changed my life, forever!”
“Cameron, I want you to go back to that moment when you made your decision to stay on the medication…what were you thinking, at that very moment?”
She went inside herself again for a bit, then she said, “Looking back now, I can remember it clearly…I was at the kitchen table, Dave had just left, upset with me. It was then I realized, without that medication, I wouldn’t be able to cope with my life…the demands from all around me…my Dad was sick, I was newly married, I was in a new job…I just wouldn’t have made it!”
“What did you learn at that moment which got you to be here today, Cameron?”
“I realized I needed to take care of myself before anyone else, otherwise I can be anything for anyone…even our baby that was coming. That was the day I learned to take care of myself first, before anyone else…otherwise I just won’t survive!” she replied with distant, certain voice.
“Cameron, that sounds like a very significant learning in your life. Have you noticed how learning it has impacted your life since that day?”
“Ken, it changed my life, forever! It has enabled me to be the partner and Mom I am today; it has enabled me build, and maintain, so many important relationships in my work, my community…really, my whole life! As I think about it now, it colours everything about me that’s important!”
“So…no mistake! While painful…also a really powerful learning event which enables you to be who you are today, doing what you do, and having what you have, today!”
“There is a lightness to it…like a burden has been lifted from me!”
“Yes, I see that now! But, how does this connect with Mabel’s behaviour?”
“Can you see how Mabel’s medication decision was also intended to help her survive in a similar way, so that, she also learned vital information for her future?”
“Yes, I guess that’s true, isn’t it?” Cameron replied.
Then, I added, “And, your perception of Mabel’s behaviour was the catalyst you needed to grow your awareness of the truth of that decision you made, many years ago. So, you get to grow your self worth and self confidence …you’re learning, now, to appreciate a part of you… that decision… which you have been beating yourself about, and not valuing.”
“When I think about it that way, it reminds me of why I’m a great Mom, a devoted spouse and a good friend. So, Mabel’s behaviour bugged me because it reminded me there was a part of my past I was not appreciating…and now, I’m beginning to do that!”
“That’s it Cameron, exactly! So you can see how your collision certainly caused you lots of pain, but, it was also the event which caused you to grow your sense of yourself…to appreciate yourself at a new level. As you continue to find other examples of how it has served you, you will notice more and more appreciation for the collision. You will notice numerous ways it has made you a wiser and stronger person…more ready for your future.”
“I can feel the difference already, Ken! There is a lightness to it…like a burden has been lifted from me!” she said.
“Can you see how your perception of Mabel looks different, as well?” I asked.
“Now, she looks like a well intentioned, elderly lady trying to maintain her independence in the face of her medical challenges.” Cameron replied.
“So, truthfully…you owe her a debt of gratitude for being who she is because, if she wasn’t, you might not have ever learned to appreciate a vital, life altering decision which has served you ever since…can you see that now, Cameron?”
“Yes, Ken! Yes I can! I think I will send her a Christmas card this year!” she said, smiling for the first time since she arrived.
“You’re a wise woman, Cameron!”
“At some point in every person’s life, you will need an assisted medical device – whether it’s your glasses, your contacts, or as you age, it might be a hip replacement or a knee replacement or a pacemaker. The prosthetic generation is all around us.” – Aimee Mullins, athlete
Until Next time…
Now you know there is no loss without an equal gain, at the same second. But, be skeptical, and check it out, in your own history. When you look carefully and truthfully, you will find out how the apparent loss was counterbalanced with an equal gain that honours who you are, what you do and what you have…today!
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
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