One year ago today began a series of events that rocked my world. The first happened on this day, March 7th in 2017. That event was a serious car accident. Although it was serious and kept me down for several weeks, the only permanent damage from that accident is a scarred leg and ankle. I am one fortunate woman, and very grateful.
The second event was another car accident a few months later. There was no physical harm from that accident, but coming so soon after the other car accident, I was emotionally damaged. Then a few weeks after that, my husband and I were in Hurricane Irma when it made a direct hit on St. Maarten. That hurricane was the worst hurricane ever recorded. Thankfully we survived Hurricane Irma, but the emotional toll that it took on me is not yet gone completely, and may not ever be. I wrote about that experience in six blog posts, and the book about that will be published by the end of this year.
In between the second car accident and Hurricane Irma, I was riding in a car with a friend when something flew from a truck in front of us and flattened her tire on a busy interstate. We were not hurt, just a little shaken by what happened, and even more so, thinking about what could have happened.
As I reflect on these events at this point in time, my overwhelming feeling is gratitude. Any one of those experiences, as difficult as they were at the time, could have been so much worse. While the hurricane was quite disruptive and very frightening at several points in the process what many are still suffering from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and other areas was so much worse. Less than two weeks after our Hurricane Irma experience, Mike and I were back home and soon back into our normal routine, while these many months later some people in other areas still do not have power and other (what we think of) as basic necessities. We only have to look around to see others who are suffering worse than we are. That fact has been obvious to me many times over.
Yesterday, as I wrote this, was a gray day, and not just because of these reflections. It was cold and rainy, and my mood matched the weather. I came home from a luncheon and did not know what to do to shake my mood. I thought about going shopping, and the “old” me would have done just that, but not now. I did not want to shop, and I did not need anything, so that was not a good solution. I busied myself for a while with laundry and other things around the house but could not sustain the necessary energy for much of that. Since March 7th had been on my mind, and since I needed to write my blog post for this week, I decided to honor this year’s anniversary with this post.
What did the events of this year teach me? Our challenges are wasted on us if we do not learn from them. My lessons from this year have been profound. These events changed me. Although there are more examples of this than these I will mention, these three are the most dramatic.
One of my lessons is to be compassionate with myself. I think I have usually been compassionate with others, but not always with myself. These events slowed me down, requiring me to change my focus. The serious car accident had me unable to get out and go about my normal routine for several weeks. I had to depend on others. That was not easy for me. After the Hurricane experience, I had some mild depression. It was situational, due to the accidents as well as the hurricane. The depression cleared after about a month. I learned to let myself lean in to the emotions I was feeling, to own them, to not try to stuff them down, for them to resurface later. This was major learning for me.
A second lesson was to begin to change my expectations of others. The “begin to” is an important distinction. During this year, I was hurt by the failure of some I expected to be there and to do more for me emotionally during those times, who did not. I had casual friends check in with me more than some close friends during those major events. That was hard. I have come to accept that others do the best they can, most of the time and that when they are not “there” for us, it is about them, not us. I have grown in my acceptance of this lesson by re-reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Agreements two and three, “Don’t Take Anything Personally” and “Don’t Make Assumptions” especially ring true about this lesson.
My third major lesson was the unpredictability of life, and our inability to prepare for many things that will happen to us. When life throws us off of our game, we have options as to how to deal with what is happening. One option is to try to avoid or ignore what is happening. If we do that, we lose. We lose our ability to learn from the lessons those experiences are sent to teach us. Another option, and a far better one, is to lean in, to accept what has happened, and to learn its lessons. If we slow down, take it in, and accept the changes that are happening, we will come out on the other side stronger and better for the experience.
So here I am one year later, stronger and better. And ever so grateful.