I have known many people who have been forced to take a path less traveled through betrayal, illness, loss, or injury. When I saw their lives being derailed I felt a strong
empathetic reaction and tried to provide any support I could. However, there is no lesson better learned than the one you experience first hand. And this is where I was taught the most profound and painful lesson of my life. I was fortunate or unfortunate enough, depending on your opinion, to experience a drastic unexpected turn that shook the foundation of my life. How did I get here? I took a very mundane trip on a hotel elevator one beautiful sunny day that ended with me in a coma with a traumatic brain and spine injury and my family being told to make necessary arrangements because this may not end well for me. As you may suspect since you are reading these words, the worst did not happen, I survived. The path since that time has been both heartbreaking and heartwarming. The heartwarming moments were the friends and family that mobilized to help me and my family through my rehabilitation and recovery. The heartbreaking moments are the debilitating pain I have suffered from since the accident, the loss of pleasurable pastimes and the drastic change in my career trajectory. I owned my own company, I was a runner and ran several times a week with a group of marvelous women who had become more than running buddies they were my emotional support system. I was a lover of food, my guilty addiction was binge-watching the food network. I own a BMW motorcycle and loved to go for rides with my brother and friends. Not only did I suffer brain trauma but I also suffered spine trauma that has required two surgeries to repair the damage. I have not been able to run since the accident, I have been told by the medical experts I should not ride a motorcycle again, according to the doctors I cannot afford another head injury. I have completely lost my sense of smell which has affected the flavors I experience. So the foods and drinks I enjoyed before do not hold the same pleasure now. I sold my company, my recovery demanded my focus and required an abrupt career path change.
These adjustments due to my unexpected turn, while regrettable, are trivial when all is said and done. But the adjustment I did not anticipate is the shifting sands of my support system. Two friends that were my stalwarts through this whole event both relocated out-of-state. Their sudden absence was difficult for me and my family. That coupled with the more subtle shifting sands of friends connected to specific pastimes and activities I can no longer participate in has been disorienting and disquieting. As a result, I have come to understand the inherent voluntary nature of friendship that makes it subject to life’s whims and unexpected turns. This path was unforeseen and has required me to release expectations of myself and others, which admittedly is a work in process. I have friends who have put me up on a tenuous pedestal as an inspiration and I have friends who have chastised me for infractions of judgment. Both are uncomfortable realities of my new path. Change is generally distressing for all, those riding out the storm as well as the onlookers. My ask for you dear reader – be gentle with yourself and others embroiled in change. There are many people traveling unexpected paths and they no longer fit in the box they have been dutifully building for themselves. Therefore to view or deduce them from your own constructed framework or ethos will prove frustrating for all.
I refer to us “unexpected path pilgrims” as phoenixes. A phoenix attains new life by arising from the ashes of its forebearer. There are many of us out there, for those who love the phoenixes in your life, understand the phoenix no longer has their rigid framework, it was obliterated. There is a blessing in that glorious cacophony as well as turmoil. So relating to your phoenix with your own rigid framework will be disappointing. You can both grow from this experience and peek outside your own cage and search for connections in unlikely places not previously explored. If you are only drawn to people who see and experience the world as you do, and one of those conformists suddenly takes you out of your comfortable allegory, it’s scary. Your phoenix may no longer fit in the story you have created. I encourage you to explore a new narrative. I have always loved mosaics, the beautiful randomness of divergent colors, shapes, sizes, and flow that come together to paint a beautiful image is a wonderful example that a change in path or perspective can lead you to an unexpected and powerful result.
If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading ~ Gautama Buddha