These last couple of months have been hugely successful since I returned from Hawaii, with growth in all sorts of ways. Some highlights for me included:
- competing in and finishing the Trans Tahoe Relay with five friends;
- presenting the award that bears my name at the North Bay Aquatics banquet;
- connecting with my ‘Pilates family’ at Pilates on Tour in Mountain View, and at a Santa Barbara workshop;
- ‘backerflying’ (my swim stroke of choice) from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco;
- completing a 2.4 mile swim in under 100 minutes in the Berkeley Marina;
- seeing those who were freshmen on the swim team when I was captain now heading to college themselves;
- two friends (both many years older) became mothers, birthing or adopting just a few days apart;
- and significantly for recovery, connecting to standing exercises in a whole new way during my therapy sessions…which is HUGE.
It’s been a truly awesome time.
And yet, even as all this positivity was blossoming, some very tragic events happened as well. Two friends, both around my age, were separately killed in car-related crashes, one in Los Angeles, one in New York. Both events were broad-daylight, random acts by unknown, senseless drivers. And a third friend passed away around the same time when his dormant cancer returned in a ravaging way. Each loss impacted a separate community: my college class, my high school, my swim team.
I haven’t had much experience with death. A few relatives passed away when I was younger and less aware, and some members of my communities whom I did not know well. Death never came very close, either because I did not know the individual personally, or if I did, I was still at some distance subconsciously.
This time it is different. While I did not know any of the three especially well, that did not insulate me from emotion as it had in the past.
What I realized as tears came without warning during the memorial services I attended, was that I had shared a very potent experience with each of the three.
- Drew was the only other resident from my 707 area code in our MIT class, and we met for the first and last times at admitted students weekend, during one of the happiest and most excited times in our lives.
- Tristan and I got through Chemistry together, and he turned me on to origami one day at the back of class my senior year, much to the detriment of my attention to the chalkboard. The Armadillo would not exist without Tristan.
- John helped me discover the joys of lagoon swimming, and of open-water in general, and in the process encouraged my return to the sport that I so love.
Emotion from remembering past elation: each was present at a time when I was becoming me, and so they all became a part of me, too.
The end of August marked the third anniversary of the injury to my spinal cord. Three years is a long time, at least long enough for me to be complimented countless times by people who ask me how I stay so positive, how I continue to pursue my goals through it all. My answer is short and, in my mind, complete: it starts with gratitude.
The seemingly simple notion of consciously identifying the ways in which I am fortunate has helped me immensely. So much, in fact, that sometimes I am confused when someone says that they don’t think they’d “have the same courage” that I do. When I look at my goals, what they call ‘courage’ comes easily, as long as I remember all the reasons I am lucky.
How lucky we are...
To have life.
To have family, both blood-related and not.
To have power of mind, with the ability to set goals and envision reaching them.
To have passions about which to care.
To have opportunities to grow.
To feel love, and to love.
To be an individual.
To be present, now.
And, among innumerable others gratitudes, to have known Drew, Tristan, and John, each of whom lives on as an irrevocable part of me, and of so many others.