These are the amazing stories of my resilience heroes who graciously agreed to share their personal stories with Max Performance. It's my hope they will inspire you as they have me...Enjoy!! Nancy
On a beautiful early June day in 2012 I was having coffee with a friend of mine, a choreographer and dancer with whom I had worked. We had just left a meeting and were looking forward to long over-due catch up.
We chose a table for two outside a café in St. Paul, and after a couple hours of talk and caffeine, we were wrapping up our time together. Suddenly, I heard a woman yell, "Oh My God! Oh My god!", and with my back to the street, suddenly I felt myself crumpling and twisting, in darkness, unable to breathe, a solid compressed feeling in my back. I was pushed along the ground, my chair wrapped around me, trapped...dragged under the car that stopped feet from where we sat, pinning me against the brick wall of the café.
I remember thinking in those brief moments- I couldn't breathe- but my story wasn't going to end this way. That I wasn't going to die yet.
And, I knew, when my adrenaline pushed me out from under the car... that it was going to be a long journey back, and not anything that I would have included in my life plan. It was as if I had been deposited on some other train. I also knew that in this, I was executing some kind of deep karma in my own life, and that this event would end up moving me in a positive direction no matter what.
My friend (who also suffered injuries) and I shared a room at the hospital, and we kept marveling at how protected we felt through the event. We had maintained full consciousness, and our hearts went out to the woman who accidentally had stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake. We thought that if anyone else had been sitting there, they may not have lived. But given my small frame fit so well under the car, that the chair kept me from more harm, and given she had been sitting in such a way that she escaped the other wheels, the event felt like it was designed for us somehow.. despite all our broken bones, her punctured lung, and muscle, tissue and fascial damage.
The next two and half years were definitely challenging. My first three months I needed daily help to care for myself in basic ways. For seven months I hired dog walkers. For a year and a half I couldn't clean my home. I became depressed due to my pain and slow recovery, despite a year of doctor visits four to five days a week. After eight months I could finally sleep flat on my back, but I suffered from post-traumatic stress for over three years, which interfered with my sleep a great deal. I left my job – a job I had longed to leave in a company that I co-built from start-up - without the ability to actually work full time anywhere. My house went into short sale and I moved in with my fiancé.
What kept me going was the rising determination to transform my situation into something better for myself and others, as well as my practice of Buddhism. Each day I would acknowledge a new thing that I could do, rather than focus on what I couldn't.
I celebrated each victory: crawling, bathing, carrying a gallon of water, opening a window, walking down the stairs, bending to pet the dogs and eventually making a career transition, which I had been dreaming of making, when the accident happened. Of course, friends and neighbors came out of the woodwork to assist me in so many ways. So, I was actually building a stronger community too and allowing myself to be assisted, which was a challenge because I'm so independent. I was forced to completely let go of control and be dependent on others. And, others were always there.
I encouraged myself by meeting others who had faced terrible physical challenges and reminding myself to "be a beginner" in my approach to getting on my feet, and not taking the event personally; it was an accident. I took it on as my mission to overcome and kept my eyes on making a career change and being fully free in my body again. (I had previously been a dancer and yoga enthusiast.) After two and a half years I landed my dream job in a new field. It was the perfect place to land.
I wrote a little piece, "When Shit Happens", within a month of the accident, that I hope to publish at some point. That's life. Shit is going to happen and it will be up to you to push and pull and sift your way through it, find your advocates, assemble your team, ask for help, let go of what isn't important- even certain friendships- in order to heal in the deepest sense. Accepting 100% responsibility for your life is freedom, and in that there is immense power.
I grew a great deal from this experience and it's made me a much more actively compassionate person. I have made a complete recovery, am happily married to my best friend and we live in lovely home. We have been able to travel a lot the past year or so and life is indeed so much better. However, I wouldn't have gotten to where I am without this accident catapulting me out of where I was. Sometimes it takes a big nudge from the universe to pick you up and place you painfully in a place where new roots can grow. Now, I have new goals and aspirations.
When I'm challenged, I look for what I can do NOW. Where might I need to be a beginner again and take a step back? I take great care of myself and that makes me better at being able to take care of others and have the energy to be nimble. I don't have the time or patience for things and people that don't create value in my life so I continue to seek what brings my life value and joy and enables me to advance toward my new goals.
My friend and colleague Steve Beseke is an inspirational leader, worldwide resiliency presenter and writer. He was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Life Resiliency in Europe for his work. Steve highlights resilience strategies to overcome life and work obstacles. He also presents on bullying based on his personal experience and research, having being severely bullied in school because of his lifelong physical disability known as Cerebral Palsy.
He has written more than 300 articles and many video and e-books. Steve’s writing has appeared in newspapers, e-journals and on his globally known resiliency web site. He was a communications executive for nearly 30 years with Fortune 500 and other companies such as Medtronic, Opus Corporation and the National Marrow Donor Program.
Resilience is in my DNA
My name is Steve Beseke. I was born with a neuromuscular birth defect called Cerebral Palsy, so in many ways resilience became part of my DNA pretty early in my life. Easy…never. Frustrating…sometimes. Rewarding…almost always.
Resilience is hard work, and just like everyone else, I have bad days and good days. I am very much like everyone else who wants a happy and successful life and has had to overcome obstacles with patience, perseverance, and persistence. All of us have our challenges, like mountains, to scale, or to go around.
Resilience successes from my life:
- Standing up for myself when classmates bullied me in school.
- Believing I could achieve whatever I wanted in life no matter the peaks to climb
- A beautiful wife of 32 years and a 21-year-old daughter in her last year of nursing school.
- Earning the level of senior vice president.
- Inspiring others worldwide with my labor of love: resilience articles & videos
- Traveling the world; though I have had to add a cane the past few years, nothing has stopped me from what I want to do.
- Continually adapting - I recently recovered from two major operations to repair my spine, that might have left me unable to walk had I not listened to my body.
Understanding what I can and cannot control, and constantly reframing my challenges as opportunities, has allowed me to stay one step ahead of my challenges. Emotional intelligence, and also just plain grit, have been central to my resilience successes.
My mantra has been: never say “I can’t,” always see the possible, and believe determination will take me down the right path, no matter what is in the way.
Not always easy, but worth the blood, sweat and tears it takes to get to the destination.
Hear more inspiration from Steve and learn more about his story at: http://resiliencyfirst.com.
At 15 years old, I was nationally ranked in track and field and went to the Olympic Training Center. My body was my tool; it did what I asked it to do.
But at 16, I had to rest in the driver’s seat of my car after walking out of a building. A few years later my knees were so swollen and painful that I had to hold onto a railing to walk up a flight of stairs.
- “You’re depressed,” said my physician.
- “You just want attention,” said the athletic trainer at a Division 1 University as I iced down my knees yet again after track practice.
- “You just need orthotics,” said the podiatrist, who went on to give me incorrectly prescribed orthotics that added stress fractures to my list of injuries.
It wasn’t depression. Or lack of attention. Or need for orthotics. It was Lyme Disease. Which, in the 1980s and 1990s, was not well recognized or understood.
At 25 years old, I had moderate to severe arthritis due to Lyme Disease, and that I should never run again due to this damage. My social network was running; I ran 6 mornings/week, with my friends, and travelled occasionally for races.
I felt like I lost everything.
So what did it teach me? Empathy..and resilience. Over the years, I’ve learned how it feels to be young and strong and invulnerable. I’ve learned how it feels to know something is wrong, but not know what.
It’s now my passion, my calling to help find an answer. I hate what was done to me through ignorance. So when my patients say “it’s just a little pain,” or “I assumed it’s normal to not be able to raise my arm overhead without pulling or stretching or pain” or “it’s just a little swelling” – I fight for them. And educate. And teach them that sometimes there is an answer and a solution to their pain or swelling, so it goes away or is at least controlled. And sometimes there is not.
But let’s at least fight. Everyone deserves that.