When I was 24 years old life as I knew it suddenly and drastically changed. Over the course of three days I slowly became paralyzed and lost consciousness. It was July on the Canada Day long weekend, a time to have fun and celebrate my country’s birthday. I had just graduated from university and was looking forward to heading to Quebec to spend the entire summer in a French immersion program. More fun! As weakness and loss of sensation crept up my body, I didn’t realize that I was also becoming less and less aware. I couldn’t have known that fun was most definitely no longer on the menu.
What had done this to me? A microscopic virus I couldn’t avoid. Many times I marveled that something so incredibly minuscule could wreak such havoc and almost completely destroy my life. I often thought about the power of that invisible little invader and became filled with awe. Bewildered, I would ask what most people ask when the bottom of their world falls out. “How can this be?”
In my temporary new home at the physical rehabilitation centre, days went by and the fog slowly cleared out of my brain. I gradually came to an understanding of what had happened to me. My super-powered immune system had gone to town attacking the mononucleosis virus that had made me sick. Unfortunately there was a problem with the wiring and it attacked every nerve cell in my body too. A case of mistaken identity!
One night I lay awake in my clinical little bed in my room for two and thought about my situation. Things didn’t look good. How was I supposed to do anything when I couldn’t move my body on command anymore? It didn’t take long to fall into despair. The life I knew was gone and I didn’t know how I was supposed to carry on. I was in a completely foreign world and my imagination couldn’t conjure a single scenario of how I might live in it. “This is too hard,” I heard myself say. “I can’t do it.”
Eventually I went to sleep that night and by the time I woke up in the morning the only thing that had changed was my despair had lightened a bit, probably due to nothing more than rest. I was still adrift with no idea of what to do. There was only one thing I could do. I repeated the day before. With the help I now needed from the staff, I got up and I had my day. That was my game plan going forward, and it worked.
When life is suddenly shattered one thing I want anyone reeling in the chaos of that to know is that even though you can’t see a way forward, there is one. You don’t know what it is yet, you can’t even imagine it, but it’s there. It’s there in the form of an immense pool of unlimited possibility that we can’t see or touch – that place where every idea and inspiration comes from.
When Life takes so much away, it’s hard to imagine that it will serve up new opportunities but that’s what Life does. When crisis mode is in full swing you can’t do more than what you know how to do in any given moment. Thankfully, crises have a shelf life. Eventually they get stale and when they do fresh material from the possibility pool can begin to make its way to you.
Paralysis is not something I would ever say is good. But I can’t say anything ‘bad” happened when I was 24 either. Something happened and it changed my life. I discovered the way forward that was waiting for me and decades later it’s still unfolding. It brought me to a point where my human inclination to view the world dualistically in terms of good or bad has softened to encompass a more peaceful, contemplative way of thinking. I’ve found this expands the possibility pool enormously. Its open to everybody and it’s offerings come day by day, little by little, wherever you’re at. Keep going!