A lot has changed for my little family.
In four years, we’ve called four houses home.
We traded up from the puny Catskills to the Rockies.
We added two labradors retrievers, now seventy pounds each, but still puppies.
Josh has braces and a palette expander.
My trips to my hairdresser are more frequent, to cover the grey.
I fly home to Cleveland every month to sit with my grandmother in the courtyard of her nursing home. Now our walks and lunch dates take place outside the sprawling brown brick building or within its institutional cafeteria.
We have new work, have taken risks and said goodbye to friends who are family.
Life is different.
I was not prepared.
Which was what my step-sister Andrea Hope Rubin thought the day she finally saw herself in the mirror, after the October 11, 2014 car accident that burned 45% of her body and took away her arm, her ears, her nose, her vision in one eye.
We lack the capacity to predict.
We spend our days fearing the worst case scenario and are surprised, when life happens, that the actual worst case is one we never even thought to fear.
The change might be sudden death, a job loss, a catastrophic accident, an affair.
We are confronted with a story of our lives different than the one we had crafted.
Pema Chödrön writes in When Things Fall Apart:
The most precious opportunity presents itself when we come to the place where we think we can’t handle whatever is happening. It’s too much. It’s gone too far. We feel bad about ourselves. There’s no way we can manipulate the situation to make ourselves come out looking good. No matter how hard we try, it just won’t work. Basically, life has just nailed us.
It’s as if you just looked at yourself in the mirror, and you saw a gorilla. The mirror’s there; it’s showing you, and what you see looks bad. You try to angle the mirror so you will look a little better, but no matter what you do, you still look like a gorilla. That’s being nailed by life, the place where you have no choice except to embrace what’s happening or push it away.
Andrea says, “I have to make a choice every day. And I do. And the choice is, ‘Let’s go.’”
She says, “I’m a much better person. I’m a much better version of myself than I was before I was an amputee, before I was half blind, before I was disfigured. Emotionally, psychologically, day to day, I am the best version of myself than I have ever been.”
The worst news ever becomes an invitation to get resourceful, get tough and get to work to create that which we never thought was possible.
© Liora Powers