August 24th marks the 14th anniversary of the day I went into the coma. My family was told I couldn’t survive the type of injury inflicted to my brain. If I did wake up, I’d be a vegetable. So why did I survive? From where did I summon the energy to care for my dying mother, myself, and make it to where I am today, despite my pre-existing chronic illnesses?
As a person of faith, of course I can say it was because of God. It was the endless prayers in every imaginable religion asking for my recovery. But why me, why would God save me? What could I do with the experience of almost dying, of being humbled through years of arduous rehabilitation, having to relearn almost everything, having my beloved career taken away?
The answer didn’t appear right away. At first I thought it was to show others that you shouldn’t give up on your dreams. You can achieve even the most difficult of things: yes, it took 6 years, but I completed rehabilitation; learned to walk without a wheelchair, walker, or cane; I returned to the practice of law (but not to criminal defense law); I managed my mother’s and my own medical care; I nurtured the relationship with the man that was by my side during the injury and eventually married him.
Then I thought it was to tell people that they should see excuses for what they were—obstacles to obtaining their goals, their dreams, obstacles they can choose to, or at least try to overcome. After the injury, I longed to be healthy, to be athletic, but I bemoaned that I couldn’t do those things because of my balance problems. I finally saw those excuses for what they were. I took up running, even using the kind assistance of guides when I participated in races. I tried roller-skating thanks to my daughter, and my husband helped get back on a bicycle. I wanted to return to school to see if I was still the nerd I used to be, to challenge my brain. But I put off applying to school for fear of not being accepted, of failing out. As most of you know, I just recently completed my degree with honors.
Now I know that what I most enjoy sharing with others is that they should live their best life now, not when they retire, or have more money, or God forbid, get a terminal illness or a tragedy befalls them. In fact, living your best life doesn’t have anything to do with having a lot of money. For me it means honestly assessing whether the life you are living is the life you want to be living. If not, where do you want to be? What small changes can you make to be happier, to get you closer to your best life?
It starts with changing your mindset, writing your goals, then slowly putting things into place. It can be one small change at first then things will fall into place. Life is too short to have regrets when you are on your deathbed. When I thought I was dying, I was glad I had experienced all the crazy fun things in my life, but I knew there was so much more I wished to have done, things I had said, my priorities would have been different. So take those trips, enjoy spending time with your kids, do the things that bring you pleasure, and ask yourself: is this your best life or are you just going through the motions. When I die, I want people to say, “She lived a great life.” What will people say about you?