Thanksgiving, Gratitude And Emotional Alchemy
Sometimes brief encounters are more life shaping and single experiences more life defining than the vast catalog of experiences we draw from. Instead, these actually draw us with their unique distinctive nature and personalization.
Serious injuries give you a much different perspective on life—
A perspective most people never get the “benefit” of internalizing via direct experience. Empathy can only extrapolate so far. Though they’re unfortunate and painful to the victim, they are teachers that cauterize knowledge into us through multiple layers of our Being.
Injuries are a most humbling experience. The most basic thing most of us take for granted, a normally functioning body, is suddenly not there. In a second, you’re knocked back down an ancient chromosomal ladder.
The Road Down
When I was ten, I suffered a compound fracture to my arm. The bone from the shoulder to the elbow cracked in half (not a “clean” break) and the two bones going from the elbow to the wrist twisted and reversed position. It was a mess. I could feel it was a mess without even seeing it.
The moment of impact, it was like someone unplugged all my senses and all I saw was black. Pitch black. I don’t know if I was out for a second or several. I came to while lying on the ground, turned my head to the side to look at my arm without needing to know what I already knew.
I remember I could feel my arm but sensorily knowing that if I tried to move it, it wouldn’t work the way it always did before. And I didn’t want to know what that mashing of bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments now felt like if I had tried to move it. Electrically it felt differently as well. On some level, I felt I still had an arm but physically it wasn’t matching that Etheric blueprint anymore.
Adrenalin thankfully numbs excruciating pain but it also makes you think and feel strange things. My first thought was “Well, I’m going to be missing some school” and laughing inside about it. And I always liked school.
Then the reality sets in. I could not move a part of my body. You wish ambulances were hovercrafts. And in the Emergency Room, that’s when I found out there really are needles the size Bugs Bunny might have stashed in his fur.
A hypodermic needle going into your bone and depositing fluid is a feeling I could not even vocalize. Who knew we have nerves inside our bones? That was ANYTHING but a pleasant discovery. It crossed the point where my brain couldn’t distinguish it as extreme pain or extreme pleasure.
The Road Back
I had a cast on for six months. Had to take baths a certain way, sleep a certain way, have a special bus pick me up and bring me home from school. I watched my brother and neighborhood friends play outside and couldn’t participate. I put models together and made use of my time doing other creative things.
After the long wait, my surgeon finally took the cast off and the pins out. For six months I was a better weather forecaster than anyone…”Trust me it’s going to rain.” My arm now looked like a see through medical model, like those Visible Man and Woman kits. It was whiter than a vampire, and the skin was so translucent I could see things normal skin pigment obscures.
Once the cast was removed, I had to relearn how to use my arm again. It took months. It hurt. It was weak. It was frustrating. It became a series of little victories. And every victory counts.
Ten years went by and I went to see the same surgeon for a minor injury I had in college. There we were face to face again a decade or so after he put me back together as a 10 year old boy. A college guy and by then a surgeon in his mid fifties who’s done thousands of operations before me and thousands afterwards.
Tears in the corners of both our eyes.
None of the “Hi, how are you doing” or other Physician/Patient formalities.
“Lemme see” he said gesturing for me to roll up my sleeve as he came over to me and looked at his resculpturing of my arm.
He remembered me. He remembered that operation on my arm. He was as genuinely happy seeing his success years later as I had been living it.
What do you say to the person who gave you your arm back?
Somehow I managed to say “You did a great job” over a surge of backlogged emotions that was muting my vocal chords with the momentum of tears.
I finally got to thank him as an adult. There was a therapeutic closure in doing that.
I’m never at a loss for words but that reunion was one of those moments for me. The only time in my life I was speechless. I’ve given several eulogies about people I was close to and kept it together in front of people amidst the sadness of such events.
But that moment of gratitude in that room with him broke my normal centeredness down like nothing else. It was just such a devastatingly humbling experience.
Do you know what it’s like to not be able to pick your own self up off the ground? Be carried out on a stretcher? I learned that at 10 years old. I wonder how many dictators, terrorists and warlords would become dictators, terrorists and warlords if they learned what that feels like at 10 years old.
The injury happened playing sports where I was hit and landed on my elbow during a football game. Even with all the protective gear worn you can still get badly injured.
And this doesn’t include long term accumulative damage which is gaining more scientific traction with CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) in current and retired NFL players. Along with boxers, I would include Professional Wrestlers in that category as well even though it’s a “pretend” sport.
My Surgeon was decades ahead of the research curve on the long term damage of football. They didn’t even have a name for it back then. He told my mother adolescent boys should not be playing tackle football— that because they’re still growing, injuries can create lasting damage and may never heal properly.
I never played organized tackle football again. I wore an elbow pad when I played outdoors from then on. And in the neighborhood, we switched to two hand touch “tackling” though there were some slip ups out of our earlier habit of tackling each other.
My mother told me years later that he talked with her before the operation. He informed her that he wasn’t sure he would be able to repair my arm to full mobility due to the severity and jaggedness of the fracture. I was told I may not be able to touch my shoulder again after the cast came off and not to expect to regain the full range of motion.
I still have a scar on my arm several inches long. I really don’t care. I don’t have any concerns for vanity of appearance about it because my arm works again. From my perspective, the things most people are concerned about and worry constantly about relating to peer pressure and “fitting in” seem so trivial in a post injury world.
The Right Kind Of Tears
I see now that it was a blessing that I felt that level of gratitude at 20 years old instead of having to wait to the last years of my life. Why wait til you wipe your feet on death’s doorstep to feel gratitude? There’s plenty of things in your life right now you can practice on.
Gratitude is a muscle that needs exercising just like an arm or leg.
And gratitude is a more highly evolved emotion that benefits long term health and the immune system. Feeling and practicing feeling highly evolved emotions is transformative and even medicinal.
Studies have shown gratitude lowers blood pressure, improves relaxation and resistance to stress. It slows breathing and heart rate providing a sanctuary of calm in your life.
It’s calming, cathartic and continual. I still cry about this man now and then to this day. They’re the right kind of tears. I don’t cry anymore about close relatives and friends I’ve lost because the normal healthy grieving process ran it’s course and has been transmuted into gratitude for knowing them and treasured memories.
But some gratitude will always be bigger than you and that’s a good thing. I’m glad I still cry when I think about the Surgeon who gave me my arm back.
Movies about love stories don’t really make me cry. Movies and stories about friendship, loyalty and camaraderie always do and always have.
Gratitude is emotional alchemy and turns lower base emotions into gold.
I look at the current social, cultural and political landscape and see masses of people getting Ds and Fs in gratitude.They’re stuck fighting and arguing in lower untransmuted emotions of anger, hatred, intolerance, fear and aggression. All toxic emotions dangerous and volatile to others including and ESPECIALLY the host.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Conservative and don’t drink or smoke. You’re drinking and smoking a bunch of toxic emotions already. At some point it will cash a check your body can’t cover and you’ll wake up to a health crisis.
Just taking care of yourself on the physical level with a healthy diet and exercise won’t get you unlimited brownie points over negative unevolved emotions accumulated over years and decades.
There’s a better healthier practice. Instead of increasing feelings and perceptions of distance and difference with toxic emotions, gratitude folds emotional space onto itself and builds connections. Gratitude is a bridge.
Did someone tell you you can write well?
Did someone tell you you have a great voice or can sing?
Did someone tell you you’re talented?
Did someone tell you you’re really good at this or that?
Those are all gifts. You don’t need 30 people to tell you the same thing. Really all it takes is one. You can be that one to someone else.
A few genuine words can change someone’s entire trajectory in life. A few moments of genuine attention towards someone can make an enormous difference in their self esteem and emotional landscape. A few moments can save someone’s arm, someone’s life.
Living In A Post Injury Reality
In a post injury reality it’s hard to be arrogant. It’s hard to be narcissistic. It’s hard to be an A–hole. It’s hard to be egotistical after not being able to move a body part for 6 months.
It’s hard to be self absorbed when someone you didn’t know gave you their best talents and some of the finest hours of their life and energy to make you normal again.
And there’s people much less fortunate than me that never regain full use after an injury and amputees.
It almost makes you wish all the brash, superficial, entitled braggarts and bullies on the planet would experience this because it seems it would be the only thing (along with serious illness) to make them look deeper at themselves and their personal defects and change into better upgraded versions of themselves.
Ironically it’s those very people who are not emotionally and psychologically fit enough to cope with a negative life event like a serious injury that puts you out of commission. It’s crushing and they’re actually really soft and vulnerable to begin with, which is why they bark the loudest and try to scare and intimidate people—it’s to protect their fragile tender insides. They can’t hide from or fool those of us with post injury eyes.
Paradigm Shift Of Priorities
It’s hard to take your body and your health for granted as well in a post injury reality. Why abuse your body with poor quality food or drug use? You don’t feel the gradual degradation over time as noticeably this way but it will happen.
With a traumatic injury, the degradation is INSTANT. The road to recovery isn’t.
So I don’t wait for magic pills and magic cures. I started taking my long term health by the reins in high school with weightlifting and regular exercise. I then phased out soda, candy, sugar and junk food and began eating cleaner healthier Organic foods later on.
Gradual movements over time will get you you there—The same way I learned to use my arm again.
You can live without your dream job, dream house, dream relationship, being in love, finding your Soulmate, all those things and still have a fun, fulfilling life and a great quality of life. A lot of people have a hard time believing that.
It’s a foreign concept to me. Things like this are much more primal. If you don’t have usage of an arm, leg or properly functioning body, your quality of daily life will never be the same. Those of us who’ve had these kind of experiences know this. I live in a post injury reality and it’s colored my life lenses ever since.
So I consider myself very fortunate. Most people don’t take the time to realize this about themselves just as they are right now with fully functional arms and legs.
Don’t wait for a license to enjoy life from someone else or external circumstances to magically change. To this day, it doesn’t take much for me to be happy and enjoy life. I’m always planning my next adventure, working on my next project.
Learn to appreciate simple joys in life and to celebrate daily life. The joy of taking a walk, the joy of hearing birds sing. The joy of a wonderful meal with family or friends. Don’t waste your life sitting at a desk even if you have to for income. Get outside now and then and make a date with nature. It’ll always look better in person than on your TV, phone or computer screen.
Watch a child discover the joys of doing something for the first time like whistling or snapping their fingers. You were that way once too. What happened? I hope you don’t need an injury to realize it and get back to that state of mind. Children have what are called “Beginner’s minds” And Beginner’s minds are never cynical and deflated of wonder.
The Universal Currency Of Gratitude
Yes my Surgeon was paid for his skills and orthopedic expertise but I can never repay him for what the operation was actually worth. Beings beyond our little economy here in this dimension are the bookeepers for that kind of currency.
So consider this my tribute to a man who doesn’t need to be named. It’s comforting knowing there’s even one person like him on the planet and his bank account for gratitude towards him will always be in the positive. Even if I’m the only one, though I am certainly not. There are thousands he healed and helped in his 8 decades on the planet.
The Surgeon I mention left the Earth plane this year (2017). I rarely saw this man. Yet over the years I always thought about him a lot. And I still have a connection to him I do not fully understand. We are somehow related on a different level than family and there is a closeness that far exceeds the amount of time we crossed each other’s paths in our respective walks through life.
I’ve come to realize he was an Artist like me only he doesn’t sign his works. Now you know I’m one of them.
Oh, and I can touch my shoulder again.
© Composer Yoga