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September 11, 2012

Inspiration and Motivation within us…and all around us

On this day, the 11-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, I awoke to a feeling of emptiness, quickly remembering where I was when I first heard about the first airplane flying into the World Trade Center.  It is an emptiness that felt so much like 11 years ago, that I have not felt many times in my life.  I can compare it to being told I would never walk again when I was first paralyzed 27 years ago.  I can compare it to December 5, 1994 when my father died from a massive heart attack at the young age of 59.  I can compare it to losing my best friend Tom to a brain aneurysm seven years ago.  While there have been countless other times when I have felt a loss, none of them have compared to the events that I just shared with you.  Profound stillness and silence accompanied each one of those events.  Inspiration and Motivation pulled me out of those events.

Thinking back 11 years ago on this day, I remember being glued to my window for a period of time because my wife and I had a beautiful view of the Twin Towers when they were standing.  On this day however, one by one, they looked like tall smoke stacks.  When I was not staring out the window, I was watching and listening to the television reports in total disbelief, shock, and horror.  The other events that I just mentioned to you carried those same feelings of disbelief, shock, and horror.  However, in every one of those events, there was inspiration and motivation not too far behind.  Watching the devastating footage on television, I quickly saw some of the most courageous people enter the screen, doing whatever they could do to help their extended brothers and sisters.  When I was told that I would never walk again, I was immediately told that I was a very lucky young man.  The majority of people who had similar strokes occur their brain and never lived…my stroke occurred in the spinal cord and I lived!  When my father passed away, a man who I see like my second father was at my side, almost as if my father had sent him.  When my friend Tom passed away, I quickly saw his very young son, smiling and being carefree…I knew Tom’s soul was living through his son at that moment.

Friends, I am not saying tragedies are easy or that we will ever forget them.  We will not and we should not.  But just as is the case with a rainstorm when the sun first appears, you are guaranteed a rainbow.  There is inspiration and motivation there to comfort there…sometimes by those we know, sometimes as 9/11 taught us, by total strangers…our extended brothers and sisters.  I ask you to remember this during the challenging moments in your life because I am convinced that no matter what happens in our life, we have what it takes to not only survive any tragedy or challenge, but we have the strength to thrive in the face of any tragedy or challenge.  There is a fire that exists within us all that we can always call upon for comfort in any moment and there are people around us, some that we know and some that are total strangers, to support us in our time of need.  Trust me when I tell you that I don’t think, but I know this to be true.  I dedicate this blog entry to our extended brother and sisters who lost their lives on 9/11, those extended brothers and sisters who found the strength and courage within themselves to help so many others on that day, and those other extended brothers and sisters who found themselves on that day and whose lives will never be the same.

Today’s Action Step:  Ask yourself, “Who has motivated and inspired you in your life and what lights your fire to motivate and inspire yourself?”

Healing.  As I nurse my fractured right foot back to health and hopefully emerge even stronger from this setback, I find myself focusing on the word “healing,” more than “curing.”  This has always been a battle for me when it comes to my spinal cord injury and now I find myself applying the same thinking towards my foot.  For the last 27 years I have heard the phrase, “curing paralysis or curing spinal cord injury” and have always felt that something needed to be done before the act of “curing” could take place.  Enter “healing.”  Healing to me is the process that can possibly lead to a cure.  This process involves tapping into our emotions, making peace with the past, and preparing ourselves for the future.  If this process is not completed than it does not mean that we can’t lead a rewarding and a happy life, but you always feel like something is missing, something is unresolved.

So I have decided to heal my fractured foot.  Sure, I will wait the 4-6 weeks, get another x-ray, obtain clearance from my doctor to begin standing in my standing frame and then begin the assisted-walking program again…but…I know that if I don’t heal my foot, I may be looking at another setback and possibly much sooner rather than later.  Huh?  In the remaining three weeks that I have before I get that x-ray, I will continue to feel my feelings of frustration, anger, and even sadness for the time lost in walking this summer and really see where they are rooted because I sure as heck know that they run much deeper than a broken foot.  From what is surfacing thus far, there is an abundance of frustration in other parts of my life which are not major, but enough to know that they are being magnified through my injury.  Louise Hay, a world-renowned author and healer, has a book and now an app called “Heal Your Body,” that focuses on our physical setbacks, the probable cause, and the new thought pattern that is necessary for healing.  I totally subscribe to this way of thinking.  According to “Heal Your Body,” the probable cause of a bone problem/breaks or fractures is “Rebelling against authority.”  Hmmm, maybe I do believe that outside circumstances or even people control me to a certain degree.  The new thought pattern is “In my world, I am my own authority, for I am the only one who thinks in my mind.”  This certainly resonates with me.  Even though life is going very well for me, I still find myself comparing myself to other people rather than just doing my own thing and being happy with it.  Life is a work in progress my friends and this fractured foot is a pathway towards immense personal growth at the moment and I want to absorb its entire message.

So while I am making peace with my foot and the emotions surrounding it, I am also noticing an element of fear that is slowly, but surely, rising.  There is a fear of getting back on my feet again, not just a fear of possibly breaking my foot again, but an even greater fear of what life could possibly be like WHEN, not if, I truly walk again, unassisted, on my own, without a harness system, without leg braces, without any device to assist me.  It is an exciting image on the screen of my mind and an even more exhilarating feeling that accompanies that image, but I would be lying to you if I did not tell you that I am somewhat scared.  It has been almost 27 years that I have been paralyzed.  I know what it is like to live my life from a wheelchair.  While this may sound like a no-brainer and that I should not have any fear, the reality is that it is change, and our mind resists all kinds of change.  The mind creates comfort zones for us through fear, while the heart breaks them down through courage.  My heart is telling me that this is a work in progress and that I am getting there.

Today’s Action Step:  Ask yourself, “What needs to be HEALED in my life before it can be CURED?”

Adversity and Setbacks.  While I knew that this was going to be a topic that I absolutely, without a doubt, thought I would be addressing at some stage of this blog, I did not believe it was going to surface so quickly.  This past Monday while doing my pull-ups (there is a bar in between a door way, up high), the pull-up bar broke and I came straight down, obviously unable to brace my fall with my legs.  My feet appeared to land first, then my knees bent quickly, and I landed on my butt and hands.  I immediately felt like my hands and butt took the major brunt of the fall, but I quickly examined my entire body.  There was no redness or swelling anywhere.  Scared at falling from such a high distance, I took a deep breath feeling like I had dodged a major bullet and climbed back into my wheelchair. 

The following day was Day #2 of my assisted walking program over at Kessler.  When I arrived I quickly told my therapist about the fall and that I was okay.  I then had a very productive and successful 40-minute walk on the treadmill, checked out my skin and everything after that, and was on top of the world.  This assisted-walking program is exactly what I needed at this moment, August is the quietest month for my business so I can commit the necessary time to it, and mentally, I am more focused than ever before.

And then I woke up yesterday and was greeted by a swollen, bruised, and hot right foot.  It was ugly and I was scared.  My immediate thought was that it was broken, but how did this happen?  Was it the fall two days ago, was it the walking on Tuesday, or was it a combination of the two.  I will never know.  What I did know is that I had to take care of it and that is what I am in the process of doing.  I went to my doctor and got an x-ray that confirmed that I had two broken bones in my right foot.  Now I am waiting on my excellent doctor to tell me what needs to be done next.

What I do know is that this is a major setback, but not the end of the world.  Before I arrived at this “not being the end of the word,” I needed to feel my feelings.  I had my moments yesterday of sadness, anger, frustration, guilt, you name it.  They came, I felt them, and they passed.  There are no longer bad days in my life, just challenging moments.  And this has certainly been a span of time filled with many challenging moments.  But one thing is certain…I will not only survive this setback, this adversity, but I promise to thrive in the face of this adversity.  You can bank on that!  Life is too awesome.  I have too much for which to be thankful, too much for which to be grateful.  I will learn from this experience and emerge even stronger!

With any type of adversity, any type of setback, there is an opportunity for reflection.  There is always a message waiting for us and a lesson to be learned that will make us stronger and more aware of ourselves, others, and our surroundings.  Sometimes that message comes very quickly and sometimes it just a little longer than we may like.  Whatever the case is, what’s done is done.  You can’t change the past.  We can only learn from it.  Feel your feelings when adversity strikes.  Give yourself permission to feel whatever you need to be feeling, knowing that your feelings are quite normal.  Once you have felt these feelings, go into your heart, and remind yourself of what is STILL awesome about your life…not just good, but AWESOME…and move on!

Today’s Action Step:  Ask yourself, “What ADVERSITY and SETBACKS are you currently experiencing and how are choosing to react to it?”

The Game Plan.  As many of you already know, I am a diehard sports’ enthusiast.  I played football, basketball, and baseball while I was on my feet and have played wheelchair basketball, tennis, and swimming since becoming paralyzed.  I would never be where I am today had it not been for the self-discipline taught me when I was a teenager and still continues to teach me today.  Now, with this NEXT STEP in my life, I need to have a Game Plan established to build a bridge between where I am today and my Desired Outcome that I discussed in my last blog entry.  Too many times we have a Desired Outcome and even a belief that we can get there, but the Game Plan is missing.  This is the strategy, the methodology, the means by which we are going to go after our goal on a daily basis.  This is where Taking Action, that I will discuss more in a later entry, takes place.  Some may say, and certainly I do, that the Game Plan is the most important step or steps in creating your Desired Outcome and sometimes going beyond our wildest dreams.

So as of today, my Game Plan to regain movement and regular sensation in my entire body, my Desired Outcome, is to first commit to an assisted-walking program.  I got the phone call last week, inviting me to participate in a program over at Kessler and I jumped at the opportunity.  I have committed to at least two days a week for now, and will do whatever it takes to maintain this routine.  The second part of the plan is to Visualize my Desired Outcome on a daily basis, even repeatedly if possible.  I will discuss the power of visualization in greater detail in a later blog entry, but for now, all you need to know it is about closing your eyes and seeing your Desired Outcome realized, turning into a reality.  Every morning and every evening, I am spending just a few moments, visualizing myself on my feet, walking along the beach with my wife and two kids.  Sometimes I visualize myself back on the basketball court, faking left and driving right to the basket.  It is so powerful that I really believe that I can open my eyes and be right in these wonderful moments I am creating through the visualizations.

The next part of the plan is to really watch my diet and make sure that I am giving my body all the proper nutrients it needs, almost as if I were a car and filling my car up with gasoline when it is needed.  I will elaborate more on this diet shortly, but each and every one of you reading this KNOWS what is good for your body and what is not so good for your body.  Yes, I believe in eating and drinking everything in moderation, but all too often we all have a tendency to over indulge ourselves too often and take ourselves off course of our Desired Outcome.  This is where this self-discipline comes into play.  In addition to my assisted-walking program commitment, I am committed to a daily work-out program at my home that is making my body as strong as possible.  Lastly, I have made sure that I have the best support system in place…family, friends, colleagues, etc. to lean on me when I get a little complacent, challenge me when I am not giving my best effort, and also helping me to acknowledge myself for the little and big achievements along the way. The Game Plan has been launched that I am hopeful will lead to a series of victories and lessons in any defeats.

Today’s Action Step:  Ask yourself, “What is my GAME PLAN that I need to execute to create my DESIRED OUTCOME?”

July 27, 2012

The Desired Outcome. Yesterday, I began an assisted walking program on The Locomat at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation that is funded by Kessler Foundation. Before standing, my physical therapist and I went over my goals, my objectives, my wishes…or as I call it, “My Desired Outcome,” for participating in such a program at this stage of my life…42 years old with over 26 years experience of being paralyzed and having to use a wheelchair. This was a loaded question that carries a lot of energy and a lot of emotion. What is my desired outcome? My first response to her was that I want to regain the use and feeling in my legs. No matter how far-fetched that response was after being in a wheelchair for so long, it did not matter to me. I want out of this wheelchair and will do anything within reason to make it happen. Maybe it is because I see this life as being half-over, but certainly more so the second half of my life as “just beginning.” Why not start it on my feet if at all possible. Not a day has gone by since December 28, 1985 in which I awoke to a numb big, left toe that within 48 hours resulted in paralysis from my belly-button down to my toes, that I have not believed that I could wake up with full use and feeling in my entire body. Yes, I believe it can happen and I believe it will happen.

That is my Desired Outcome. A second desired outcome was quickly shared with my physical therapist as well. I want to improve my quality of life while living life with paralysis…realizing that regaining the use and feeling in my legs may take some more time. So, I want this assisted-walking program to help me build up the strength of my bones which have become very weak from lack of use over the past two and half decades. I want my cardiovascular system to be strengthened, my circulation throughout my body to be improved, my skin to be as strong as possible, and so much more. With a healthy and strong body, combined with the mindset that I know I have that can not only survive any situation, but thrive in the face of any adversity, any situation…sky’s the limit as to what I can achieve.

Friends, this is just beginning of a transformational journey that I am embarking upon. Not only will I be sharing with you what I am going through physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually because it is important that I express myself, but my purpose in life is to serve others. Yes, I want you to motivated and inspired by my journey…and…I want my story to help you, help yourself to take action in your life. At the end of each blog entry I will be asking YOU to answer a question that I will be sharing with you. If you feel like answering it publicly through this blog, great! If you feel like answering it privately to yourself, great as well! Just please do me one favor…answer it! In each blog entry, I will be building on each action step and hopeful you will do the same as we take this journey together.

Today’s Action Step: Ask yourself, “What is my DESIRED OUTCOME in any part of your life, personally or professionally?”

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Life is about movement… always has been and always will be.

Whether taking a baby step, a giant leap, or any distance in between, taking action is necessary to create any change in our lives.  Through our greatest power, our power to choose, the decision to move forward is determined from within.  Once the choice is made inwardly, we are then ready to ignite action outwardly.  For me, being paralyzed for the past 27 years has lead me on this Devotion to Motion journey with one path being whatever I must do to rise and walk away from this wheelchair and the second path of movement where I maximize this experience of living my life from a wheelchair.

The time has come and enough is enough.  I have hit my threshold for pain (emotionally, mentally, and physically) and believe the time is now to make some changes.  Paralysis is affecting me more now than ever before and I can either sit back and allow it to eat away at my body and spirit or I can embrace it even more and take my life to the next level.  While I believe I have always tried to live my life to fullest, I always realize that we can go higher because as it was once said, “We can always go higher, for within us, we are far greater than we think we are.”  So what has lead me to this precise moment in my life.  For starters, I believe that I am halfway through this life…and there is much more to be done.  Secondly, there is so much more I desire to be doing physically with my family and just want to make sure that I am giving myself every opportunity to do just that.  Thirdly, while paralysis has and will always be an amazing gift that continues to teach me more about life every day, I do whole-heartedly believe that it is time to give this gift back.  Yes, I am ready to make a change…even after 27 years.

So, welcome to my “Devotion to Motion,” of journey of creating change and reacting to it most effectively.  It is about “Freeing your mind, opening your heart, and igniting action” as I have said for many years now.  My mission is to improve my health starting today.  What is yours?  Join me on this journey and ignite action however you need to to create or react to change most effectively and I will promise you healthy and rewarding destinations along the way!

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