Recently we took a trip to Chile and Argentina, where I was able to mix business and pleasure. I had the chance to hang out with amazing people, laugh, cry a few times, and see incredible sights.
Now, I don’t love high elevation. On this trip we averaged 8,000 feet. Our highest point was 15,200 feet. I don’t love hiking. We hiked almost every day. In 18 days, we stayed in 7 different places, which is more of a whirlwind pace than I usually prefer. More than 4 hours in a car is usually beyond my threshold of comfort. We had five trips longer than that, the longest being 12 hours of white-knuckling it through the Andes.
Despite what it sounds like, I had a great time. There was much to enjoy, and it was easy to focus on that. I also enjoyed the opportunity to flex the mental muscles involved with experiencing life outside my comfort zone and paying close attention so I could notice what lessons Life was offering me. As you might imagine, it’s harder for me to lose perspective these days.
The last time I wrote was before the holidays. I wrote about my daughter Jen taking her early, uncertain steps on the journey toward stability and recovery from a ruptured brain aneurysm. I also wrote about how much love she was receiving, and how powerful its effect was on Jen and on all of us.
Since I last wrote, Jen was released from the hospital in time to have Christmas at home and is making great progress.
It truly is a miracle that Jen is alive and walking, talking, laughing and healing. She had 3 brain surgeries, 14 angiograms, and countless other procedures.
The love, the prayers, the positive thoughts, the touches so many people gave… it still makes me tear up to think of all the love and caring and compassion that came from the people in our lives.
Jen’s CaringBridge Site (https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jenlarue/journal), has had 30,000 visits to date, and several thousand comments. It truly is unbelievable, both her being alive and the sheer magnitude of the outpouring of love and support. “Team Jen” has felt and witnessed so much gratitude, respect, appreciation, caring, giving, and real, unconditional love. It’s been one of the most remarkable experiences of our lives.
I want to take a moment to mention two women without whose choices Jen would not be alive today. The first is Jen’s friend Erin. She was with Jen when she had the aneurysm. Had Erin not decided to take Jen to Denver Hospital emergency, where the aneurysm was identified, Jen would have lived for only a few more hours. And Michelle, Jen’s sister, turned her world upside down to be there for her sister. It is one of the most unselfish acts I have ever witnessed. I love all three of them.
This experience, in all its aspects, has so powerfully instructed and inspired me. I can only wonder how it will influence the path Jen takes in her life from here on out. I am grateful beyond words to have the chance to watch and see how it will.
My capacity to learn from Jen’s illness has involved working through so many positive and negative feelings and thoughts. I have had to laugh at myself so many times throughout this experience, because here I am, the coach, who loves to talk about the answers, and yet there were so many times that I just couldn’t grasp and arrange all the pieces of the intellectual and emotional puzzle that had been set before me.
But one thing I have learned is that sometimes a lesson is as small and simple as seeing something you didn’t see before, learning that something isn’t always true, or seeing something in a new context. Sometimes many small lessons, maybe too small to notice, must come together before you feel yourself able to make sense of what’s happening. This is why patience is a necessity: Time alone doesn’t change things, but the thousand small changes below the surface take time to emerge and show their combined effect.
“Life is fragile.” These words mean more if you have witnessed the fragility of a specific life. “Life is precious.” These words also resonate more or less depending on the experiences you’ve had. The experiences we’ve had recently bring powerful, wonderful resonance to the words “love makes you courageous.”
A core belief of mine is that we should always be learning and growing, that our experiences are made meaningful when we believe they contain codes, written in the language of Life, that can be understood as lessons. These lessons are insights when they enlighten us, stories when they make sense of a series of events, are true when they are helpful, and are wisdom when they are true enough to help other people as much as they help you.
I am not done finding lessons in my life, and I hope that you’re not, either. Here’s to life’s experiences–all of them, positive and negative–and the lessons, insights, stories, truth, and wisdom we’re able to gather from living with our hearts and minds open to them.