On the night of January 4th, 2014, I was skiing down a run called Morning Star at Holiday Valley Ski Resort in Ellicotville, NY and had my sights on a jump toward the bottom of the hill. I’ve done this jump a thousand times in my 44 years of skiing, so I felt completely at ease cruising around 40 mph on the approach knowing that I would soften my knees so I would only end up about 3-4 feet off the ground.
But the conditions on this night were quite unusual with 6 inches of powder masking a sheet of ice underneath, so when I went off the jump, I slipped on the ice and as a reflex, ended up pushing off hard and soaring about 20 feet into the air.
I remember thinking “huh?!?” on the way up and then, “Uh, oh!” on the way down as my upper body began falling backwards. I smacked down on flat ice with my left shoulder taking the brunt of the impact due to the slight tilt of my body to the left by a few degrees, saving my neck and back from taking a direct hit.
Though I ended up with 8 broken ribs, broken collar bone in two places, punctured lung, and a fractured, dislocated hip, I realized just how utterly fortunate I was to have avoided the worst (and was reminded the next day when I heard about a ski instructor who got injured in much the same way, but in his case, ending up paralyzed).
The Power of the Reframe
After the ski patrol assessed my condition, wrapped me up in a cocoon of blankets, and carefully brought me to the chalet in the sled, they determined that I’d have to be flown by helicopter to the Erie County Medical Center, at which point I remembered …
Something I talk about all the time with my coaching clients – that when we’re faced with a challenge, we can (when ready) Reframe the situation.
When the unexpected or undesired happens, the idea is to find some way to work with it as opposed to fight it.
No small task I realize! But when I do? I find that I suffer less, and I am much better able to “work with what is” and find ways to create new clarity, movement, and progress in my life, not in spite of, but because of, whatever challenge I may be facing!
I am NOT talking about liking or even accepting a situation. I am talking about doing what nature does – think of a seed planted in dirt (rot and decay), create the right environment, and the dirt turns into “fuel for new growth.”
If nature can turn anything into new creations, we can too!
So here’s how it works. I ask myself questions like:
- “What’s the opportunity here?”
- “What can I do with this?”
- “What do I actually like about the situation?’
I know. Crazy questions to ask in the middle of something perhaps, but when I’m willing to play this game, it puts me in a much more powerful position to work with whatever comes up.
I don’t have to be a victim to any situation, crisis, or challenge I may face in my life. Period.
Here are a few answers I came up with that I got from the accident that helped set the tone for working with the huge challenge of recovering from the accident:
- Well, I’ve always wanted to fly in a helicopter! Yes, I actually enjoyed the ride! Helped me relax and calm down a bit.
- I appreciate the paramedics trained to take care of people in my situation. This helped me trust that I was going to be ok.
- I like the fact that I had amazing care while I was in the hospital for a month. Knowing I had some of the best caretakers possible gave me added reassurance that all would be ok.
- I liked that I felt deep empathy for the others in my physical therapy group who were experiencing the whole spectrum of what people go through. I was constantly blown away at their strength and determination to get better. And …
- The biggest thing I got out of the experience was that it woke me up out of any complacency I had in my life and my health.
By the time I left the hospital, I had a list of over 30 answers (and was known as the most positive person in the hospital!).
Best Shape of My Life
Over the next several months while I was healing, unforeseen complications arose – my hip wasn’t healing properly, I tore a rotator cuff in physical therapy, and was frustrated with the lack of progress. I began to feel helpless and that there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
So I decided that one thing I could do was exercise everyday for a minimum of 30 minutes for the next 7 days. Like as in no matter what! I didn’t care how busy I was, how tired I was feeling, I would find a way!
So that’s what I did. Every day. For 7 days.
And then … I decided I’d do it for 30 days in a row! And so I did!
Then I decided I’d do it for 90 days in a row! I did that.
And then another 90 days … then another … and another.
Today as I write this blog post, I have exercised every single day, no matter what(!), for:
The experience has taught me SO much about myself and what I am capable of – and at 50, I’m in better shape (and 63 pounds leaner!) than I’ve been in many years!
Do I still have physical challenges? You bet! Lots of them. And then some.
But in the very least, I don’t feel helpless or like a victim to my circumstances. And I’ve created a new life for myself in many ways!