As I write this, yesterday was October 2nd.
On this date 41 years ago, I made my dive into the rocks at Millerton Lake and obliterated the course of my very existence.
In a stroke of mercy, The Big Fella Upstairs doesn't allow me to dwell on that anniversary. Instead, on that same day in 1991, my daughter Noelle made her way into the world. My baby's birthday has taken over that day of infamy and it's a day of celebration.
But let's be real; these 41 years have been difficult and I'd be lying if I said I had a magic formula to prevent fear, sadness, and anger from creeping into my world. I let it fly quite a bit when the doors are closed.
Losing control of your body sucks at every level. I wanted to go on the rides with my kids at Disneyland and throw the Frisbee at the beach, but I couldn't. I would have loved to golf with my father, dunk on my brothers, and not be a burden to my kids because of their constantly having to take care of me when we are together.
Unfortunately, none of that is working out. As self-centered as this sounds, I'm sad about the fact that I know what I look like in my mind, but when I look in the mirror, there is a dude in a wheelchair that I don't recognize. And the older he gets, the less women want to hang around, a bummer reality that I understand completely.
Truth is, I would have never chosen this life, but it chose me. And here is where it gets weird.
I am constantly asked if I have regrets and if I could go back in time, would I rewind to Oct. 1st, 1977 and undo everything. People are usually surprised by my response. I don't have a bunch of regrets and don't spend a lot of time thinking about "what if?"
The opportunities I've had are more than anyone has a right to expect and I've been the recipient of more grace than anyone I know. But the bottom line, I learned something in that six month experience in rehab that allowed me to not only live a decent life, it allowed me to lead others in an honest, transparent way.
I never tried to dazzle anyone with my intellectual prowess. And I sure as hell didn't get any extra doses of strength than anyone else. I did, however, find myself in a crazy situation, and I received quite an education about life and the human spirit that I have devoted myself to sharing.
We are all leaders in some capacity. In our homes, jobs, communities, whatever.
At some level, we all want to keep our world moving forward in a positive direction. Through good and bad, we need to believe in today and look forward to tomorrow, that is the goal of life as I see it.
So, rehab was the ultimate education and I found four profound life lessons that stood the test of time.
My Four Profound Life Lessons
First, never under estimate the power of one person.
Coach Bohan plain and simple showed up at a critical time and had a plan. Nobody invited him, nobody flew a job description, he just walked in.
Two things about that are equally powerful:
One, it inspired me to try and be a good mentor to others and be willing to help when I saw a need. I don't need to look around to see what everyone else is doing; when the time is right, you answer the bell.
Also, though, he gave me the strength to adopt that same idea for myself. Most days, we are our own mentor. He showed me how to eliminate my own excuses and motivate myself when necessary.
Second, the greatest level of personal accountability came from being a part of a team.
From my pals in high school, the kids I coached, and the thousands of teachers and students with whom I worked made me show up every day and do the work. Even greater, I have two kids at home that I hope are able to be proud of their dad. So, teams don't have to be grandiose; the best teams are often the ones that are closest to us.
Third, leaders have to believe in something and fourth, rehab taught me the value of celebrating small victories, every day.
People want to follow those who exhibit hope and come from a place of love. Those traits can only show its face in a culture where despair is replaced by reveling in our accomplishments, no matter how trivial they seem to someone else. The vocabulary and the goal-setting must trigger pictures of a future in which we are alive and fulfilled. In crises, when we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, confidence becomes real and success isn't far behind.
This blog is a plea to the talented men and women who serve our population that is in crisis or trauma. I was grateful to Fresno Community for allowing me to stay in my home town and create a culture that refused to let the No-Hopes win.
And finally . . .