The canvas before the paint. The stage before the performance. The staff before the notes and the page before the words. All of them blank. All of them empty. All of them with limitless possibilities. There are no blank slates in life – only new journeys in the midst of the old ones. Journeys that encompass everything we have been until that point in time. But every new adventure holds within it choice, potential and the ability to change. In those early moments of new beginnings there is a resemblance of a blank, empty slate. It’s not as free and clear as art waiting to be created but it is vast with possibility. But whether the journeys are straightforward or complex, they become who we are.
My boys’ have an art teacher who encourages them to take risks in their artwork. She tells them that sometimes they won’t like it but they will have to learn to work with it because it is a part of the piece now. Sometimes I think she is teaching Life Skills for 7 Year Olds instead of art. She manages to take big life lessons and make them relatable for kids. These children can’t yet understand the magnitude of ways this concept could apply to their lives if they only internalize it and keep expanding on it as they grow. Nothing done can be undone is something we begrudgingly understand. Even so, there will always be words and actions we wish we could take back. Just as there will be moments in our lives we wish we could live 100 times over. But moving forward in life solely with what you have in the present isn’t a straightforward or simple task.
At the beginning of this injury I had what seemed to be a blank slate. I had a life laid out in front of me I no longer recognized, and a million options with which to tackle it. There was so much of me that felt changed but so much that was still the same – the result of 28 years of being me. The journey ahead was unexpected and new but I was still that same woman. I remember feeling this strange sense of clarity that I can’t remember ever feeling before. Clarity of knowing that I wasn’t going to fight the reality of this situation but I would fight to make this reality work for me as best I could. I had my moments where I wished the universe would open up and say, “Actually, you do get one ‘do-over’. Would you like to use it?” But, shockingly, that has yet to happen. Instead it was choosing, day after day after day, to fight for all of the aspects of life I could still have. Even if some days – or weeks – it didn’t feel like they would come to fruition.
This injury was a big beginning for me. But we all find ourselves at the beginning of something at numerous times in our lives. What if, when we find ourselves at the beginning of something new, we could step back and look at it – like an artist looks at her blank space – and ask ourselves what it has the potential to become. What we hope it could become. What can we realistically ask of ourselves in order to have this new journey turn into something with minimal or few regrets? Even the most devastating situations have choice in how we navigate them. It doesn’t mean what is being asked of us is easy, small or insignificant, it just means that we will go forward into the unknown with a sense of how we are going to handle it. And if the time comes for those initial plans to be altered, then you step back and look at it again without judgement on yourself for what didn’t go as you expected. Giving yourself permission to falter is not a weakness – it’s strength in understanding that you are human and life is difficult.
I believe everyone is called upon at least once in their life to forge new trails and figure out a different journey as they go along. I hope you embrace it when it happens. Attack it with as much grit and determination as you can muster. Your resolve may fluctuate and you may sometimes feel like the hurdles are too great. But in those moments of weakness, remember the potential and the hope you saw when it was still a story yet to be written. It’s all a part of the process to your final product.
Reality isn’t as simple as the canvas before the paint. Reality is the injuries, the illnesses and the devastating news before the rest of your life. We may feel like the battles we are fighting individually are categorized and ranked in order of difficulty but there isn’t much sense in comparing the struggles. We are better off sharing the fight, tenacity and strength with one another to empower and better understand. Empathy has never been a product of ignorance. And if you think about it, the more we share, the more likely it is we will discover that someone else is actually sharing the workload of that path we thought we were creating all alone.