Life Lessons Straight from the Horse’s Mouth
“It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.” ~ Zig Ziglar
Did you ever make one decision that would change your life forever? I did. It was on July 11, 2008. I was performing for parents of children who had attended my horseback riding camp, and I made the decision to pay more attention to the crowd than to Malachi, my horse. This is the story of my fall, what I’ve learned through my recovery, and the unwavering strength I have gained from the “great fall” that has made me so “grate-full.”
There is one moment in time I will never forget. Falling through the air, I felt light, weightless, and suspended in time. My head slammed off the ground, and the force from the bounce after the first hit sent my body upright. My head, back and hips slammed against the cement-like ground over and over. Every strike was incredibly powerful, and it was as if a lightning bolt sent shocks through my body and roared throughout my skull.
I remember darkness, a peaceful midnight black, like a dark velvet curtain, and it enveloped me into a cocoon of silent stillness.
Slowly, I emerged from a dark abyss. I heard a voice calling my name and the sound of people crying. I sensed confusion around me, and waves of pain were shooting through my body.
My next memory is seeing my husband Doug standing beside the backboard that I was lying on. I felt a tingling sensation in the crown of my head that later descended throughout my body. I knew something was wrong, very wrong. I couldn’t speak or move. I traveled in and out of consciousness, confused by two very different worlds that were oddly connected, one draped in velvety darkness and the other bright and surreal.
In the weeks that followed, I was disoriented and had become hypersensitive to light, noise and crowds. I suffered from severe headaches, nausea, imbalance and confusion. Then ten days after the accident, I awoke, only to realize that I had lost my ability to speak and when my speech returned I had developed a wee Scottish brogue. I roll my r’s, shorten my ing’s, and think everything is grrraaannd and grrrreeeaat! This has been quite a surprise to my family and friends, who have known me all of my life and know that my roots are in Kent Bridge, Canada, not Inverness, Scotland! My accent is a consequence of the fall, and I am one of only sixty people in the world who has been diagnosed with Foreign Accent Syndrome as a result of stroke or acquired brain injury.
Although my new wee brogue is an adjustment I could live with, there were many changes that have been challenging and difficult. I had trouble coping with simple day-to-day tasks and I would become frustrated and angry. My dark bedroom and sleep became my only escape from the chaos around me as even sitting watching TV or hearing the pots and pans clang and utensils hit the plate irritated me and made me escape to my room time and time again.
Days turned into weeks, and weeks drifted into years. I flowed in and out of depression, sinking into the abyss for months. I was diagnosed by my neuropsychologist as “completely disabled” due to my inability to process my thoughts, make decisions, problem solve or multi task, but I desperately wanted to return to the woman I was before.
I wanted control over my life again. I wanted the ability to fly and soar with speed and confidence, as I had done before. I yelled at God for the injustice.
Why had this happened? How was I supposed to contribute to life when I did not even know who I had become? Where was the person who so easily swept through life taking each new challenge with vigor and exhilaration?
Until one day I made the decision to “get back up on the horse again” and realized that just because I coped less didn’t mean it was hopeless.
After struggling with my new reality for three years, I’d finally had enough, enough of feeling frustrated, enough of feeling isolated, and enough of being unable to cope with day-to-day life. So over the next few years, I researched and tested a multitude of traditional and non-traditional therapeutic coping strategies, until I devised a holistic routine that provided me with the relief I was desperately seeking.
Slowly, but surely, I emerged from my cocooned state and rejoined the world, born anew. I began to realize that there was much that I should, and could, be “grate-full” for in the midst of the tragedy of the “great fall.”
Malachi, whose name means “Messenger of God” has helped me as a result of my accident to learn a number of life lessons that I say are “straight from the horse’s mouth”.
First, Malachi has taught me what my priorities should be. He has taught me about what I really need, not just what I want. Our newest technologies and toys only excite us for a time. We crave more speed, noise, gadgets, brain numbing TV, or a stimulating Wii game to cover our true feelings of sadness, loneliness, and lack of true connection with others and ourselves. Thomas Merton, an American writer and mystic, states, “We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being.”
Malachi’s greatest message he gives is to be still, rest, and be kind to yourself and others. As I have said, I used to always be one to get’r done! Now I can’t, at least not the way I used to. However, now I’m able to live in moments, incredible moments, where I am able to be still, breathe and soak in the sunsets, full moons, deer running in our fields, and fall colors and smells.
One night when I went to fill the water tank, Malachi met me at the gate, as he usually does. He rested his head on my left shoulder, then gently, quietly, and ever so slowly, lifted his head and put it on my right shoulder. I felt him push his neck towards my ear, and I could hear his heartbeat and breathing. It felt like the very rhythm of life. To me, it was a sacred moment in time.
If I had not fallen, if I had not had this accident, I would have missed the very rhythm of life. Be sure to pause in your day, and acknowledge the slightest good, positive, and hopeful part of your life. Be sure to catch one breath or hear one heart beat to feel the very presence of God.
Sharon Campbell Rayment
Sharon Campbell-Rayment is a motivational speaker, author, and workshop facilitator dedicated to helping people cope better with day-to-day life. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, a Master of Divinity degree, and is the founder of The Coping Clinic. Sharon has been interviewed for radio, print, and television in numerous countries around the world. Visit Sharon’s website http://www.thecopingclinic.com to learn more about her coping techniques.