Life Choices Determine our Present and Future.
We were packing to go to the Gulf Coast to visit my brother. With only a few days left, I needed to clean, do laundry, and make sure I had everything ready we might need for our time there. With only two days left to organize everything, I received a request from Louy Castonguay. She was getting ready to release a book and graciously asked whether I could accommodate her by painting a cover for her book. She explained her vision of the short stories in the book and the title “Life Choices.” I had so much left to do, but I hesitated to disappoint her.
Life Choices Forty Years Ago
While Louy explained what she needed, my mind immediately flew back to one of the most significant life choices I’ve ever made. It was the early 80s, and I’d struggled for nearly five years with the diagnosis from every doctor I’d seen after a head-on collision with a construction truck. The consensus from the doctors was I’d never recover. My list of disabilities was unending:
- Constant and Debilitating Migraines
- Pinched Nerves
- Brain Damage to the Right Frontal Lobe
- Slipped Discs, Ruptured Discs, Herniated Discs
- Short-term Memory Loss
- Loss of Taste and Smell
- Inability to Talk Normally
- Intermittent Loss of control – Left arm and leg
The list didn’t end there.
My family physician told me they planned to send me to Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute to “learn how to live like this.” With my agreement to go to Sister Kenny, I gave up all hope of getting better.
Life Choices On A Personal Level
I went out in the backyard and fell to my knees that evening. I sobbed as I admonished my God. “What have I done that is so bad you have turned away from my prayers?” I had already lost the company I was buying. I’d sacrificed the equity in the house to pay the mounting bills and buy groceries.
I cried myself to sleep that night.
My temperament changed when I woke up the following day. For the first time since the accident, I was angry. I was angry with everyone who had given up on me. I vowed that if Sister Kenny could “teach me to live like this,” I could work hard and learn to live better.
Close Your Eyes and Let Your Brain Function Without Your Control
Sister Kenny taught Biofeedback to help us deal with disability. (Try it!) I struggled daily with getting my brain to a point where I could breathe in through one nostril and out through the other.
Days passed, and I couldn’t get into the ‘zone.’
I was ready to give up when the instructor started playing some soft music and asked me to close my eyes and picture myself in a field filled with flowers. She told me to visualize a hot-air balloon in the distance. I ran toward the balloon. I’d always wanted to ride in one. Carefully, I lifted my leg over the basket and pulled myself in.
The therapist told me I needed to toss off the sandbags holding the balloon back. As I tossed each one, the therapist told me to name all the things causing me grief.
Pain: Let it end!
Headaches: Go away!
Let it Go!
One after another, I tossed those sandbags over the side. The balloon rose as I continued my task.
Suddenly, I was flying over hills and valleys. The view was extraordinary! I hadn’t been this happy and excited since my head contacted the windshield at 70mph.
Just as suddenly, the balloon swooped down into an ice forest. I panicked. Winter weather always made the pain and headaches intensify. What was I doing wrong? Why would I suddenly go to a place I couldn’t tolerate, even on the better days?
And then, I realized I hadn’t tossed off a sandbag named for cold. I hastily untied another sandbag. It dropped to the ground with a heavy thud, as I screamed ‘Ice and cold’ in my head. The hot-air balloon remained stalled in the ice forest.
I wracked my brain. What have I forgotten? The minutes seemed as stalled as my balloon. I struggled to think as I rubbed my shoulder and neck. What wasn’t I seeing? Why was I stuck in unending pain and torture?
And then it hit me. I hadn’t tossed off my mother. I love my mother. But, she suffered from Bipolar Illness. Since the car wreck, I hadn’t been able to control her meds. She had been on a manic high for months, and it was killing me. I couldn’t help her like I had before the accident. I cried as I untied another sandbag and slowly dropped it over the side.
The balloon took off into brilliant blue skies.
We make choices every single day. I could have chosen not to go to Sister Kenny because it felt like I was giving up any chance of living a normal life. Instead, I worked harder than I’ve ever worked in my life to regain most of what I lost that terrible day on the highway.
If you’re wondering why I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt, I turned from the front seat to use my hands to push my two sons’ heads into the backseat to prevent them from going through the windshield, and I’d do it again. In 1979, we didn’t have car seats with safety belts for toddlers.
The Book Cover: Life Choices
I could see this book cover in my head before I finished my conversation with Louy. It would represent the most significant life choice I could make at a time in life when all seemed lost. The ice forest or flowers and sunshine? You choose.
Unfortunately, I never purchased the business I dreamed of owning. That went to someone else.
Did I regain everything? No. It took about six years for the nerves to grow back so I could again taste and smell, but it’s still somewhat intermittent.
If I become over-tired or over-stressed, I can still lose left body control, and my words come out scrambled as they did in 1979.
I still live in pain, but I rarely talk about it. My mantra for the docs continues to be a strict aversion to narcotics. The solutions remain diet and exercise, and I can live with that.
The Book “Life Choices”
Louy Castonguay has written a collection of stories about the choices we make in life. Everyone has a different story, but we all make choices. Some of those choices can impact other lives in a way we never imagined.
I thoroughly enjoyed the stories. I held my breath for the girl in the “Little Red Car” and the young boy who so easily could have died that day. My heart stopped when reading “Trapped” as I remembered the long days in the nursing home last year as I struggled to make Medicare happy after breaking my foot and leg. “The Dedicated Helper” will bring chills to those of us who try to help others against nearly insurmountable odds.
Louy reminds us that life can change in an instant, as mine did. Live every moment as if it’s your last. Definitely 4 1/2 Stars!