Finding a New Path – Beginning Again

The past 6 months have been a blur of pain, disappointment, anxiety, uncertainty and ongoing rehabilitation. I have been off line, out of touch, and unable to write due to doctors orders. I had to refrain from using my upper body while retraining muscle memory.

I am lost. Unbalanced mentally and physically.

My sister will remind me I have been in an existential crisis since age 13, but this time I am really floundering. The parameters measuring my identity disappeared. Studies by Bruce Feiler in his book “Life is in the Transitions, Mastering Change at Any Age,” upended previous beliefs that defined age in stages as popularized by Gail Sheehy 1970s best seller “Passages.”

Transitions never existed in a linear, set pattern, but our chaotic lives are more like a kaleidoscope of constant change. We go through 20 or more transitions in a lifetime and major ones every 3 to 4 years.

For stability we all need to have at least one of three things.

  • Purpose
  • Connection
  • Community

I lack all three. My purpose used to be teaching, coaching, writing, raising a family. My basketball teams and family were my connections; the international school was my community. But my children outgrew me, as they should, I retired from teaching/coaching and my family remains 4,000 miles away.

This summer, though I was so grateful to see loved ones, I felt as displaced as ever, at odds with my body, emotions running rampant due to the lingering after effects of brain injury.

As with any long term recovery process, setbacks, disappointments and false starts prevailed.

The skills I once performed effortlessly disappeared. I relearned how to do things for myself - drive long distances, pack the car, buy groceries, fill the tank, mow the lawn.

Finding a New PathI have been working so hard to recover from traumatic brain injury after a bad fall that wreaked as much havoc with my spine as it did my brain. Once stateside, I spent 6 months, moving between families’ homes in Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin and underwent intensive therapy for my back and shoulders.

Back track 9 months. Last April, we sold our house outside Geneva Switzerland and bought a place in St. Cergue in the Jura Mountains. The only problem - the new virtual house was not built yet. No worries, realtors assured us only a few months delay. Further snafus in building means we will remain without fixed domicile for another year.

Finding a New PathMid January we returned to Switzerland and landed back in time in our “Heidi hut.” a rented, rustic chalet, chiseled out of the mountainside and heated only by wood burning stove.

I feel completely uprooted, a stranger in my body, living in a foreign place, surrounded by people I don’t know.

Without a permanent address it is hard to feel grounded.

During my lowest point, at age 26 after my career ending car accident abroad, I thought I had nothing left to give, but I never gave up believing and went on to teach and coach and raise a family. In retrospect, I can see that I still had a lot left to offer and learn from others.

But now what?

This time around, in a later stage of my life without a real home, our rootlessness existence makes it so much harder to reinvent myself, accept my limited options and admit my loss of autonomy.

Yet, every morning when I throw open the shutters, the sun sparkles over the snow-covered mountain top daring me to step out the door on the next adventure.Finding a New Path

So here we go…

“One day at a time…remember all that lies behind you,
Believe in all that lies ahead”

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Posted in health, inspiration.

12 Comments

  1. Pat, I have thought about purpose and meaning so much in my life, maybe I can say something that helps you. But I never had such health challenges, so that’s intimidating. You are the master of that reality. Nobody knows what it feels like to be you.

    When I was little, like in elementary school, I had a lot of health problems, and I lived in a cruel household where we – mother and children – were beaten and terrified. Being the most sensitive and introspective person of all five of us, I felt very alone. And growing up enmeshed, where you feel as if you don’t exist – literally!! – outside that troubled family, is hard. Again, not as hard as what you are going through, but I only offer it to share pain with you. Hoping it’ll help.

    So all my adult life, I’ve tried to figure out, is there a God, why am I here, who the fuck knows or cares, I might as well be dead, it’s too hard. However, as I’ve aged, I’ve come to the conclusion that as long as I’m here, I’m going to make meaning for myself (as Viktor Frankl calls it). I decide. The meaning, purpose, and value of my life today, at this moment, is up to me.

    One day I was meditating, which I do poorly and dislike. I would rather not sit still and avoid thinking — what a waste of time! But on that particular day, I was blessed with an impression (something less stellar than a vision, but okay, I’m still grateful) of myself, sitting in that chair, connected by these long, white, gossamer ribbons that floated and swirled from me all the way to my children and grands, to my friends, to my siblings. Connecting me through time and space to those people who love me and want me to be okay. I felt like they were assuming and hoping I was looking after myself, finding happiness in my life. Even if they weren’t there with me, even if they didn’t know what I was going through. It would matter to them that I was okay, and they were taking for granted that I would be. And that was enough motivation, that day, to look after myself and make myself happy, whatever that meant. Because they were depending on me.

    It’s not an obligation, I don’t mean to put it that way. It’s meant as reassurance. As a reminder. You matter to your team, to your family, friends, loved ones.

    My 97 yo mother has always defined herself through service. So becoming elderly and frail meant she couldn’t help. But she found a new way: in her case, she is positive and upbeat to the overworked caregivers at the home, an environment where the workers get a lot of negativity. That’s her purpose now. To help them stay afloat.

    We change as things change. Maybe your purpose, your mission, right now is to be okay, to get better. Selfishly, we want that. Your community (of us) needs you to get well, get housed, and find peace, because we care so much about you. Keep us posted. Keep telling us. It matters. You matter.

    • Lynne –
      Your profound and beautifully written comment has left me speechless without words. Me a words person. It is if one of those gossamer ribbons you mentioned floated from you to me. During my moment of doubt and despair, the force of your energy and the power of your words kept me afloat and spinning.
      As I struggle to stand up straight, put one foot forward, record one thought, capture one feeling, I will focus on your suggestion that my mission right now might just be “to be okay, to get better.” That my community needs me to get well..”to keep us posted. Keep telling us. It matters. You matter.”
      I will reread your words over and over in times of discouragement. I lament that my family is far apart and wish people I consider a friends, even those whom I never met like you, lived closer to me so I could be physically near enough to join your writer’s community and hang out on your deck. But in wishing for that, I am overlooking a treasured link, something that has connected us all along, our words.
      I will remember that in this digital age, my community doesn’t have to be living under the same roof, on same block or in same town, that we are soul mates linked through cyberspace.
      I know you have made a successful niche for yourself as a midlife fiction writer, but you may also want to consider writing a memoir from growing up as a sickly child in such tough, hard scrabble environment to becoming a wise business woman, empathetic writer and loyal friend. love Pat

  2. Dear Pat-I am so happy to hear that you are back writing! You are such an inspiration with everything that you have not only endured, but have tirelessly worked so hard to recover! I can’t imagine being so far away from relatives and going through these massive trials! You are a true inspiration to all of us and to your family! (I know they were with you in thoughts and prayers constantly! I’m so thrilled you were able to make a trip “home!” I’m sure that was a blessing for all! Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks Marilyn. You should never under estimate the role your good cheer and well wishes have made in my recovery. You will never know how much your positivity and kindness has meant to me and my family.

  3. Welcome Back! You’ve had battles throughout your life and this is just one more. You’ve got this! Knowing that your beloved sis Sue is standout here with you gives me an assurance that you will continue to thrive.

    • Thanks Dave. I appreciate your support and being back writing is a big step forward for me. Of course I truly believe that none of this recovery would have been possible without sister Sue at my side cheering me on.

  4. Yeah for you Pat for writing again…and such an honest testament to faith and love!! You have certainly had challenges to overcome AND you will do it, again , realizing that living is one foot in front of the other!
    All the best!!

    • Thanks Barb. And for me it is a big, big step forward to be writing again. As always I sure appreciate your comments.

  5. Pat, I don’t know what to say. Your post here is eye-opening, that’s for sure. While I’m awfully sorry you’ve had to endure such pain and hardship, I admire you for hanging in there. For continuing to fight to get your life back. And I’m also gratified you have so many people around you who love you and are fighting right alongside you. Keep you chin up, my friend. Life is always precious, even when it’s not entirely to our liking.
    Debbie recently posted…Yuck! Gross!My Profile

    • Thanks Debbie. I am grateful to be reconnected and writing again. I am sure my athletic background and the love of family and friends has helped keep me going. But I am beginning to believe a four legged friend would be good for my soul. That is why I love reading about yours!

  6. Dear Pat, I don’t have anything profound to say. But what a view your Heidi Hut offers, and the fact that you can write again…even in small doses, is a blessing to us all!!
    I moved last June to a condo community while recovering from dog walking injuries (broken leg and ribs). My only connection was my daughter and her family, my granddaughters and one old dog. After 60 plus years in Chicagoland, identifying with school, neighbors, church ( my people) and well, of course, my yard and gardens, I was kind of set adrift as well.
    No longer teaching, no church community chosen, no ability to get my hands in the dirt,No dog walking with friends., no ice cream buddies.
    I’m so fortunate for the family connection and proximity; I was/am so grateful, but I didn’t want to rely only upon them.
    I discovered myself recalling those first days in the college dorm together. Set adrift. Relying on and discovering who I was. Not perfect, out of the box thinker, often annoying, sometimes funny, and hoping to make a connection. Despite my quirks I think I was “enough”. And when my granddaughter stays overnight, and we talk into the night and she tells me to stop talking…then promptly asks another question, I smile in the dark remembering you and I doing the same thing 45 years ago.
    After a snowfall recently I trudged in the field to stamp out a big heart facing my building. I would have done it 45 years ago, and I’m still doing these silly things now. I guess I am who I am…even here.
    So I’m finally bringing this back to you: you had a hard work ethic, quiet and hysterical sense of humor, a poetic gift, and an amazing ability to build others up. It was enough back then, and it’s enough now. When you leave this Heidi Hut and yodel into your new home, you will have made an impact on your neighbors and therapists .Whether you’re trying to get the ashes glowing again in the morning, sending put your prose and poetry to the world, or trying to reach around and scratch your back…with or without success, you are enough right now, and you’re blessing us right now.
    Thanks for making it back to us. Cannot wait to see the new place, but enjoy the simplicity of your Heidi Hut and the amazing view…what a miracle!

    Love,
    Amy

    • Dear Amy,
      How I cried when I read your response to my post.Thank you for your inspiring words. I remember when I used to come home from a bad basketball practice or a long, losing road trip. You would give me an uplifting handmade card with one of those adorable cartoon characters you used to draw of a skinny, girl wearing floppy gym shoes and a red and white ISU uniform with her hair tied up in a pony tail. How you cheered me on then, how you lighten my load now decades later and miles apart.
      I admire you for having the courage to uproot yourself and relocate and know how hard the transition must have been especially if you were also recovering from severe injuries. I never knew dog walking could be so dangerous. Are you able to walk your dog now? Do you have any lingering pain?
      Even though the decision to leave your family home and community must have been heart wrenching, what a wonderful trade off to be closer to your daughter and granddaughter. Thank you for sharing the anecdote about your granddaughter’s sleep overs evoking the memory of us talking late into the night like we used to do when we roomed together in college.

      I also glad that you you are still stamping out big hearts in the snowy yard never, that you lost your joie de vivre and that you continue to bring happiness to everyone whose lives you cross on your journey, especially mine. Lots of love and hugs right back at you dear friend.

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