It has been a long journey of recovering from injuries that left me unable to brush my hair, dress myself or walk more than a few paces at times during the last 104 days. It has been a tough time but I consider myself one of the lucky ones.
I admit there were plenty of days when I lay in bed staring at the ceiling wondering when and if my back would heal and what I would do with my life if I could no longer go to work and be a voice for sharks and the protection of our oceans. There were also plenty of days when, in the absence of being able to write, I stuffed my face with cake and figured I was pretty much a lost cause. I couldn’t even cut my own cake for crying out loud! I wallowed about in self pity, I shed pointless hot tears and then eventually I pulled my socks up (metaphorically….I have not a hope in hell of reaching my feet until my back heals fully) and I put my mind to not just recovering physically but to healing as a whole. I took it upon myself to take a good honest look at my life and start considering what I could do for my mind, body, spirit, soul, heart, everything, to bring myself back to me and hopefully back to health. And I had to accept that healing didn’t necessarily mean I would be injury free again, it meant accepting everything just the way it was and being okay with me, broken bits and all.
No surprises here, it was an incredible journey in the weeks that followed. My physical capacities didn’t change a lot, I still couldn’t cut my own cake, and one day a ridiculously small sneeze upset my back enough that for a while spinal surgery and complete bed rest were firmly on the cards. Nonetheless I became really happy, really stupidly – giggling like a child – happy. Why? Because I realised that the key to it all was to focus on everything that I could still do, everything that I still had in my life and practice gratitude for those things every single day. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t be upright for longer than fifteen minutes and neither did it matter that walking to the end of the garden seemed like running a marathon because I had so much to enjoy anyway. I had things that we all take for granted and should be shouting from the rooftops about every day with joy.
For example: I have a heart that beats continuously, without thanks or appreciation, just so that I can live. I have a body that has tolerated abuse and injuries many times yet still heals herself as best she can for me. I have a sharp(ish) mind that can create all day long and it conjured up stories for hours upon end to entertain me when I was stuck in bed. I have clean air to breathe and I have beautifully clean and crisp water to drink each day from a number of taps in the house. I have a roof over my head, food in my fridge and a window which lets the sun pass my bed from precisely 8am – 11am (which by the way is an amazing time to just bask and bask some more like a big slightly broken lizard). And most of all I am loved and have the capacity to love others every single day. I am one of the lucky ones because I have all of that and more in my life and at the end of each day my arms work well enough for me to hold my man and say thank you for the incredible unconditional love he has been showing me. With a little gratitude I turned my injuries into a mini-course of appreciation for my life.
Okay so it was a little rough when, in the end, I had to give up my much loved job as a wildlife and dive guide. It was seasonal work that would have ended anyway but the real issue was that, thanks to my injuries, I now cannot continue on the career path I had planned. My back does not want me to be doing physical work; it can’t handle lifting more than a cup of tea let alone heavy dive equipment. I was devastated at the prospect of no longer being able to work on the oceans and guess what? Yes I cried a few more hot and pointless tears. I stared at the ceiling a lot, I basked in the sunshine lizard style, I panicked at night wondering how on earth our savings would last and what I would do with my life.
And then it hit me….I still had my voice, my VOICE, which I can use to create change and inspire people in many ways. I can and will go so far as to say that the injuries and setbacks I have endured this year have been the best thing to happen to me in 2015. Why? Because they have put me firmly onto a different and new path that is even more exciting and even more true to me. As my wrists regain their strength I can finally write again and I am finishing my first book. I have found the courage to approach the first of probably many publishing houses – I didn’t even know I had it in me to do that! As my back heals my man of the sea and I are planning an incredibly exciting 2015, during which we are going to use our voices full time to raise funds for marine conservation and shark charities. Yes it is a terrifying prospect how much work we have to do to raise sponsorship, donations, create our charity brand etc but we are going to do it and it will be a success one way or the other….because we will keep focusing on gratitude and doing it anyway regardless of what may happen or not.
There will be more information to come so watch this blog under the Friends for Sharks menu. Our website will shortly be underway and launched with the usual social media channels when we are ready. Look out world here we come. Hobbling or not, let’s do this.
This image of one of Paige Bradley’s sculptures sums it up perfectly for me. The cracks let the light in, which I take to mean that we have a choice. We either let our setbacks and injuries beat us or we let them filter in light, filter in new ways of being and provide the inspiration to just keep walking onwards with a smile on our faces.
Today I choose smiling and I hope you do too