A year ago today I awoke to a phone call telling me that my brother Frank had been in a serious motor bike accident; that, among other injuries, his spine had been very badly damaged and that it was extremely unlikely he would ever walk again. Needless to say the last 12 months have been quite a profound experience for Frank (pictured here with my son Ben saying goodbyes the day before we left Australia in January) and for those of us who love him. And this week, as the anniversary of his accident has approached, I’ve found myself reflecting on all that I’ve learned from it. While I know that you already know what I will share below to be true, I’m going to share it anyway because I’ve found that gentle reminders on life’s deeper truths can be very valuable in helping us confront our current challenges more powerfully and refocus back on what matters most.
So here’s four key learnings that have really been brought home to me over this last 12 months:
1. It’s not the hand your dealt, it’s the how well you play it.
Life isn’t fair. Bad things happen to good people. But while we don’t all get dealt the same hand of cards, what matters is how well we play the cards we have. Yep, Frank may be in a wheel chair but there are millions of people who have legs that work just fine living each day stuck in mental wheel chairs and feeling victim to the hand of cards they’ve been so unfairly dealt. Frank, to me, has really epitomized the concept of living powerfully from choice. You can’t always choose your circumstances but you can always choose your response to them.
>>Question: Where have you been failing to respond to a challenge as powerfully as would serve you?
2. There’s always a gift in adversity.
No matter how bad something may seem at the time, if we are open to finding the gift inside it, we can emerge from it so much stronger and wiser. We can transform our struggle into strength and move forward in life with a new and deeper experience of ourselves as the ever evolving human being we are — or should I say, “human becoming” since our lives are an ongoing process of becoming the full quota of the human we were born to become?
>>Question: What are the gifts in the problems that you have been struggling with? How might they serve in helping you grow?
3. Life is fleeting, treasure it.
Life is at once precious and fleeting and fragile. None of us know what is around the next corner (or over the next sand dune as Frank discovered). The only certainty that we ever have is that nothing will stay the same forever; that there is no permanence. And so we should treasure each moment, hour, day for all that it is, even when it is not just as we may have wanted it to be.
>>Question: So for all that your life is today, and for all that it is not, how could you slow down to savor it more fully?
4. Nothing is richer than the love we share with others.
There is nothing more special than the love we share with those around us. Even thousands of miles cannot dilute that love nor diminish our ability to express it. And while we love others when times are good, it is when adversity strikes that love blossoms most brightly and its roots grow deepest. Only 20 months older than me, I’ve always loved Frank and have shared many special times with him during my life. But his accident a year ago made me so much more present to just how deeply I loved him. It also made me feel incredibly blessed and grateful to be surrounded by a family and rich network of wonderful friends in which love is so present, valued and openly expressed.
>>Question: How could you express your love and gratitude for the special people in your life more fully?
Of course, it shouldn’t need to take a rotten bloody accident to bring home these lessons. But sometimes it does take a shocking event to break the trance we are living in and really feel life — and love and pain and loss and hope and joy and connection — at its deepest and rawest and fullest. Thanks for indulging me in my reflections on the year just gone. I hope there was something in there for you that will allow you to step forward in your day ahead more powerfully, more mindfully and more gratefully.