Friday, September 18, 2015

YOU are not paralyzed

"There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers than those of us who are willing to fall because we have learned how to rise." 

-Brene Brown, Rising Strong via Kelle Hampton

Several months ago, I read an article written by a woman who survived cancer. She beautifully described the minutes, hours, weeks, months, and years she desperately struggled to survive. While I identify with many of her feelings and emotions, not until the last paragraph, the last few words, did I sit back in my chair and feel that tingle of whoa that’s me, that’s exactly how I feel. 

That last paragraph told the story of the first year as a survivor of cancer. That last paragraph recounted the crushing self-doubt and defeat that so readily comes along with recovery. That first year is spent stubbornly searching for the person inside the survivor body. The person who once lived and breathed and felt joy and precious hope. The author said it was probably the hardest year of her journey with cancer. She was forced to recover from the fall.

I fall a lot. Not so much physically, but quite a bit mentally. And lately, this first year - a year filled with promises of new beginnings and tangible hope - has been anything but easy.  Bold dreams seem possible, yet my mind twists these dreams into unattainable pieces of perfectly etched artwork. Glorious portraits and landscapes delicately hang on my walls, but can only be seen and admired, instead of lived. And in simple and basic language, I feel pretty crappy lately and really paralyzed. I listen to the can nots and will nots far more than I should. That cynic and critic, who lies is wait inside my head ready to pounce and crush these visions of hope, is louder than ever. All I can hear is you are paralyzed and you fell. You fell, you are permanently damaged. 

And then today happened. I left to get my haircut, pick up a few things at a cute little market, and returned home. I lifted my body out of the car and into my chair and sighed a huge, I feel sorry for myself sigh, like I do when I am really feeling yucky. I, reluctantly, gathered my wallet, keys, phone, and purchases and started to head up my never ending hill. And when I am feeling all icky like this, that hill seems so huge and so daunting. I started up the hill and noticed a neighbor waiting for me at the top of the hill. This former rabbi stood, at least six feet tall with majestic grey hair and piercing blue eyes, waiting for me to reach the top. He offered to help, but I insisted this climb is good for me. He laughed. I stopped for a minute to say hello and we started a conversation. At some point during this brief encounter I heard him ask why I used a wheelchair. I cavalierly said, "I fell off of a horse and I am paralyzed.”

Then he said it. His Israeli Hebrew accent eloquently spoke the words I needed hear. The very words filled with so much power, they crushed the cynic and the critic in one swift blow. 

He said, as he looked right at me and pointed to me, “NO. No, part of your body is paralyzed, YOU are not paralyzed. I see you. I watch you. YOU are not paralyzed.”

I was never more grateful for my giant aviator sunglasses. They hid the tears until they streamed down my cheek. I looked at him, I easily smiled through these tears, completely caught off guard, and said, “Yes, you are right. You are right.”

We all have a piece or part of us that is paralyzed. Cancer, fear of the unknown, the loss of a dream or loved one, accidents and falls, all paralyze us. And small, seemingly insignificant moments paralyze too. The are no limits to what can hold us back and keep us from fighting off the cynic and the critic. All of us, each and every one of us, has a part of us that is paralyzed. WE are not paralyzed, just this little part of us is paralyzed.

And as I rode on the coat tails of his euphoric words, I wheeled inside and went straight to my mirror. I looked in my own eyes and I repeated, “YOU are not paralyzed. YOU are not paralyzed. YOU will get back up again. YOU will recover from your fall.”

I may be all messy and vulnerable lately and searching for where I am going and wondering how I will get there. But, I will be damned if the cynic and critic, living inside of me, beats out hope and tenacity. I recover. It’s what I do. It’s what we all do. Recovery is forgiveness, it’s grace, it’s a second or third or twenty-seventh chance. We are so fragile, but we are also so strong. And I say to all of you who are stuck on the floor, who doubt recovery and resurrection, the words from the rabbi who waits at the top of the giant hill...

“NO. No, part of your body is paralyzed, YOU are not paralyzed. I see you. I watch you. YOU are not paralyzed.”


  1. Sarah, I am so happy to read your words. They came at a very timely time (silly words). I am in Alabama singing with a choir for the Jewish High Holidays. We had a lot of work to do because the man who usually sings all of the solos just had to bury his 50 year old daughter. She died of cancer. This was the second daughter he buried in 2 years. He is a beaten man. I understand. Parents are not supposed to out live their children.
    I don't say this to insinuate that "you are lucky to be alive", but to understand the similarities in situations in which you are out of control and feel helpless to do anything about.
    So when I read what the Rabbi said, it made me smile and cry (both). Because yes, although your spine is still the same as before you saw him, he helped me, at least, to understand that we all are more than our inabilities. You have helped many with your view of life. You are a fierce tiger that sometimes has a kitty cat day. YOU are entitled to some of those. We all are. We don't always see what people are grappling with. Some wounds are not immediately visible.
    For the soloist here, he may never find his voice again (he is reduced to a shell of a man). But I pray that he also understands that he is NOT paralyzed. It will never be "easy" for him or for you. But you have given me hope that on good days, we don't have to accept our paralysis.
    I adore you for always making me smile and tear up some too. Mwahhhh!!

    1. Oh Elly, thank you for sharing this touching story. You are right about the invisible wounds. The soloist carries so much pain and so much hurt, I see why he lost his voice. He probably feels like a stranger in his own world. I, too, will pray he finds his voice and realizes not all of him is paralyzed. I will also pray that he at least knows one more good day, if at all possible. My heart aches for him. Thank you for sharing so much kindness and empathy and compassion in this comment. You reduced me to tears...both happy and sad. You are such a beautiful person and have such a depth of understanding...of both pain and joy. Thank you again for your continued support and good vibes. I cherish you. Mwahhh...right back at you!! xoxo

  2. This is a beautiful story and beautifully written. I'm sorry to hear you've been feeling defeated lately. But, I think the comment from the lady above goes to show you are accomplishing a lot in this world... You are helping people view life from a different perspective and you are teaching people how to have positivity, empathy, and strength. I admire you.

    1. Thank you, Jos. I admire you, too. You always share the perfect words and have such a big heart. You also know how to make everyone feel better and loved. You should be a psychologist :) Can't wait to see you soon! xoxo

  3. Wow. This encounter is so powerful and beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks Liz! Yes, it was very powerful and gave me such chills. Belle didn't even bark at his little Yorkie...which is a miracle in and of itself. Love you. xoxo


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