At one point in my crazy brain inflammation I was about far gone as you can get and still be alive. I had no reaction to physical pain. My only physical reaction was the pupil of one eye. Shine a bright light into that eye, but not both, and the pupil would constrict. Since my brain was seizing uncontrollably I had to be put into a medically-induced coma for three weeks. It was a scary time for my family and, as you know if you have been reading my writing, my daughter was a critical part of figuring out how to save my life. I’m thankful for that and I’m glad that I am able to write this Provision, reflecting a bit more on what’s like to survive such a close encounter with death. I invite you to join me on the journey.
This has been a difficult and unsettling season in our lives. That said, it has also been a time for giving thanks and praise. We are glad that it has been a season in rather than the end of my life. The end of my physical existence on this planet could have well happened. I could well have been seized by life, as we all will be sooner or later, and shaken so hard as to die. But for whatever reason, both physically and metaphysically, that did not happen. I came close to death and then came back to life. What an opportunity! What a life-changing experience! What a joyous wonder! What a blessing to be not only alive but to be functional as well. None of that was guaranteed. But the gift was given and for that we are thankful.
My family and I have always lived with an attitude or gratitude. We have always viewed life as a gift rather than as an entitlement. And that’s a good perspective for one and all to take. It’s good to be grateful and gracious on the trek of life. When we think of life as an entitlement, it’s easy to become suspicious of and demanding with others. But those qualities do not make for a good way in the world. They fill us with both anger and regret as we push our way forward. Simply put, they make us hard to be around.
I should know because, of everyone in my family, that “my-way-or-else” orientation and approach can take hold of my soul at times, especially when I want to get something done. My way is, after all, the “right way” and, when necessary, I am not afraid of doing things that are improper, inappropriate, or even outrageous to make that way happen. Just ask my daughter-in-law. She is all too aware of how “dangerous” it is to be around me at those moments. There’s just no telling what I might do to make things happen, once I get an idea in my head.
Such assertiveness has always been a part of my personality and it can still raise its head rather easily. But things have changed a bit since I came so close to death. Not only am I more thankful to be alive, I am also more interested in the lives of others. My attitude is less “my way or the highway” and more “how can I support you on the trek of life?”. That is, of course, the frame of coaching as a profession. But it has now become more or less the overarching frame of my life as well. I like that that has happened and other people tell me they like that as well. I’m easier to be around and more evocative of other people’s strengths. I am, in other words, more of the person I have always wanted to be.
It’s curious that it took such a life-shattering, life-shaping experience to get me there (and I still have a lot to learn). But that has been the journey I am on and who knows where it will go. One thing is certain: to die and live again leaves a person changed forever. For better or for worse, everything is touched and nothing comes out the same.
I think and hope that I am changing for the better. I still have a long way to go but I notice that I am already a little different. I walk slower. I look around more. I make more mistakes. And I am more considerate of others. Let’s consider each of those qualities in turn.
I walk slower. This one is a no brainer. I walk slower because I want to be sure that my left foot is planted securely. That is the foot that always turns in and gives out, if I have any seizure activity at all. Never the right foot. Always the left. So I take care to make sure that everything is set with my left foot before moving forward. I do that especially when I am running. Step. Look. Secure. Breathe. Go. Walking is the same way. Step. Look. Secure. Breathe. Go. The way I walk and move has changed after coming back to life.
I look around more. My experience of the natural world itself has also changed. What a joy it is to be alive. It’s incredible what you can see just by looking. On Thursday I saw the moon in the middle of the day. I would have probably not noticed that before. But now I do. I am writing this Provision while sitting in a hotel restaurant in Charlottesville, Virginia. I’m here while my wife is at a conference because I wanted to connect with and give thanks to the doctors and staff at a hospital here who helped to save my life, especially one doctor in particular with whom I became particularly close. Looking out the window, I notice trees starting to bud, gardens starting to sprout their wares, rabbits starting to hop, and people starting to do whatever it is in their personalities lead them to do as the world wakes up. Fascinating.
I make more mistakes. It may be, of course, that I made just as many mistakes before but I never noticed them. I doubt that, especially when it comes to speaking. But my brain inflammation expresses itself in many ways and one of the ways that I notice is the selection and pronunciation of words. For someone who was always a word master, this aspect of dying and living again is particularly troubling. But it is what it is. As with my walking, sometimes my talking – and typing on the keyboard, for that matter – has to be slower in order to come out right. Maybe we would all benefit from this “slow and steady” approach to life. I know it is helping me to deal with and to manage my mistakes.
I am more considerate of others. This one is across the board. I will go out of my way to make sure someone is alright if I think they are struggling or suffering. I also seem to not foist myself upon people and situations with the same reckless abandon as I did before. I look around more, as I have said, and I then do my best to care for and meet the needs of others. That’s especially important with my shy grandson. I think he has now caught onto the fact that I am part of his world, but my slower approach makes a big difference in the time it takes for him to warm up to me. I wait for him to come around to me, rather than the other way around. Go slow to go fast. Things usually work out better this way. It turns out that he’s not as shy as he may, at first, appear.
I’m sure there are many other lessons to be learned from coming so close to death and then to live again, but those four came immediately to mind. Perhaps you can imagine a few others yourself. If so, I would invite you to reply to this Provision and to send those thoughts to me. They may be exactly what I need at this point on my trek of life.
Coaching Inquiries: What challenges have you faced in your life and how have they changed you? What opportunities have you had to look over the brink between life and death and how have you experienced them? Have they been exciting, scary, confusing, or sorrowful? What might be the attitude that life is now calling for from you in the here and now?
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.
As I was heading out for our NVC Williamsburg meeting three things came to mind. I wasn’t well prepared to encounter snow and/or ice if it came earlier than predicted, then I passed a sign predicting traffic delays on 64 east, and I realized I hadn’t read today’s Provision. A sign right at the exit onto 64 said “Prepare to Stop!”, and I decided to take the ramp back into town and read the Provision instead of coming down.
I hope you all are having a fine meeting and am sorry to be missing it. But I’m grateful as always for your Provision, as for all your wonderful contributions to my life and those of so many others. I’ll use this as a gift to “unplug” for awhile, which will include being with you all in spirit.
Thank you so much for the inspirational message you shared in the IAC VOICE newsletter. I have been praying for you and thinking about you ever since I heard about your seizures and hospitalization. I am so grateful to hear about your tremendous recovery. You are different than before, yes, and yet you are still an amazing person with much learning to share. Thanks for still being you.
I have listened and re-listened to many of your sessions while being certified through Wellcoaches Corporation and read some of your Provisions. Amazing. I wish you all the best.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, joy, and health.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
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Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
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