Thursday, December 10, 2009


Choosing to be Happy

A few weeks ago (before Thanksgiving) I met a friend of mine, who also happens to be an amputee, at Starbucks. We met about a year ago, shortly after I spoke to a class at IUPUI, and have developed a habit of meeting at Starbucks on a semi-regular basis to keep up to date with each other. His daughter was in the class at IUPUI and, after my speech, she had shared my information with him. He's become a source of motivation for me, and a great friend to enjoy coffee with! (I'm very grateful that his daughter connected us, but I'm now getting completely off topic, and I haven't even finished the first paragraph!)

Ok, let me try to get back on track...My friend and I were having coffee at Starbucks when a very nice woman came over to ask if I was the amputee that had been featured in the Indy Star the day before. (Things like that happen quite frequently now, but I still haven't gotten used to it!) Now, I had recently been interviewed for an article about traveling with special needs, but I wasn't sure when the article was going to run, so I had to ask the woman which article she was referring to. As it turned out the article she had seen was actually about another bi-lateral above knee amputee in the Indianapolis area. (our numbers are growing...maybe I should find him and start a plot to take over the world...just kidding...kinda...depends on what happens with Health Care!...again, just kidding...maybe...Ha!) The woman had also asked if I ever spoke to groups about my experiences, which of course I do, and I had given her my contact info. So, a week later, when the article that I had been interviewed for ran in the Star I was not at all surprised to come home and find a voicemail from a woman who said she had seen me at Starbucks the week before and she was interested in learning more about my story.

I called her back right away and was surprised to learn that this was not the woman that had approached my friend and I the week before. This woman had been sitting behind me, enjoying coffee with her husband, and we had never met! She is the host for a new talk show on WHMB (a local tv station) and she wanted to know if I would be interested in sharing my story. (The talk show series hasn't aired yet, and it still has a "working title", but I'll try to let people know when it will air in the future.) Now, of course, I was more than happy to share my story, so this past Monday I met with them for the taping of what will be the first show. What a great experience it was!

My portion of the show will be two 6 minute segments. Now, anyone who knows me can imagine how difficult it is for me to tell the story in 12 minutes! In this case we spent 6 minutes on the story of the accident and then about 6 minutes on my recovery and the prosthetics. After we were done with the taping I felt pretty confident that we had put together a pretty inspirational piece, but I have to wonder if I got the real point across. (I have this horrible habit of replaying conversations in my mind and finding better ways to say what was said.)

I know that I spent time talking about the importance of focusing on positive emotions, embracing your personal challenges as a part of life, and getting through the negative emotions. I also talked about making a conscious decision to be ok. These are important lessons that have allowed me to face each day. Looking back though, I wish that what I had said was that you have to make a conscious decision to be happy. That's the real lesson here. It's very easy to say, it's very difficult to embrace, but once you have made that decision it's actually very easy to stay positive.

Let me be clear. Making the decision to be happy is not making a decision to ignore things that make you angry, sad, afraid, jealous, etc... Those are very important emotions and we can only truly be happy when we face those things that make us feel negative emotions. Making the decision to be happy means accepting the negative and moving through it without allowing it to take over your life. Believe me, I have horrible days. I get upset when things are not going the way I want them to and I get scared and nervous on a regular basis. I can see a very dark place (figuratively) where I could get lost very easily, which is why I make a conscious decision to be happy, so that I don't get trapped in misery. Unfortunately it's not a decision that you can make today and expect everything to be good from now on. It's a decision that you have to make on a regular basis. Every time you start to feel the darkness taking hold you have to make that decision to be happy instead and you have to keep making that decision until you have dealt with the darkness and put it behind you. It can be exhausting!

Now, do you see how long it took me to make that one point? Do you understand why I'm concerned that I didn't get the point across in the short time that I had on the talk show? Regardless, it's done now and the past can't be changed, so I'm choosing to be happy! It really was a great experience and I'm looking forward to seeing the end result! Maybe, if I'm really lucky, Oprah will see it and decide to have me on at some point during her final season! (That's my veiled attempt to suggest to everyone who reads this that they write to Oprah and ask her to have me on her show.) (And that was my very transparent attempt to suggest the same thing!)

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and that you all take the time to enjoy this holiday season! This can be a very difficult time for everyone. People stress about the perfect gift, the financial stress of the season, some deal with loneliness while others get frustrated trying to see as many people as possible. Whatever the challenge, please remember to make the decision to be happy and maybe help someone else make that decision too!

(By the way, before I sat down to write this I walked for 15 minutes on the treadmill at an average pace of 1.9 mph. I had to make the decision to be happy several times during that 15 minutes!)

My best friend sometimes gives me grief for being cheery and glass-half-full most of the time. (She does it with love.) I've always responded with the argument that it's not particularly productive to be otherwise. You have just expressed beautifully and so compellingly how it is possible to live a life of gratitude for blessings, in the midst of the challenges we're up against -- some challenges more difficult than others, as you know so well. Thank you so much for your insight and gift of expression.

This post was so upbeat. I love it. You rock!

Can't wait to see the interview! I'm sure you did great -- you are a natural in front of the camera, in front of a mic on the radio, etc. ... you just have a confident, pleasant way of communicating. Oprah would be a fool not to have you on her show! I'll get my people right on that. ;-)

Keep up the good work on the treadmill. Walk a quarter mile or so for me, would ya? ;-)

Love you!


I'm so glad that you have gotten another opportunity to tell your story. I know that it's therapeutic for me to talk about life with Anna. I, too, had to make a decision to be happy. Every day is difficult raising a child who is so severely delayed. Both of our lives have changed in a way that is a life-long challenge, but we're both doing as much good with our situations as we can. Thank God we both have our supportive family and friends to encourage and support us.

Congrats on the treadmill accomplishments! :)

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