Key Point: “Make today your day to get going on what you really want for yourself.” That sounds like such a trite, over-used, hunk of self-help psycho babble until… Until someone is lying beside you on the pavement, blood gushing out of you like water from a garden hose, an angel holding your hand, gently stroking your cheek and kindly coaxing you on… “It’s ok sweetie, you can let go and go to God.” That’s what happened to now paralympian snowboarder and cyclist, Michelle Salt. She told me that part of the story, being at the white space intersection between life and death, the other night over a very inspirational dinner.
On June 27, 2011, on a twisting road near Cochrane in southern Alberta, Michelle was out on her new motorbike, enjoying a summer ride. A curve in the road, and suddenly she was cartwheeling with her bike, ricocheting from one guardrail to another. Michelle crushed 13 bones, including a femur that severed a vital artery. The heroes flying the STARS chopper (who bravely landed in a spot they shouldn’t have), numerous other first responders, the “angel” who stopped and caressed her, a loving support group of family/friends and of course the medical team at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, saved her life. Michelle spent seven days on life support and underwent five major surgeries, including the amputation of her right leg. Unbelievably, Michelle remained conscious until the operation. The woman lying beside her on the road, lovingly holding her, was a passer by who happened to be an ex emergency nurse. The nurse knew the artery was severed and that Michelle would surely bleed out. Miraculously, that didn’t happen.
When you listen to Michelle’s story, (and she modestly reminds us that that every paralympian and many others have an awe inspiring story), it is that splash of cold water on the face we can all benefit from now and then. A week after the accident, when the tubes came out of Michelle’s mouth, she purposefully made a turn for the better, and believe it or not she started talking about competing as a snowboarder in the paralympics. Two-and-a-half years later, after incredible dedication and grit, Salt competed in Sochi. WOW… (BTW… She tore her MCL hitting a tree 30 days before she was scheduled to compete).
If you listen carefully to Michelle, her message is less about overcoming adversity as a so-called disabled amputee, than it is about goal setting, perseverance, forward progress, forgiveness, compassion and having the presence to enjoy the wonder and beauty of each day. Michelle will tell you that she sees colors brighter than ever, takes time to invest in relationships and is grateful for what she has every single day. She rotates her prosthesis into a right angle, the sole of her shoe like a tabletop, as she sits beside me. She notes that an upside shoe is great for resting her beer on. We both burst out laughing. Her biggest challenge, she says, is renting a car with a left foot gas pedal. She needs that to drive, but never to move forward.
- Don’t wait for “that” defining moment on your road to get inspired. You have what you need to start now. My self-accountable mantra is, “do it now…” Not rashly or desperately, but with intention. Step-by-step, bit-by-bit, learn, apply, and move forward.
- Have a defined personal aspiration. Don’t let excuses get in the way. That someone or something (like a missing right leg) is somehow preventing you from moving toward your desired future state. It is sad how many people have fuzzy or zero aspirations. They just let life pull them along, blaming themselves and others for where they may be stuck. They can’t seem to find the gas pedal because they don’t know where they want to go.
- Michelle’s gas pedal is literally now on the left side, but she’s always driving forward. And she is not afraid or embarrassed to ask for help or encouragement. She also falls down a lot. (The night we had dinner, she was recovering from a concussion). You and I as mostly “able bodies,” need the same. We need coaching, encouragement, support, and the ability to get up after we fall. It’s ok. It’s authentic. Seek out coaching and sponsorship. Most of us can’t, and likely shouldn’t, try to go it alone. But we should GO.
Left Pedaling Forward in the Triangle,