I jerked my head up because it sounded like an explosion in the car beside us. It happened so fast. The glass was shattered, metal from my passenger door was shattered, blood was pouring out of my leg.
Then … “Oh my God! I’ve been shot!“ poured out of me before I could even assimilate what had happened.
Yes it was a freeway shooting. And my knee was blown to pieces. At least that’s what I thought had happened.
I had just been picked up at Houston Hobby airport and was headed south to Galveston for a relaxing weekend before my treatment program opened its new wing at the beginning of the following week. When I had jumped in the car, I had a cramp in my foot, so I kicked my sandal off, and put my left foot up in the seat. I was resting my head on my knee as I used my hands to massage the cramp out of my foot.
I raised my head to laugh at something that my boyfriend had said when suddenly I heard the explosion. As I was attempting to grasp what had happened, as I was directing him to the nearest emergency room, I realized I had a not raised my head the bullet would have gone through it. Despite the pain, despite the terror, I begin practicing unstoppable gratitude as hot tears flow down my bleeding face from glass chards that exploded from the window.
Although I was dizzy, I knew I had to remain conscious in order to direct us to the emergency room. We arrived to find other victims being pulled from their cars, who had also been shot in the shooting spree.
Hours later, after surgery, after them cleaning the shrapnel out of my leg, and glass shards from my face and arm; making all necessary repairs to my leg and knee; and many police interviews, I was released to continue the journey south to my condo on Galveston Island.
Even in the early morning hours as we arrived in Galveston, and the sun was coming up, I could hardly make sense of what had happened. And why? Why me?
You’ve had things like that happen to you. Things that happened suddenly. Things you couldn’t understand. Things that caused you to ask why? Why me?
It was during that period of time that I learned something very valuable, that I believe has shaped my life. What was it? I’ll abbreviate it and then I’ll explain.
It was simply this:
I had a choice between staying stuck by asking why, and why me? Or I could shake it off.
I know at first sight that reading those words probably sounds ridiculous. Because when it all came together for me the next day, I thought it was ridiculous too.
I eventually realized there were no answers to the why? Or why me? That asking it again and again would not change anything. That realization caused me to look back over years in my practice when people came with the questions: Why? Why me? And I began to see a pattern as I reviewed client after client in my mind. They had one thing in common when they stayed focused on: Why? And why me? They remained stuck. Their goals were hijacked. Their dreams faded. There identity became linked to the why? Or the why me?
Here’s how it all came together for me. The next day after the shooting accident, I went down to the beach with my chair, and a Walkman CD player with an inspirational CD to listen to. My swollen, throbbing knee was propped up with rolled up beach towels, and it was amazing how many people approached me and asked me what happened. I would tell the story, and they would respond with horror about the event. Many had heard about the shooting spree on the local news.
Interestingly enough, those very comments turned my thoughts back to why? Why me? Eventually I turned on my Walkman, put my headphones on, and began listening to an inspirational talk.
The talk was about getting through difficult things in life. The speakers shared two things that grabbed my attention:
1. “If you cannot flourish under fire, you will likely never flourish at all.” Talk about a tailor made, personalized message! I had been under fire the night before, and now I was facing a very personal question. Will I get stuck in the why? In the why me? Or will I flourish?
2. He shared a story from the Bible where Paul was a prisoner and while being transported, he was in a ship wreck. The ship had wrecked on an island, and Paul was building a fire because all of the passengers who survived were wet, and cold.
I’m pretty sure he didn’t have any lighter fluid are a fire lighter like I use to light my fireplace. But somehow he got the fire going. And then the story said that a viper jumped out of the fire in order to avoid the heat and latched on to Paul’s hand.
The speaker said that he could just imagine that everybody must have thought: “This dude must be really bad. He’s a prisoner, he caused that ship to wreck, and now a snake is jumping out of the fire to bite him.” But then he said Paul did something very simple that we would all do well to learn when we are facing adversity. He shook it off. He didn’t scream, he didn’t have a pity party, he shook it off.
Now this was a period of time when Taylor Swift was probably still an infant. So Paul was definitely not shaking it off to the tune of her “sick beat!”
But I have to admit the first time I heard her song (which honestly has some pretty silly lyric), some of the lyrics really grabbed my attention.
Like: But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music
In my mind
Saying, “It’s gonna be alright.”
I’m pretty sure if this song had been out, I would’ve played it that day on the beach, and would’ve sung it at that part of it at the top of my lungs as I laid there with my bandaged swollen leg propped up. I’m not sure but I think I might’ve even gotten up and jumped around dancing on one leg!
My new program was opening in three days. I had a decision to make. I certainly had every right to extend my stay, and just lay on the beach for at least a week while I recovered. I had an amazing team back in Dallas, and certainly, they could have handled the opening without me.
But I had worked on this program for almost 2 years. It was the heart and soul of everything that I found important in healing the hole in the souls of addicts, of survivors of sexual abuse, and physical abuse.
I decided that very moment, that I was going to shake the incident off. It didn’t matter why. It did not matter why me.
But then at the very end of the inspirational message, this speaker said a third thing that became foundational to how I choose to live to this day.
3. In every unfortunate, unfair, difficult and/or painful situation, look for the silver lining. Then he went on to explain that you don’t need to say that you’re glad the bad thing happened to you … but find a nugget, something you learned, someone you met through it, some little moment that you can find good in.
I laid on the beach, thinking it through. What good was there? I simply couldn’t find any. But I knew I would keep looking. The next morning, the insurance adjuster came to take a look at my little Mustang. I had wiped up as much blood and shrapnel as I possibly could before I went up to my condo when we arrived around sunrise the morning after the accident. But what I had not seen previously, that the adjuster pointed out, was that the bullet went through the window and door, then my knee, but didn’t stop there. I kept my checkbook in a little cubby on the dash, and the bullet had gone through my checkbook and was holding my checkbook into the dash as if it had tacked it into the dash on purpose.
I laughed out loud, and I knew that I had found my silver lining. I said out loud to the adjuster. That must mean that this is my year for explosive finances. I hung onto that. And interestingly enough, our net income at the treatment center doubled that year.
Coincident? Maybe. But I know that seeing the bullet nailing my checkbook to the dash helped me find my nugget, and I no longer needed to ask why? Or why me?
That incident caused me to take on a fresh and empowering way to deal with life.
Stuff happens. Stuff still happens to me. And stuff still happens to you. And we will all ask why? And why me? But I apply my 90-second rule to that. I allow myself to ask why or why me for about 90 seconds. Then it’s time to turn to gratitude. For that incident, I truly was grateful that I had lifted my head a few inches. I will forever be grateful for that.
After that 90 seconds, I immediately make a decision that I must be doing something right… And I determine that I will flourish under fire! I shake it off, and I then I look for a nugget, a silver lining, a gem.
I hope that you will at least give this a sincere effort when stuff happens. Now I am aware that you will still need to process through things, grieve some things, and forgive people or circumstances. Shaking it off does not mean it’s over and dealt with. IT MEANS YOU WILL NOT ALLOW IT TO DEFINE YOU!
Again here are all the steps:
- Allow yourself 90 seconds to ask why? Or why me?
- Immediately after your 90 seconds, find something to be grateful for.
- Make a decision to flourish under fire. Tell yourself you must be doing something right, and you will forge a head with determination.
- Shake it off. I literally get up and dance around and shake it off.
- Find a silver lining, a gem, something good that you can take away. Maybe a good lesson, maybe a funny moment.
I actually have expanded my shaking it off to three things.
- I shake it off as if what had happened was dangling from my hand like the viper dangling from Paul‘s hand.
- But then I also sing it off. I find a song that’s meaningful to me, and I sing at the top of my lungs. Recently, some stuff happened. I jumped up and turned on Shania Twain’s song and sang at the top of my lungs, “Up! Up Up!… I can only go up from here!“
- Thirdly, I shoo it off. I think of when I was a little girl and somehow a bird flew into my Mamaw’s house. I held the door open while she got a broom and tried to shoo the little bird out without hurting it. I’ll never forget that site. So I have a lot of fun shooing stuff off. I remember my Mamaw telling me after we got the bird out that there was a verse in the Bible but said “resist the enemy and he will flee”. I asked her what resist meant and she said it means chase him out with a broom like we did that little bird. So I’ve become an expert at shooing stuff off. And sometimes I grab my pink broom and dance around with it … shooing “stuff” off!
Yes I was there for the opening of my new program. Did my knee and leg still ache? Of course they did. But that was temporary. And I realized that getting stuck in the event and in why? And why me? could have become permanent.
Do not allow stuff that happens to hijack your goals and belittle your dreams. You have great things to accomplish. And I believe all great things have a positive impact on others.
Seize your goals, dare to dream … to dream BIG. Your dream will impact someone else. Never let stuff that happens lessen your destiny! That’s my hope and my prayer for you.
Now shake it off! Or sing it off! Our shoo it off! You have great things to do!