In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I watched South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius (above, left), a double leg amputee, barrel his way down the track in the 100 metre sprint, to a triumphant last place finish. Equally victorious was South Africa’s Natalie Du Troit (above, middle), a leg amputee, who qualified for the 10K swim. Likewise, Poland’s Natalia Partyka (above, right), born without a right hand and forearm, qualified for women’s table tennis. They clearly established themselves as Olympic athletes, thereby the best in the world. The fact that they didn’t take home any medals didn’t matter. More importantly, they represented a huge victory for those of us who need to see that there are no barriers to achieving our goals.
In 2007, I had a no-cause stroke which damaged the muscles and nerves on the right side of my body. It also diminished the functioning of my brain. After a year, I was labelled permanently disabled and unable to work. I had passed the point where most stroke survivors retrieve the vast majority of whatever functioning that will come back. My dreams of being a great business woman seemed impossible. My hope to marry again was dwindling into hopelessness. Who would want me for anything?
I saw Pistorius and I was reminded that God had a great purpose for us all. I knew that I couldn’t give up on my dreams of being an accomplished woman, who achieved great success by helping others be the best of themselves. I just needed to make a shift. So I did what I always do, I searched for my answer.
In my quest, I saw that disability highlighted the greatness of Olympic stars like Pistorius, Du Troit and Partyka. It was the heart of people like Michael J. Fox, Christopher Reeves, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Helen Keller, all of whom followed their true paths and catapulted to greatness. These were ordinary people who achieved extraordinary things through belief, hard work, and an in-conquerable will to achieve.
Self-defeating thoughts didn’t suffocate these role models, and they certainly were not going to take over my life. I knew deep inside that if God left me here on this earth, he wanted me to be the awesome person I always felt was inside. My stroke was a call to open my eyes and see the world in a different way. Like many, I needed to change my perspective so that I could see my God-given beauty, strength and brilliance, so that I could be what I was meant to be.
Before that point I was trying to be everything. I focused on being a manager, a trainer, an activist for the disadvantaged, and a writer, to name a few. Trying to move forward was like moving through quick sand. For example, working toward being a corporate manager was like banging my head against a solid brick wall. I clashed with my boss’s nasty personality, though I am clear I was also seeing reflections of my own nastiness. I felt no joy, no exhilarated fulfilment in my life.
Since having my stroke, I have been dramatically slowed down and even immobile for a while. I could barely speak for some time, and when I did it was at times hardly intelligible. Through my stillness, I saw my life clearly pulling me down a specific path. People came to me for information about and help with technology, writing, research, leadership, positive thinking and more. I was effortlessly doing what I claimed as my life mission years ago “helping the right people, find the right information, at the right time.” Interestingly enough, I have a graduate degree as an information specialist!
Some say God knocks you down so you can look up at him and see the truth. I looked up and saw my truth. There are no barriers to achieving my goals, but my self-defeating thoughts. When I face my fears and listen to the internal voice which guides me, I stick to my path, and I find my way. It is only then that I see the countless opportunities to make my best contribution to this world.
Choosing to live my life without barriers, without my self-defeating thoughts, I am unstoppable. Months after my stroke I was confined to a wheelchair. One year later, above-left, I was struggling to move around with a quad cane, a brace on my right leg, and a brace on my right arm. Now three year later, above-right, I move fairly well without braces and with the aid of a regular cane; most importantly, I am living my purpose of helping people, find the right information, at the right time.
I am a part of an unstoppable world of people, all going for gold, all nullifying barriers. This blog is about sharing those amazing stories.
Copyright © 2010 M. Dawn Armstrong. All rights reserved.