… a few weeks before my flight back to Calgary, I dove off a cliff and snapped my neck in the water.
Once upon a time… I was born! I was born across the pond (Europe), but grew up here in Cowtown. A little rug rat, I loved messing around with my brother i.e. throwing snowballs at each other, and was a big fan of soccer, hockey and all kinds of other sports. I think some of my favourite was skateboarding. Oh and breakdancing! I used to love spinning around on the floor trying to impress my friends and any girls who were foolish enough to hang out and think I was cute.Having a French mother and having been to France a few times during my younger years to meet my family etc., in high school I got the itch to find more independence and convinced family, school and some folks in France that it would be a great idea for me to do an exchange program and live there for six months to study.
So I went and had a blast! French cheese, tasty wines, the whole 9 yards, as they say. I learned a lot about the culture and struggled to find myself, like most teenagers try to do, with the accompanying anxieties and hopes and dreams, and, most importantly, desire to look good in front of peers. So one of the things that we had fun doing with my French pals was go down to the Mediterranean to jump off cliffs. I know, what a wonderful idea, most parents would say! But we were having fun and a few weeks before my flight back to Calgary, I dove off a cliff and snapped my neck in the water.
Fortunately people jumped to my rescue and pulled me out of the water, saving my life in the process. But this action ushered in a whole series of consequences and changes in my life and the life of many others. My family was deeply affected, as were all of the people I was living with in France; it was a big pebble dropped into the pond of life, you could say. With the good fortune of being alive in this time and place, the miracle of modern medicine kept me alive and I eventually, after about six weeks of intensive care, flew back to Calgary to go through rehabilitation. I wasn’t feeling all that fortunate at the time, but as I look back on my life from some small degree of wisdom and understanding, I can see the gift or miracle in this kind of life saving technology, and human ingenuity that powers it.
Rehab was an interesting experience. And interesting is one of those neutral terms that can mean horrible or awesome, but I suppose it was not the most fun time in my life. Anyone who’s been through it will understand. Whether as the actual patient or family, friends, whatever, associated with it, but it’s a process you have to go through. Unfortunately there’s no fast-forward button. And the lessons were tough, gruelling and important. How to ride on the C train in a power wheelchair? How to ask for help from a stranger when you need food for lunch? How to keep yourself from becoming miserable and going crazy when laying in bed and unable to get up and do something? How to accept this thing called disability that our society is trying harder to accept nowadays, but still doesn’t completely, because it smells of weakness and death? What does it mean to be a man if you can’t wipe your own bum?
These questions and many others perturbed me and helped me move through the various chapters of transitioning into the “underworld,“ as I like to call it sometimes. A place where a lot of people don’t go. Either because of fear, lack of desire, lack of awareness, lack of courage, or just plain common sense. But a place that, unless you go there, you just don’t understand the world the same way. So it’s a place where you can pick up a new perspective, a perspective the world could use, even though it’s uncomfortable to look from: the eyes of someone with a disability.
Now I’m talking to you further down the road, and at the time I probably couldn’t have put it into words like this, but I was grappling and struggling through the process of trying to figure out some of this stuff. And on my way, I had support from the community, and this bizarre/fascinating cosmos that we live in, to keep studying and learning and pushing myself into deeper intellectual territory. I was particularly intrigued by psychology and started learning about this fascinating field, becoming more and more curious about why it is we act the way we act, why it is we think and feel the way we do, and what we can do to make our lives more meaningful, more purposeful, more beautiful.And I was very, very fortunate indeed to have such wonderful professors, such amazing technology, such important community resources (like Easter Seals), such a wonderful mom and strong family, such internal drive and push, such great friends and neighbors, and access to the wisdom of the ages. All of this contributing to my ongoing quest to climb the mountain of education and eventually reach the top, obtaining a PhD in educational psychology. It took me 12 years, and was a significant accomplishment. Especially because I did it, like I’m doing with this, by voice activated technology, struggling with a variety of different health problems, and feeling the heavy burden of disability throughout the entire experience.
And yet, like all heroic stories, I made it! I got to the top of the mountain. And the view from here is incredible. You should come! But, as I realize now, there are many more mountains ahead, and there was another peek that I was still very much wanting to climb. Way bigger than Mount Everest, or all those other huge mountains that populate our planet, the mountain of loving relationship with a romantic partner. I set out, even though I had tried to climb the mountain in the past, I didn’t quite have the right technology, and confidence in myself to be able to really hit the summit. But with some very good fortune and a little bit of courage, I met Alana. My wife. And it was a beautiful meeting, which started online and after a month or so bridged the gap into the physical space, where we continued to learn about each other, and become more and more interested in going deeper into the relationship. And one of our desires was to wake up and grow up through relationship. Let “it” be a teacher to us. And learn the ways of love. Which is, absolutely, ongoing. We got married June 2017 and just found out that we are going to start a family. Needless to say, I’m a very lucky man to have found her and have also worked hard and challenged myself in a variety of ways to overcome the biggest hurdle for me: the deep, penetrating and very uncomfortable question of whether I can accept disability, and whether she can or anyone can, truly. So far so good folks! I have her tied up in the basement so she can’t get rid of me.
So onward and upward, as they say! When you’re climbing mountain and doing other such things! Speaking of which I’m very much into music and poetry and painting, I love to get out to exercise and be in nature, I’ve got some great friends that I sit down and rap with or wax philosophical, I’ve traveled back to France several times, I love discovering new places around the globe and doing all the things that most of us humans like to do. I’m now a professionally registered psychologist and have a private practice where I work and see patients from a variety of backgrounds. I work in the area of trauma with first responders as well as with teenagers struggling to figure life out and help families to find some balance in the midst of challenging adolescent years. As part of my interest in psychology and the mind, I have a very steady and rich meditation practice and love to read voraciously. I could go on, but I think this gives you a general sense of the little story line of my life. And, it is just part of the story. That’s the cool thing about life: we can write our stories, at least to some degree. Where are you? Who are you? What are you all about? What’s most important? What’s your adventure? What are your challenges? Who are your enemies? Who are your teachers? Where are you going? There, something to think about!