It has been almost 13 years since the terrorists attacked us in the World Trade Center on 9/11, 2001. On that day my life changed as did the lives of so many of us in the United States. For me, it meant a return to California and a new career in public speaking. One of the things I am most often asked to discuss is “Change.” We’ve seen a lot of changes in our world and in our personal lives over the past 13 years. Major hurricanes, natural disasters, the economic crises in our country and in our world and major political divisions and upheavals have affected us all, some more than others.
In my books, “Thunder Dog” and “Running With Roselle” I talk about some of the personal changes I have experienced and how I have dealt with them. I think that the most important concept I have expressed about change both in my books and in my talks is that oftentimes we may not have control over a change that happens to us, but we always have control over how we personally deal with the change. We can view change as a tragedy or an opportunity.
Earlier this year, another personal change began to unfold for me and my family. On January 25, my wife, Karen, became critically ill with double pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Almost overnight she went into respiratory failure and had to be put on a ventilator in our local Kaiser Permanente Hospital. She was diagnosed as having less than %10 use of her lungs. She was put into an induced coma in order to ensure that the ventilator tube stayed in her body. I was told that 40% of the people who suffer her degree of illness die.
I put out huge calls for prayers on Facebook, Twitter and through our circles of friends and acquaintances. The response was overwhelming and wonderful to see. All the prayers, I believe, made a huge difference. Karen survived. Without going into all the details suffice it to say that we were told her road to recovery would be a long one. She came home on March 1; five weeks after her illness began.
Our close friend, Tom Painter, who I mentioned in “Thunder Dog” because immediately after the attacks on 9/11, he came to support Karen without even knowing that I was in my office in Tower 1 that day,traveled from New Jersey to be with us during Karen’s illness and recovery, helping us in any way he could. He stayed with us from mid-March until last Saturday, June 7. He was a godsend.
Karen has gained back much of her strength and has even begun driving again. She has made vast improvements for which we are all thankful and for which we thank God. Both Karen and I are extremely grateful to her family in Southern California who provided much support and strength during this challenging time.
Now we come to the change. When we moved to California in 2002 we decided that we never wanted to leave our home in Bel Marin Keys. Karen said that she would have to be carried out of this house before she would move out of it. On January 25, she was taken out of this house on a stretcher.
This shows that one should be careful what she asks for. We have decided that it is important for us to move closer to Karen’s family and their support system. This also means that we can become part of their support system as well. So, we will be moving to Southern California in July. Even though we decided to make this change together, both Karen and I first approached it with a bit of dread. Just last night, however, Karen made the observation that she was now getting excited about the move. She had internalized the need and recognize the value of the change we are about to undertake. I too had gotten excited about the move and the adventure to come, but I was now more excited because Karen was looking forward to the future and the new home.
Of course, you could say that we have experienced several changes in recent months. Karen’s illness was unexpected and both of us have had to make certain lifestyle changes to accommodate Karen’s needs. Other changes such as choosing to move to Southern California and Karen closing her quilt fabric shop were in part changes of choice although they were still initiated as a result of an unexpected change. It still goes back to how we decided to react to the original change that befell us through Karen’s illness.
I think Life really is an adventure. I am not sure our two dogs, my guide dog Africa and her mom Fantasia, think of life right now with the same adventurous spirit as we, but they are coping. All of us should approach each day with eager anticipation and joy for what is ahead. We do have control over our mindsets, no matter what happens. How do you handle change? I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment.