takin’ a breather

It’s been heavy here, right? Sad story after sad story. I’ll give away the ending. I come through the other side and I’m not climbing Everest, but my life is not too shabby.

I’m writing this post to take a step back for a minute, breathe, and I’ll jump in again with a post from Scott to answer Intense Guy’s question. He wanted to know what it was like for my parents when they signed off on the surgery to my right leg. Scott was present and conscious for that while I wasn’t, so he’s the perfect voice for that leg of the journey…get it? ‘Leg’. Ha.

I would like to bring some clarity to you and, hopefully, to me. It has been eleven years since the car crash and I haven’t entirely figured out my reasons for writing this now. I know some of you have wondered if it’s about my emotional journey, if my writing this is part of the path to healing. I can say with some certainty that it isn’t. I don’t believe I could write this if I was still devastated or had any traumatic loose ends to tie up. It was a long road to recovery and I recovered. So, why write the story?

I share my story with many people. My family and friends, Betty’s family and her friends are knit into this story wound around and around it until there isn’t a beginning or an end. It just is. It’s shared with the driver who hit my car. I have spoken on behalf of the BC Professional Fire Fighters burn fund and I have told thousands of people how you couldn’t meet a more amazing group of people who, selflessly, do a lot of good for many. I continue to be in awe of them. My story is their story too and I’m honored to be connected to them in any way.

After reading your comments and processing in my head, then out loud to Scott I have reached a semi-conclusion (meaning its an-on-its-way-don’t-quote-me-on-this conclusion, of course). I think I’m taking ownership of my story. I have created speeches that are from my heart, but guarded. They’re sure and confident. I have responded to questions such as, how did you get through this? What have you learned? Could you shed light on this community project? I’ve been happy to respond to those questions, to hook speeches on making good, solid decisions and choosing survivor over victim. I stand by everything I have said in a speech, but something shifted this past year. Like I said a few posts ago change was in the air.

Instead of thinking about what I could pull from being in a hospital room for seven months to share in a speech I was pondering what words to use to describe the photographs on the wall in my room and the smell of hospital which, really, smell is too tame a word. The hospital should have its own word for smell. I could turn over every emotion, every detail and not have to pat it down. I wanted to face the story head on.

I have been reluctant in the past to write a book wanting to keep some of the details private. I might be outgoing and talk at breakneck speed, but there are some things I don’t divulge. While I write this story of mine I’m putting myself, a very large part of myself out there. It may be ancient history, but I’m all wide open, guts spilling, here I am.

I’m not weeping while I write. If I was I wouldn’t be ready. I’m not searching to make sense of it all although some sense may come. I want to unfurl the story; stretch it out to pour over every word and each sigh. To the best of my ability I want to tell the story.

13 thoughts on “takin’ a breather

  1. Cookie

    wow. 7 months in the hospital?! I can't imagine.
    I know what you mean about wanting to keep some things private. Sometimes I feel like my blog is incomplete because I don't share everything. But every woman needs her secrets, right?

  2. Intense Guy

    I certainly didn't mean to "pry" into a place you didn't intend to go if I indeed, did so –

    Those years of answering questions and talking to the public had to have played a role in your recovery – you have such dignity and grace that one can forget that the inner demons exist in all of us and "even" within you. I apologize for forgetting that.

    It took me years to close off some of the demons within me when they "arrived" in my life 25+ years ago – and they still aren't tamed and somedays, I'm not sure they are even under control – I'll say no more about them, but I look to your experience as a much more positive role model and its been a help to me. Thank you very much for that.

  3. Kate Coveny Hood

    I love hearing this version of your story. And you raise a very interesting point about cathartic writing.

    People always imagine that writing about a trauma or major event is a great means of exorcising demons. And that may be true – but maybe that doesn't really apply to writing a book.

    If you want to tell a true story from your life, the "unhealed" (for lack of a better word) perspective might be a bit limited. You have to let that in for parts of the story to give it life (again for lack of a better word), but you also have to be able to step back and stand in your reader's shoes. Know when they are ready to move on to the next part, when they understand how you felt and need no further description, and when they have questions that need to be answered. Ones that the wounded part of you might find insensitive or may just not even consider being relevant.

    Writing for yourself and writing for a reader are two very different things. Both can be cathartic, but writing for yourself is selfish and self serving out of necessity. Writing for a reader requires an interest in their feelings, perspective and attention span.

    And of course there is the simple fact that even the best of writing is heavily edited in the end. How could a still tortured heart endure something like that?

  4. Heidi

    cookie, i like that…every woman needs her secrets. it is weird sometimes, isn't it? to put your life out there in this giant hole called the internet.
    i'm finding that to share details about something i'm going through presently is more difficult than writing about the past. to me it's already done, so i can't do too much damage. i hope. 🙂

    intense guy, no, you are not prying at all! scott read your comment on the previous post and suddenly an email appeared in my inbox with his response in an attachment. just wait 'til you read it. it's excellent. so, your question was a perfectly timed thing. 🙂

    i'm not saying i have my life completely under control or that i don't have something to learn through this process of writing…i do…i have much to learn. it was important to me that people know i'm not in a fetal position as i do this because i don't know if it's a good place to write from…i think i would lack the perspective i need. that doesn't mean i don't have bad days. my legs still cause me trouble sometimes and there are definitely moments where i can't quite believe that all of this happened. it just isn't with me all day every day.

    thank you for your very kind words. truly. i appreciate your thoughtfulness.

  5. Heidi

    kate, i want to put an exclamation point after your name…kate! because you said what i couldn't find the words for. yes to everything you said here.

    when i took that 'writing your life as story' course one of the lessons our professor taught us was not to write if we were still coming to terms with 'it' (whatever that it may be). She said that was best left in a journal and i think she's right.

    my comments back are starting to be full on posts, so i'm going to stop now. but, thank you for this. you really nailed it.

  6. Linda Sue

    Geez Heidi- Writing is a bitch at the the best of times and I think editing is worse, You are a brilliant ,readable writer no matter what the subject might be- I read all of your posts, enthralled.Every artist has to step away, let the clay rest, the paint dry, the thoughts to become quiet- writing to me is more intense on all levels because the written word carries so much HEFT!It is the most demanding of the arts. You have got a gift and if it took compromising, adjusting, your used to be's to get you here then that's the key…like Steven Hawking's story, very important…anyway, LOVE what you are doing ALL THE TIME! Love you!

  7. Live More Now

    Hello Heidi – I second Linda Sue. It takes so much courage to put it out there, and to do it in a way that is graceful, but impactful, so honest, but not over the top. You do have a gift – and writing does carry so much HEFT.

    I love your writing. Sometimes I don't comment because I am without words and anything feels so inadequate compared to what you've written.

    I hope you are having a great Sunday, today. It is the perfect day for cozies and soup, and slowly milling about, and catching up on blogs. 🙂

    Hope all is well,

  8. Christy

    I don't have anything substantial to add to this comment converstation, but I wanted to say that I'm so glad that you're feeling good enough to write about it. There's a very similar incident in my family, that happened even longer ago, but I have a feeling it'll never be written about. The outcome was a little different – not everyone in the family made it, and it's just too painful to remember. But if the people who did make it could write about it, it would be something else…But anyway – I hope you're doing well this week! Good for you wanting to write this down! I'm glad, because painful as it is, I do want to read it!

  9. bernthis

    tell it. I have to say Heidi, I think it would so inspirational to so many. I literally leave your blog posts for last b/c I just savor your writing and your story.

  10. Isabella Snow

    Some secrets can fester over time, and can lead to secondary complications of the mind and the heart that you're not even consciously aware of. I think you should write your full story down the very most nitty gritty — whether you submit all of it to an agent or not (or submit parts) can be determined at a later date. Write it all; you can't know how much it will help until you do. Believe me. x

  11. Heidi

    linda sue, this "Every artist has to step away, let the clay rest, the paint dry, the thoughts to become quiet" is so, so true. you're one wise woman and i'd take advice from you any day.

    heather, thank you. you are far too kind to me. 🙂
    is the rain KILLING you out your way? 'cause i'm drowning over here.

    christy, i am so, so sorry. i had no idea. i'm privileged and honored that you're here reading. i'm here if you ever want to talk about anything.

    bernthis, you do? what a compliment! i'm blushing…sheesh…thank you.

    isabella, you raise a good point. i hadn't thought of it like that and now i'm going to because that's what you do to me when you leave comments. you make me think! i like that about you.

    i do know that i'm finding this liberating…writing my story like this. i don't know why exactly, but it feels good to just write unencumbered by themes or topics or a positive spin, ya know what i mean?

  12. Suz Broughton

    It's funny because I knew a lot of this already. I started reading your blog before you talked about it. In fact, I remember the first post I read about your accident, I actually think it was just about a problem you were having with your legs, and I thought, "Humph, I get it 'fancy feet.'"
    I've watched the decision to start this process from the moment you tested the waters to the time you actually said "I.m going to do this."
    I can't be more happy for you to take this step. After meeting you, I feel even closer to the story.
    So, I have a paradox of feelings when I read your story, in one way I feel devastated by it, I read it and my stomach gets tight and tense, but then in another way I feel happy, knowing you are free from it and you are chasing something bigger–your dream.
    Keep it up. It's just wonderful.

  13. Heidi

    suz, this meant the world to me. and, you know, you inspired me to keep going and to pursue whatever it was i was searching for. thank you doesn't even begin to cover it.

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