When Leslie heard about my blog, she instantly jumped at the opportunity to volunteer and share her story. She asked if her story qualified for my blog. Following my interview with her, I understood why she asked that question. Most people would qualify what happened to Leslie as a tragedy. Leslie’s perspective viewed it as an event that changed her life. She wanted to share her story, because she welcomes every opportunity to help others. She will always talk about her experience so others will be inspired and feel less alone. (if you haven't read Leslie's story you can find it here)
Leslie shared with me that the process for illnesses are similar between patients of the same disease. For instance, a woman with breast cancer can research and find out the stages of the cancer and what to expect. When it comes to physical trauma, each situation is very different, and it is difficult to find the unique support trauma victims need. Knowledge can aid healing. Therefore, Leslie is front and center! She uses the same skiing skills she had on snowy mountains: rushing, at the forefront, and with zero fear.
Lessons from Leslie
- Loss of limb, not of heart: Losing a limb doesn’t mean you loose compassion and understanding for others. Compassion and understanding of people affected by your situation in their own way is hard to feel when you are the victim. But that is just it! Lesley is not a victim. Being victimized is a choice. Only the person impacted can choose to put themselves in the category. If you choose to see yourself as strong, a survivor, a messenger for empowerment, then you do not lose sight of compassion and understanding of the entire situation. When you are coming from a perspective of strength, you are wise. Your knowledge and your values are not clouded. Therefore, you can be compassionate. Leslie spoke with much love, care, and concern for everyone involved. She understood the many people impacted by her accident: her brother, who witnessed something no seven year old should see, her mother who covered her, talked to her, encouraged her to live a full life as normal as possible, and the police officers who saved her life. She even has compassion for the young man who drove the truck and struck her.
(I have a confession to make. I would love to be present if the meeting between Lesley and the truck driver ever happens. I bet with you that this will be a moment of tremendous light and goodness in this world.)
- Altruism: There are people who survive trials and tribulations. They manage to overcome and live happy, joyful lives. Then, there are the selfless ones who dedicate their lives to bring that same inner calm, happiness and joy to others involved in similar situations. They see their experiences as their calling. Opportunity is knocking. They grab it by the horns and go with it. This is a step beyond finding joy after tragedy. It is a commitment to being a light in the world and using their experience to improve the life of others. Leslie embodies that. I always say and repeat this often: In my opinion, the secret of happiness is altruism. When your mission is to do good for others, and you act on it. You have a very strong sense of self. Your reason for being on this planet is clear. Everything makes more sense. Lesley is here to serve and be the light. Therefore, Leslie is happy.
- Limitations are for the limited: Most limitations are self-imposed. Leslie and I talked about the girl (now woman) who was surfing and was bitten by a shark. Twelve months after losing her arm, she was back on the surfboard. She married, had kids, became a public speaker, and is doing well. Her story is very similar to Leslie’s story. Leslie skied, but astonishingly skied only on one leg. She danced, she biked, she is an attorney, wrote books, and runs organizations. Because of her parents' encouragement, she did not limit her life to a wheelchair or maybe learning to walk on a prosthetic leg. They did not set limitations for her. They pushed the envelope. Some things she had to adjust, some she couldn’t do, but ultimately she did more than most people could on two healthy legs. We need to reach always a bit out of our comfort zones in order to grow. We need to do the extraordinary to become extraordinary. But first, you need to try. Sometimes, you need to try many times. We cannot self-impose limitations before we even try.
The Lessons of Loss
There are so many more lessons and messages to Leslie 's story. First, I think we all need to adjust our preconceived notions of people who suffered limb loss. We need to learn how to talk to people who experience limb loss so we are tactful and polite. We need to understand that the limb loss does not define them, but rather what they did with their lives does. Just like us.
We are all given challenges and like Leslie said on the blog, we all suffer loss of some kind. There is loss of health, loss of the dead, and loss of the living: loss of limb, loss of friendship or loss of a spouse. We should try to honor and celebrate the things we have and have not lost. Our family members that are still here, friends, and loved ones. We need to find a way to reduce the loss that is under our control, because there are certain losses we can do nothing to avoid. For the uncontrollable losses in our lives, we just need to learn to mend the pieces--with gold, Kintsugi style.
Leslie Pitt Schneiderman is #Kintsugi