By Diane Cashin, 58
When adversity is your “normal,” growing up in the inner city as a poor child, you don’t even realize you’re experiencing adversity. And, over the course of my young life, adversity became my teacher. I related to it like a pendulum swinging from dark to light: when things were bad, I knew, at some point, things would also be good again. Sometimes that would happen in a moment — going from being hungry to the Salvation Army providing food, or a friend buying heating oil so we could stay warm and take a bath during the cold days of winter. With this knowing, I looked for the learnings and wisdom as gifts during the darkest moments to fight fear, depression and anxiety.
I Was On to My Second Bucket List!
What was I to learn as I waited for the light of the good times to reappear?
This journey of adversity and resiliency would be my life’s boot camp. Making me stronger, preparing me to be a mother, businesswoman, and entrepreneur. To focus on living an extraordinary life in every moment — both good and bad. Having completed my bucket list in my early fifties — skydiving, traveling the world, sitting on philanthropic boards, leading transformation in healthcare, meeting the Dalai Lama at his residence in India, and authoring my first of two books — I was on to my second bucket list!
Then, a Serious Car Accident
And, in a moment, my life was hijacked.
On May 10, 2019, Mother’s Day weekend, I traveled from Northern Virginia to Delaware to visit with my mother who battles dementia and lives with my sister. While stopped to make a left-hand turn to buy her flowers, I was rear-ended by a distracted driver at full speed. My car was pushed into on-coming traffic. I was hit again almost head on. My car was shredded. I’m alive thanks to the rapid extraction performed by the first responders who were “watching me die before their eyes.” I was transported via helicopter to a level-one trauma hospital and was an in-patient for 26 days. I had 18-broken bones, brain injury, vision and nerve damage. Once discharged, I began the 6-month journey to walk again, and I too would live with my sister as my caregiver.
I never made it back to Northern Virginia, as adversity was relentless. In the midst of recovering, my love relationship ended. I was now homeless and my entire life’s possessions were in storage. I would now call the bedroom of my sister’s home, my home.
I Was Alive, but I Did Not Feel Like I Was Living
Again, in a moment, my life came to a screeching halt.
Adversity, my lifelong teacher was hitting me hard. I was alive but did not feel like I was living. My body was broken, my mind was heavily medicated with opioids to manage the pain, and my soul was mourning the loss of the extraordinary life I was in the midst of creating.
The question was: Who was I going to “be” in the hardest and darkest moments I would face in my life?
I had a choice: Stay trapped, relating to all these adverse, cataclysmic events that hijacked my life, keeping me as a victim; or apply the learnings of resiliency from my youth — I would not let this accident define me or rob me of another precious moment.
I Would Not Be a Spiritual Victim
While I was a literal victim of a car accident, I would not be a spiritual victim.
My soul would lead the way to heal my body. I would meditate each morning, setting my intention for the day, and identify 3 things only I could do to get a little closer to my goals — to walk again, have a home, travel, and get back to work.
I would let my soul guide my mind, creating the focus needed to get into action to heal my body.
Adversity took me to many dark places after the accident. The choice was: Do I really want to stay here? The answer was: Hell no! So, each day I did the work to walk again. To let go of the sadness created by isolation and the medication-induced thoughts of suicide.
That was what was happening to my mind and body. But it is not “who I am” within my soul!
Baby Steps Would Move Me Forward
So, I asked for help. I let people love me. The baby steps were literal. But even baby steps would move me forward.
It has been one year since the accident. I bought a house at a sheriff’s sale. I have been renovating it to make it my beautiful new home. It is down the street from my sister in Delaware and I still visit my mother every day. I planned a month-long travel-photography trip to Utah and Arizona for May, to declare my freedom and independence, celebrating the one-year anniversary! I was alive and living an extraordinary life again! (The trip was postponed due to COVID-19 and will be rescheduled to May of 2021!) I’m ready to find someone to share my life with and fall in love again, too!
With the love and support of my family, care providers, and community, my body is as healed as it will be. I learned that even in the darkest moments, while it is much harder to create than in the light of good moments, I could create love, peace, and joy and that is what makes every moment of life extraordinary!
Diane Cashin, CEO, True North Enterprise, Speaker, Author, and Coach