What are you afraid of?

This time of year is always busy for my family.  My wife Tonia has been working tremendously long hours, the kid’s school and sports activities have picked-up and I have been very busy selling real estate (not the norm for the month of December).  Being busy is a blessing and a curse.  I feel blessed to have all the things in my life that make me busy.  The down side is that my “handicaps” become more prevalent when I am worn down.  The question I am always asking myself is, “Am I pushing myself to hard?”  I always think it’s a strange thought coming from a person who has done nothing but push himself, sometimes to an extreme level, for the past 3 years.  The truth is, whether it be physical or mental, I am always calculating what I think I can handle.

To some degree I have an advantage.  My tolerance for the “uncomfortable” is pretty high.  Physical pain doesn’t scare me.  I have lived through enough to know that what doesn’t kill you, WILL make you stronger.  Embarrassment doesn’t really bother me either.  I had nurses and nurse-aides who had to take care of me like I was a one year old child.  When you need the kind of help I needed, all modesty is thrown out the window.  The one area I struggle with is fear.  I do not fear death.  I feel like I have lived on borrowed time for the past three years.  For a long time though, I was afraid that I would never get better.  I felt my quality of life would not improve.  I feared my “new normal” would not be good enough for me and my family.

Fear is not always a bad thing.  It pushed me through rehab and it got me off narcotics.  I was really afraid of being a drug addict the rest of my life.  That fear lead me to alternative forms of pain management.  Managing my pain lead me to the gym and the gym greatly improved my quality of life.  Simply addressing the thing that made me the most uncomfortable at that time opened up this whole new world of books, magazines and blogs and gave my recovery more meaning.

This week Tonia pushed her comfort level.  She saw someone who she knew going through a very hard time in their life and she did something about it.  She and her brother run their family jewelry store.  Her own life is crazy this time of year.  She could have chosen to not get involved and hoped that someone else would help.  But she knows what it is like to have your life turned upside down and to no longer have time to think, only to “do”.  It was still an uncomfortable decision.  What if she was misreading the need?  What if her help wasn’t warmly received?  These were the questions she battled to answer.  In the end, I think she realized that 3 years ago she was at a place where without the help of others, she would not have survived.  Her heart was in the right place and no matter what the outcome, she would regret doing nothing.  Turned out she was correct.  With the help of her employees, she is giving the family hope and the stability they need so that they can weather their difficulties. I know she believes that she is only giving back what so many had given us in our time of need, but isn’t this the true meaning of Christmas?

Thank You

I want to thank all of you who are reading and forwarding my blog.   Since Thanksgiving there have been over 1000 views.  I didn’t know there are so many ways to “pass it on”. I have been emailed, tweeted, re-tweeted, posted, re-posted, pressed , digg’ed, stumble’d up (not sure what that means), and someone told me they printed out copies to give to family members.  It means a lot to Tonia and me.  Not only because of the support and kind words you write to us, but even more important to our family, is the hope that what we have gone through, can in some way help someone else.  When people tell us how our story helped them deal with their own issues or motivated them, it gives us even more reason to believe that what we have gone through is not all bad, that our families suffering can serve a greater good.  Catholics call it Redemptive Suffering, others call it “Offering It Up”.

So, please keep the blog moving.  If you would like to know when I write a new post,there is a place in the right hand corner to sign up to get email notifications.  Also, please send me notes.  Is there a question that you have?  Many of you were there with us from the beginning.  I would love to hear your stories.  So many people came to see me in the hospital and nursing home and unfortunately the pain and the drugs robbed me of a lot of those memories.  If you are not comfortable commenting here on the blog send me an email at jdulsh@pa.net  If you don’t want me to blog about it let me know and I will answer back directly to you.

Thank you again and God Bless!

-John

Happy Anniversary?

I made it to the third anniversary of our car accident. Three years ago no one gave me very much of a chance to be here today.

The last few days have been some of the hardest I can remember in a while. First, the Turkey Trot did me in. I can spend 45 minutes on an elliptical, but “speed walking” 3 miles just killed my legs and pelvis. Second, the weather has been cold and rainy. It is true what people say about the weather. My body is just plain achy. The third, and really the thing that has been weighing on me the most as I approach another milestone, is why I survived and the other driver did not? I made a promise to God and to myself to help as many people as I can by sharing our story and providing some inspiration. Forcing myself to analyze what we have been through has made me deal with questions I would have much rather not thought about…

“It is all part of God’s plan.” I have heard people say that so many times when someone dies tragically. I am not sure I can live with that answer. I can’t believe that it was God’s plan that my family would be in an accident and that the other driver would die while we would be saved.

The fact is that the other driver didn’t have on a seat belt. He died at the scene. We all had on our seat belts. One of the big reasons I am alive is because I was wearing it. The Life Lion helicopter got me to Hershey Hospital with only minutes to spare. Highly trained and dedicated trauma surgeons worked quickly to try to save me with the little time they had. I can’t believe that God wanted any of this to happen. What I do believe is that hundreds of people prayed for me, asking God to intervene. I believe that God gave the men and women at Hershey Hospital, who worked to keep me a live, special gifts and that they used those gifts to save me. The fact that all these things came together is a Miracle. Many people , including my self, have thanked God for making it happen.

I know that I did not survive because I am more special or more important than the other driver. As far as know or care, the only difference between us was that I put on my seat belt and he did not. As humans we have the ability to make choices. We all know that smoking and “junk” food are bad for our health. We also know that seat belts save lives. Animals act strictly on instinct but we were created with free will. We can go against our instincts. It is what separates us from animals and makes us more like Him. There is no way of knowing if a seat belt would have saved his life but I can believe that it would have helped. What I can’t believe is that what happened that day was in any way God’s will.

What is special about me has less to do with surviving the accident and more to do with what I have been able to accomplish since. My recovery has God’s fingerprints all over it. Fate dealt us this hardship. Alone, we never would have been able to deal with it all. He has given my family and me the strength and the courage to continue to push through our recovery.

I spent a lot of time today thinking about the other side of the coin. Daniel Martin was a father and a fiancée. He was a son and a brother. He had friends and family who I am sure miss him very much. This day has such a different meaning in their lives. I pray that God is helping them to deal with their pain. I get very sad thinking about the Martin family’s loss, but I would be lying if I said that I am not grateful that things didn’t turn out the other way. Not for my own sake, but for my family’s.