From going to bed hoping to not wake, to being stoked about my trails ahead, though my eyesight has narrowed, my perspective has widened.

Disheartened, no hope, time or space for the tubes that were keeping me alive, I was done. If I was meant to survive, I would do so by my own strength and will, not medicine and machines doing it for me. I was done being moved from one specialist doctor to another; done being transferred between hospitals, between stretchers, wheelchairs and bedpans. I was done expecting that I would ever encounter empathetic ears. I was done imagining that life could ever be worth living. My brain was damaged, my vision impaired, my appetite lost. I needed strangers to know who I used to be. I used to look different, I used to be capable, reliable and independent. So much of Jill was lost on September 3, 2014 that the rest of her wanted to be done as well.

Times of challenge, loss or adversity can make it difficult to for anyone to find gratitude. The losses, for me so much more than physical, are apparent everyday yet the mountains are germinating something magical. I continue to dissect my trail in attempt to discover where the turning point happened; where did I find the strength to move forward from the losses and turn that doneness to I am doing this?

When transferred in critical health, I spent months believing I would not leave Colorado alive. I recently walked myself back into the Denver health care center where, after more than 2 years, 7 hospitals in 3 countries, I was discharged; set free to a whole new world as a visually impaired traumatic brain injury survivor. Tenacious care is taxing and rarely do my team of  medical specialists see patients return healthy and strong. Seeing the team who had ignited the fire within me, was an emotional summit leaving me feeling sky-high in Colorado. An impatient patient who had lost all hope never able to appreciate their work, only now am able to make room for gratitude for their relentless care.

Rather than giving attention to the complications of my traumatic brain injury and my vision loss as I did in hospital, I aim to embrace the body parts which are healthy and allow me to run in mountains and navigate this new trail my life has taken. Energy spent wanting or wishing – my sight, my appetite, my memory, my autonomy, my driver’s license, and focusing on what is lacking, would undoubtedly lead to missed opportunities that have come from adversity.

Gratitude’s power has changed my perspective. The trails I have ran, new friends I have made, I am embracing what my body can do; honouring my limitations and finding the bright side of things amidst the challenges. From going to bed hoping to not wake up, to being legitimately excited about my trails ahead, the mountains have unlocked my happiness.

By no means am I suggesting that my life is all pretty alpine pictures or that rumination is nonexistent. What I am suggesting is that I have grown from calamity. I would have never experienced illustrious massifs if when I felt done my international team of doctors and cheerleaders gave up as well. When I decided to take my recovery to the mountains, I began to see that adversity had planted seeds for growth; growing reminders of that which is truly important. The mountains and the people I have met on them are nurturing acceptance of my trail. Taking time to focus on what is good, gratitude grows. I am finding inspiration and embracing every climb, thankful for the challenges. By appreciating  my circumstances, though my eyesight has narrowed, my perspective has widened.

Photo © M. Gezela

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  1. Tom Stevens says:

    Wow. I am at a writers conference in Aspen this week with some of the finest bestselling authors of our era. I consider Jill in their league, writing prose, putting air under our wings, lifting us on an epic journey that inspires us.

    • mountainsofmymind says:

      Thank you Tom – I am thankful for the setting Mother Nature sets and the encouraging characters who have entered my story allowing my words to flow naturally as I embrace my trail.

    • mountainsofmymind says:

      I feel you may have mentioned something about reality when our trails last crossed; ‘amazing’ feels extreme though a perfect descriptor for friends like you who are cheering me along this trail. x