Embrace the Struggle

When I was 2 years old, I was involved in a lawn mower accident that cut off the majority of my right foot and it was the best thing that ever happened to me!  When it first happened, my parents were told that they would most likely be amputating my my entire foot. The medical technology at that time wouldn’t allow the doctors to reattach all the tiny parts of my 2 year old foot. As I was being life flighted, the doctors found a plastic surgeon (his name is Dr. George Picha) that was willing to try a new technique to save my foot. It was an experiment that my parents felt the benefits outweighed the risk. I’m sure glad they took that risk! After the first surgery that saved my foot, I was in the hospital for months as they monitored and scraped off the scab on my foot every day so that the blood would continue to flow. I had multiple surgeries over the next couple of years, one in second grade that amputated the middle toe because it failed to regain proper blood flow and the bone died.

The doctors told my parents that I would be very lucky to ever have normal balance back again, things like walking without a limp would be difficult. They thought that getting me into something like gymnastics would help but wouldn’t completely correct the problem. They did that.  I sure wish the doctors could see me now! haha!

The scars have almost disappeared, but visually my right foot is missing a toe, other toes are curled in (apparently they were trying to push out the dead toe while I was growing) and is a whole 4 sizes smaller than the left foot. I remember a few times growing up being really sad that my foot didn’t look the same as the other kids and that I couldn’t wear cute shoes like the other girls. My parents were quick to remind me how lucky I was to be able to walk, be in gymnastics, run, be alive, have a foot… actually they use to call in my “special” foot. I started introducing myself like… “Hi my name is Shanna, I have 9 toes” I thought it was cool and made me special.

By the time I got to my senior year in high school, I was the varsity captain of the football cheerleading team, captain of the diving team and active in gymnastics, track and fast pitch softball. You would never know that I was even involved in an accident. BUT what most people didn’t know was that I was in a lot of pain, I had spine issues and early arthritis in my hip and knee. I cried a lot of nights after diving competitions or games where I cheered because I was in so much pain…We spent a lot of time at specialist offices trying to come up with a solution. Most of them wanted to prescribe me pain meds to manage it or told me to pull back from my physical activities. Both of those were not an option for me. I knew at 18yrs old I didn’t want to be on pain meds for the rest of my life. I also knew that not being active was not a solution for me. Honestly, the fact that they told me to slow down drove me to want to push myself further.

We finally found an awesome chiropractor that showed me how to manage my pain naturally… without having to scale back on my activities. I learned what shoes to wear, what exercises and stretches I could do to strengthen the right muscles. I still struggle with pain and body image issues from time to time, but for the most part, at the age of 30, I don’t ever think about my 4 toed foot. But the lessons I have learned because of it,  have become a part of me.

This is the first time I’m writing out my thoughts on this experience and its pretty obvious to me that my character is a direct reflection of going through a struggle like this early on in my life. When I say it was the best thing that happened to me, I really mean it. I would not be who I am with all 10 toes. It built me into the person I am today. It would have been really easy to use the pain, blame my circumstance, say no thanks I “can’t” or make exceptions because of my foot. I had a lot of excuses to choose from, it would have been really easy… but I chose not to use them. I chose to go through the struggle and came out the other side a different person.

At the time, I had no idea that I was choosing to go through the struggle, I just knew in my heart pain meds and quitting what I loved were not the answer, so I kept looking. I know now when I face obstacles that going through is always the best path. Every challenge I face is an opportunity to grow, learn, and become who I am meant to be. I embrace the struggle. I look for struggle. I say yes to things when I’m unsure. I don’t quit when it gets tough. I don’t make excuses…. or I’m quick to call myself when I do.

In reality, there are a lot of other situations that people are going through that are way worse than mine. There is always someone worse off than you. I know that. I also gained perspective and a grateful heart. I cherish my body and the physical abilities that I have. Walking. Running. Weightlifting. Playing with my children. I will never ever take for granted the ability to be alive, healthy and physically active. When I don’t want to go workout and start making excuses in my head,  I quickly remind myself how lucky I am to be able to walk. You can use that too, if you are having a hard time motivating yourself to workout. Or when I want to procrastinate and not do the uncomfortable things that drive my business forward, I remind myself how lucky I am to be alive today. I am alive and that could all end tomorrow… Gets me in action every single time, go through the struggle and stop avoiding it.

So many times I hear people say or that voice in my head say, “I can’t do that because…. I don’t have time, I don’t have money, I’m not that outgoing, I’m not athletic, I don’t know the right people, I don’t know anyone, I don’t have a good family, I’m not sales person, I don’t have motivation, I don’t have support, I have kids, I don’t have kids, I don’t have the right clothes, I’m not in good enough shape, I can’t talk like that… you see what I’m getting at? All excuses, they may be very real, very true and legitimate excuses. But they are excuses.

Deep down I think everyone that uses excuses knows that they have a choice. Or maybe they are waiting for someone to tell them they have one. I’m telling you right now, YOU HAVE A CHIOCE.  Stop choosing to use excuses and embrace the struggle. Lets just be honest here, it really is a lot easier and more convenient to make excuses, to not take responsibility. I know, because I still catch myself doing it. But let me tell you something else, we are not prisoners of our circumstances, you really can do whatever you want to do. You can live an extraordinary life. You can accomplish big goals. You can live the life of your dreams. If you find yourself saying “I can’t…” I challenge you to examine where that is coming from. I bet that if you dig deep and take a look in the mirror you will see that you do have the ability to change things. Everyone is going through struggle! Everyone! The difference between the ones that win and the ones that just make it in life are their choices during that struggle. Never let your excuses win, you always have a choice!

PS… I’m not telling you to go out and get everything you want. I’m just making an assumption that you are wanting to do that. People that go out and become successful don’t make excuses.

PSS… This is as much a reminder to myself, as it is a written blog for anyone else. I too, very often find myself wanting to make excuses, to turn around and leave the struggle for the safety of mediocrity. Don’t do it friend, you are better that! The world needs the person you are becoming!

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