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Beating Paralysis With Perspective

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The other day I met for tea with a good friend at the local coffee shop in our one horse hometown just to catch up. He was the happiest I had seen him. We got to chatting and he started telling me one of the most moving, motivational stories about a guy he used to know who got into a life altering car accident. It was too incredible not to share. So if you are anything like me and benefit from a moving story, keep reading.

On a rainy July night in 2007, Tim Morris flipped his Jeep Grand Cherokee and was ejected through the sunroof, as his SUV rolled over him, crushing nearly every bone in his body. To the average person, the results were tragic. To Tim, they were life changing… in the best possible way. I guess it’s a good thing that Tim is anything but average.

For about a month, he lay in a medically induced coma. Even if he did awake, there was the risk of brain damage, and the pneumonia that he had developed in the hospital would be one of many battles for his life. Time passed, and Tim did wake up to a whole new world – one where he was paralyzed from the chest down.

My friend told me a little bit about Tim prior to the accident. He was a lot of fun, liked to be the life of the party, dated different girls, and played a little bit harder than he worked. He didn’t sound too different than most guys I know in their mid-twenties. Tim was finishing up his masters to be a physical education teacher, and was doing some personal training on the side. He was living at his parents and taking his time on making something more of his life. It didn’t matter much because he had all the time in the world – or so he thought.

After Tim awoke to the news he would never walk again, they told him to get used to life in a wheelchair and that he would be wasting his money on therapy. For Tim, one thing was certain: despite his T4 complete spinal chord injury, he would walk again. But the road got bumpier and all of the hours of training and therapy were leaving him tired both physically and emotionally. It wasn’t until he was introduced to a local chiropractor, Dr. Dan Parent, who was leading the life he wanted to mirror. He had the positive mindset that Tim had been lacking. Dr. Parent introduced him to two things that would change Tim’s life forever: “The Secret” and exercise physiologist, Erin Crossman. Finally, he started to grasp the concept of hard work combined with the laws of attraction. If you want it, and you work for it, it’s yours.

It sounded simple enough to me, but for Tim, it came at a price. Several days a week he would wake up at 3 am to train on his own, and train with Erin a few days a week on top of that. He realized that in the areas where he was lacking natural ability, he would have to make up for it with hard work. That went beyond his therapy. Tim decided to get back to work as a personal trainer, but with an impairment obvious to the naked eye, he realized that he would have to be the absolute best at his craft. A regular personal training certification wouldn’t cut it, so Tim achieved the highest possible certification as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist and worked diligently to continue to grow and establish himself as a functional trainer. The more I heard the story, the more this Tim character was starting to make me look bad. I had two fully functioning legs, but what was I doing with them? He developed a new philosophy where he understood that complaining accomplished nothing and the only way to fix a problem was to work harder. He cut out sleep if he needed more time to train, he stopped going out drinking, and cut all the ties (including people) that bound him to negativity. He didn’t have time for it anymore. He was too busy trying to walk again.

You know how some athletes use negativity as a motivator? That wasn’t Tim’s style. Instead, at the same time he was rigorously training his body, he was training his mind to shut out anything negative.

An interesting theory. I was doing neither. Negativity wasn’t motivating me, nor was I able to ignore it. In other words, it was winning. The more I listened, the more I became engulfed in the story. This Tim guy was your average twenty-something who flipped his car and was introduced to life as a cripple, and yet, he was living fuller, more rewarding days than most people who can skip to their destination. They can’t even enjoy the fact that they’re skipping because they are too focused on how much they don’t want to go wherever they’re going. Typical.

Nothing happened to Tim by accident. Things came to him when he was ready to accept them – his chiropractor, his trainer, “The Secret,” his new mindset – none of that was a coincidence.

There were days when getting out of bed seemed like too great a task, but that never stopped Tim from trying anyway. One day in his body seemed like a year. He started to really push himself to his limits – something too many people are afraid to do. Tim began to learn what he was capable of physically, but more importantly, mentally. He turned into a person who wanted to motivate and inspire others, and show them whatever they want is possible – if they put in the work. He became living testament to that. Soon, he was able to sit up. Peanuts to the average person, but remember, Tim is far from average. He used to look like a wet noodle when he would try to sit on his own, but he was able to strengthen his once paralyzed core. Sitting turned into crawling, and crawling led to full weight bearing, for a brief moment. Hope was shining brighter than he had ever seen it before.

Eric Thomas, one of Tim’s favorite motivational speakers, was ringing in his ear asking him “how bad do you want it?” He could taste it. Walking was no longer a question for him. It wasn’t happening yet, but it was only a matter of time. Defying formalities became a hobby of his. Tim had set his sights on bigger things – participating in the Iron Man Competition in Kona, Hawaii. Walking? Please… that’s as easy as crawling.

My spirits were lifted more than any cup of tea at that coffee shop had ever raised them before. “How bad do you want it?” What a question. Too many of us are scared to ask ourselves that.

It was starting to get late and I realized that we had been sitting there for over two hours. Like I said, I was engulfed. I sat across from my friend as he told me that Tim is the happiest version of himself now, after a paralyzing car accident. Go figure.

I looked up as Tim shifted in his wheelchair that fit beneath the café table where we were sitting. As usual, he was smiling. I would have to agree – I so thoroughly enjoyed the new version of Tim sitting across from me in that little, local coffee shop as he told me the story of that guy he used to know – the old version of himself.

“So, Kona, huh?” I asked him. He smiled as he sat up tall in his armless wheelchair. It became apparent to me that Tim had probably been working hard at sitting up strait the entire two hours we were talking (as I sat, probably slouching).

“You can have, do, or be anything you want,” he said, “As long as you prioritize and you have perspective.”

Clearly, Tim has priorities and perspective down to a science. 

“I went through life just getting over, but I wasn’t living up to my full potential.” He said. “And then the accident happened and I was forced to take a long look in the mirror. It has taken five years of fighting my own demons to get to where I am today. I am a better version of the Tim I was before, and I am happier now than I’ve ever been.”

There I was, sitting across the table from Tim, wanting what he had.

“So what is the biggest challenge you face,” I asked, expecting an answer about his grueling training sessions or the times he feels like giving up.

“Listening to people complain,” he responded, almost before I finished my sentence. “Too many people don’t have perspective, and if they do, they don’t hold onto it.”

I guess now isn’t the best time to complain about my iced tea being room temperature, I thought to myself.

“I want to say to them – I’m beating paralysis with the way that I’m living, I’ve probably been through more than you, and yet I’ve found a way to be happier than you,” he said. “Now you try and tell me that I’m the one with something wrong.”

No thanks, Tim. I’ve gained enough perspective to know better.

 

 

 

 

 

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