- - Monday, November 30, 2015

You are on the brink of closing out another year. Stop what you are doing and take in this moment. Mindfully inhale and exhale. Think about the obstacles you overcame this year. What about the barriers that you broke through? Whether you are remembering when you felt like quitting, were unsure you would be able to meet your benchmarks, satisfy a loyal customer, or struggling to carve out a few moments of personal time — you have defied the odds. Whew! You did it. You are a reflection of resilient, purposeful living. As a matter of fact, no one could imagine what you’ve been through during 2015, because you don’t look like what you have been through. Take a few minutes to celebrate that fact before you leap into another year.

Two years ago, I read the following words from my operative report after undergoing total knee replacement surgery:

“Leg was exsanguinated. The tourniquet was inflated. Midline and medial incisions were made. An oscillating saw was used. We used our 38-mm 3-in-1 drill guide and made 3 lug holes. Started with a step drill and made a hole … inserted an alignment rod. We used a 4-in-1 cutting block … we removed anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament, and medial and lateral menisci. We made our tibial canal. We irrigated out the knee with a pulsed lavage and a brush. We cemented … . We put our normal sterile dressing on. We woke the patient up and brought the patient to the recovery room in stable condition.”

I had been sliced, diced, cemented and more. Yet, as I am sitting here looking at the 5-inch incision on my left knee, no one could imagine all that I endured.

Hours after surgery as I watched the attending nurse change my dressing, I was amazed at the vertical precision of my incision, which was meticulously closed with twenty-two surgical staples. Neat. Sterile. Precise. At that moment I experienced an “Ah-ha” moment and I thought, “I don’t look like what I’ve been through!” How many times has this colloquialism attached itself to your life — whether it was someone trying to size you up or you projecting those thoughts toward someone else?

I think we all have a tendency to size people up and minimize their pain because we only can see and therefore, quite naturally, only focus on the “scar.” They look at where you are now, but do not realize how far you have come. Or, how hard it has been to press past the pain. Or even, how you survived what could have killed you — physically, emotionally and physiologically.

As I reflect on my life, in light of my surgery, this common expression resonates deeply within me. I have experienced some very obscure, dark moments. Even the name Lady Bobette, a term of endearment ascribed to me by very loving people, is cute and dainty. But it is a far cry from the reality of my past. Misuse and abuse, low self-esteem, sexual assaults, a miscarriage, isolation, loneliness, segregation, depression … and much more has been my reality. Most people think if they have not seen the horrid details, then there must not be any. They look at you and listen to you and see your “5-inch incision” and think you have only experienced a “5-inch” pain, struggle or trauma. They think surely if she had been through something really bad, it would show. They reason that because you are able to smile then you must not be too acquainted with crying and because you are fresh, clean and well put together that you know nothing of being dirty. If someone were to open the chart of our experiences and see an explicit, sentence by sentence detailing of what the depression, assault, isolation and the abuse actually involved, we would be utterly dumbstruck that the only evidence of that trauma was a “5-inch incision.”

But without ever knowing the details of someone’s experience, we must never forget that there is a story under their scar. It is possible something a whole lot worse happened under that neat and precise incision than cannot be understood with the naked eye. And no one would ever know it, unless you choose to share it.

As you think back over this year, I want to remind you that resilience is not just about how you bounced back, but how you use that “bounce back” to make the greatest impact in the lives of those around you. I really believe that all that you have endured in 2015 was not really about you at all. I believe you were able to defy the odds of failure and defeat because you could be trusted to recycle your experiences to bring hope and help to the world around you. Your 2015 life journey could lead you to a place of stagnation or a place of transformation. The choice is yours.

After my total knee replacement, I was released from the hospital and with the help of some amazing physical therapists, I had to learn how to walk again. What was a very painful process is the catalyst I now use to help countless others walk through some of the toughest times of their lives. As you are reading this article, I want to challenge you to refocus on the lessons you learned and the wisdom gained throughout 2015. Reframe the question, “Why me?” to “Why me?” so that you are able to leverage your experiences to impose a positive change.

The fact that we don’t look like all that we’ve experienced is the lesson and message we must share. Something amazing happened to you and me — and it cannot be seen with the natural eye. So, if we keep it to ourselves, how will others find out about it?

As I look at my incision, from a superficial view, it seems to minimize my pain. But as I dug deeper to comprehend what occurred while I slept under the anesthesia, I now understand the severity of the procedure. This year I want to encourage you to dig deeper. What problem have you been sent into the world to solve? Today make it a point to take the scars and pain of your past and work them for your good and to benefit the life of another person. I am excited about your future and the lives you will impact in 2016 — your bounce back can have a lasting impact.

Bobette Brown is a Transformation Architect, Resilience Speaker, Certified Personal and Executive Coach, and Bestselling Author of Be a Water Walker: You Can Defy the Odds. As the CEO of BGB Enterprises, this former U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Paratrooper is a bona fide professional overcomer who teaches you to see your battle wounds as badges of honor and how to turn your scars into beauty marks

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