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Dalai Lama-ish


In 2007 I had a bad car accident and broke five vertebrae in my neck and back. The Jaws of Life got me out of the car and I got to ride in two ambulances! And I experienced the wonders of demerol and morphine. I had broken C1, C2, C6, C7 and T4. My paramedic friend said that the EMTs have a saying that goes, “C3, 4 & 5 keep the diaphragm alive,” meaning that if you break those you’ll likely be paralyzed. So I was terribly lucky! And I had a skilled surgeon who put a piece of donor bone in, from C5 to T1, I believe it was, plus a metal plate and four screws to hold everything together.

Well, of course, I was very grateful for everything, as anyone would be. And then my friends and family were so beautiful to me. I will never forget that. Or them. All the big and little things that they did for me still fill me up with gratitude.

So, those two things–luck and gratitude–were the big gifts I received from that whole experience.

Photo by Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL

I wrote about it in my second book, More Merrythoughts, and said that I hoped I would retain those very positive feelings forever after, and that I would at least become somewhat Dalai Lama-ish. It was an Iowa acquaintance who so appreciated that expression–you know who you are–and who now inspires me to write about it here.

Well, of course, even ish is a tall order. And of course, I haven’t fared so well. Just look at that face of his! Also, a) I don’t smile as much as he does and b) I don’t laugh as much as he does and c) I am too vain to shave my head or only wear one outfit all the time and d) I am genetically critical and not at all as kind as he seems to be. In my older age, though, I have put aside all the big dreams and goals I had when I was younger and made being kind my big goal. I suppose I’m still wishing to be Dalai Lama-ish. I have a long way to go.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. – Dalai Lama

Photo by Manuel Bauer
I just had a flash of inspiration about this, though. I do have lots of issues with my neck. It gets very stiff and painful rather often, usually from doing something I love, like playing pickleball; I can’t tilt my head back very far for a length of time, to look at birds, for instance; I get uncomfortable keeping my head turned one way or the other to talk with someone, for example at dinner or a party or on an airplane; and I need to rest my head against something by evening, at least. I know this is nothing compared to what could be the case.

So the inspiration is that every time my neck bothers me, I can think, lucky! grateful! kind! Dalai Lama! I like this idea. And it only took me 14 years to come up with it. Some of us grow more slowly than others, apparently. So that’s my plan. I’ll throw in smiling whenever my neck bothers. Now I’m really cooking with gas. And have a kind thought whenever it hurts. Yes! It does get my attention. I’ll think of it as going tap-tap, um, time to do something nice. Perhaps in another fourteen years I’ll get close to ish.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion; if you want to be happy, practice compassion. – Dalai Lama
So what are your big dreams and goals? Even if they’re great big, maybe you could come up with a way to trick yourself into getting there.If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. And if you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”
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