The Hard Way

I’ve received several comments about yesterday’s post telling me that it sounded self-pitying. I find that interesting, because I wasn’t aware of that emotion when I wrote it. And reading it now, I still don’t see it. I tried to write about where I am, emotionally, with nothing added, and nothing taken away, and I didn’t feel self-pity.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s no self-pity there. It may be there and I just don’t see it. That’s not unusual. I spent decades being so angry all the time that I never saw it. Sort of like a man who’s lived his entire life in a drizzle doesn’t recognize when it’s raining.

I do know that right now I’m a little more emotionally raw than usual. I’m putting to rest some ancient injuries and resentments, and my morning meditations for the past few weeks have been a daily hour of tears.  And no, they are not tears of pity. It’s just part of the process of accepting myself and my life, without judgement, and moving forward. Perhaps at the end of it, I’ll see that streak of self-pity, and put it away, and move away from it as well.

At any rate, I didn’t want to go into what will be an extremely busy week with that sort of post at the top of this blog, because I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to write again. So I’m going to reprint something that I wrote several years ago that is more in line with how I feel, or at least how the man I want to become feels about what could be considered a ‘tragedy.’ Apologies if you’ve read this before, but it is one of my favorite posts.


When she was 19 years old, she was just another college student in Philadelphia, riding her bike. That all changed when someone in a jeep ran into her–actually ran over her-and kept on going.

The damage to her body was extensive. Her pelvis was crushed. Plus, there was neurological damage. Cognitive difficulties. Short-term memory loss.

Her recovery was going poorly. The pelvis is not an easy thing to repair. Plus, she didn’t seem to respond well to treatment. She felt, perhaps rightly so, that the medical staff was cold and uncaring.

At 27, she walks with a cane. Probably will for the rest of her life. She wears dark glasses and ear protection pretty much all of the time, because the accident left her hypersensitive to bright lights and loud noises. She spends much of her time with a TENS unit strapped to her waist to help with the muscle pains in her lower back that are a symptom of walking around with a reconstructed pelvis. Plus all that neurological damage. All of these issues will likely be with her for the rest of her life.

In the eyes of the law, she is classified as 100% disabled as a result of this accident. Tragic.


Two years to the day of her accident, she was in a recording studio, the co-producer of her first major album.

Melody Gardot sings with an unironic hipness. A smoky, blues-tinged voice very much like Peggy Lee at her best, with a bit of easygoing scat thrown in for good measure. I loved her music before I knew her story, and now I love it even more.

And it all happened because while she was in the hospital a doctor had an idea: He had read about music therapy, and suggested she try it. She was a talented pianist, but the broken hip made it impossible for her to sit at a piano. So she was given a guitar,and learned how to play it. The goal was simply for her to find a way to cope with the tragedy that had happened to her, and to give her a mechanism to aid in her recovery.

It worked. Not only did the music help her emotionally, she started writing songs. Let me repeat that: a woman with short-term memory loss began writing songs. She recorded an EP while she was still in the hospital.

Now, this young woman is touring Europe. A person sensitive to bright lights and loud noises is standing in front of spotlights with amplified instruments behind her.

Is her life perfect? Far from it, of course. But she’s at a place where she never would have been before that person in an SUV left her for dead on an empty street.

This is what I’ve learned from Melody Gardot: you never know from where the blessings in your life will come.

I told this story to an acquaintance of mine, who asked me if I thought Melody Gardot would trade her fame and fortune for the ability to be a ‘normal’ twentysomething woman.

That’s not a valid question, is it? Point is, she can’t. No one can change what has happened to them. All we can do is change–if necessary–the way we react.

Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.

Put that way, just about anything can be a gift. Or a curse.

What are the gifts in your life?

Some Lessons Are Learned The Hard Way

Well I’m buckled up inside
It’s a miracle that I’m alive
I do not think I can survive
On bread and wine alone
To think that I could have fallen
A centimeter to the left
Would not be here to see the sunset
Or have myself a time

Well why do the hands of time
So easily unwind

Some lessons we learn the hard way
Some lessons don’t come easy
That’s the price we have to pay
Some lessons we learn the hard way
They don’t come right off and right easy
That’s why they say some lessons learned we learn the hard way

Remember the sound of the pavement
World turned upside down
City streets unlined and empty
Not a soul around
Life goes away in a flash
Right before your eyes
If I think real hard well I reckon I’ve had some real good times

Well why do the hands of time
So easily unwind

Some lessons we learn the hard way
Some lessons don’t come easy
That’s the price we have to pay
Some lessons we learn the hard way
They don’t come right off and right easy
That’s why they say some lessons learned we learn the hard way

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  1. Donna Gardner Liljegren

     /  February 17, 2012

    I didn’t sense self-pity in the post yesterday, just frustration, and I think we’re all allowed to express our frustration from time to time. Truth be told, your positive frame of mind has been an inspiration to me, so if you need a day to vent, have at it.

    And even if it was self-pity, so what? One day of self-pity? Shoot. Combine that with a pint of chocolate ice cream and you would be describing one day each month for me prior to menopause. A lifetime of it would be regrettable. That, clearly, not your style.

  2. uphillrider

     /  February 17, 2012

    Thanks for the comment, Donna. I’m not so sure there wasn’t some self-pity there. And if not self-pity, certainly self-hate, or at least self-loathing. Or maybe not that, either, and it’s just frustration. Whatever it is, or was, I’ve decided to look at it disinterestedly and see what it reveals. Glad you’re reading!

  3. Christa Knaak

     /  February 17, 2012

    I may have mis-spoke and mistaken frustration for self-pity. My perspective may be a little skewed and too “Sammy Sensitive” when it comes to physical challenges. My 8 year old son has CP. That’s ok…. we are lucky to even have him given his prognosis wasn’t good almost 9 years ago. Along with the CP he has low vision, cognitive and developmental delays. I have often thought – if we just had the cognitive piece intact then the rest of this would be “easy”…. relatively speaking. So on some level when I read your post my knee-jerk reaction was that at least “you” have that cognitive piece not just intact – but with sparkles of brilliance…… and if I had that for my son I would be thrilled. That’s not to say that he isn’t intelligent…. he even has the social workers/teachers/family scratching thier heads trying to figure him out. I know he will do great things, just as you have also done….it’s just unnerving not knowing how he is going to do them.
    Still friends….. right?

    • uphillrider

       /  February 17, 2012

      Absolutely friends, Moon. This wouldn’t change that. You weren’t the only one to make that comment to me. I want to know how people perceive me, because I often times don’t know how I come across. So I’m grateful you commented. Thanks!


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