by Liz Jansen
One life-changing event shaped my whole year— a motorcycle accident on a beautiful, clear, sunny late summer morning. With the twisted wreckage of my bike lying against the embankment and my left arm dangling inside my jacket, I knew my road was irrevocably changed.
Odd as it may seem, the whole experience has been a gift of a most unusual nature. It’s illustrated poignant life lessons in vivid, sensory detail. None of these are new or earth shattering, and are in fact reminders rather than new lessons—reminders to live with each day. Learning to appreciate present moment will make each of these easier to live.
- Be open to what the road delivers. When I left on my Wheels to Wisdom quest, I had a loose plan in place. I knew what I wanted to accomplish and had a rough idea of where I wanted to be and when. At least for the first three months. I purposely left much of it unplanned, wanting to be open to what the road would deliver. Little did I know what was ahead. I pictured serendipitous events, adventures, and new possibilities. I did not foresee an accident. Yet that’s where my journey took me—and what the road delivered.
- Listen to your intuition. Two major reminders come to mind. The first was just one business day before I left, when I called my insurance company to check on out of country coverage. What I discovered was that due to a mix-up, my motorcycle insurancehad been cancelled three weeks earlier. Fortunately, we rectified that on the spot. I don’t even want to think about what would have happened had I left with no coverage.The second one was in the minutes leading up to my spill. As soon as I started down what I thought would be a shortcut on deep gravel bed Albertans apparently call a road, my intuition told me it was going to be a challenge and that I should turn back. I attributed it to irrational fear, reasoning that if I encountered such a road in South America, I’d have to navigate it. I also knew I had the bike and the skills to do it. But I was close to terrified. And the further I went, the more the fear messed with my mind. There were a number of side roads I could have turned down that were rough and rutted, yet they were easier to manage, but I continued for 12 miles until the road said, “Enough!”
- You are never alone. I was 90 minutes east of Calgary in rural Alberta and in a big predicament. But I barely had time to hit the kill switch, quickly survey the scene, and climb up the small embankment so I could be seen, when a white pick-up truck appeared. I flagged him down and that Good Samaritan helped me get my helmet off, gather a few essentials, and drive me to the hospital in Calgary. Doctors have credited his actions with saving me from significant complications.
- Help appears when you least expect it, but be prepared to ask for it. Good Samaritan Jim in his white pick up was an example of this. I also had other logistics—like my smashed bike—to deal with. I emailed the only person I could think of who I knew in Calgary, John Colyer. John arranged for transport of my bike back to Calgary, went to my campsite 20 miles south of the city, packed up my things and brought them to me, visited me in the hospital, and along with his mother, provided their home to recuperate after discharge and before making the trek home.
- Your plan and Spirit’s plan are not always the same. There are so many examples of this from the past few months, a number of which I’ve already mentioned. Spirit’s plan always comes out on top, even if you never understand the reason why. Be prepared that the day may not go as you expect.
- Be careful what you ask for. The number one purpose of my quest was to learn more about indigenous wisdom, earth wisdom, and the knowledge of who we are before we’re shaped over the generations by our cultures—and how we can use that to better ourselves, our communities and our earth. I knew that this would mean stripping away the layers of stories we’ve been told and beliefs we’ve held about who we are.As a result of the accident, and the preparations leading up to it, I found myself with no permanent home, no car, and no motorcycle. I pride myself on my independence, resilience, and resourcefulness. I’ve had to accept help I never thought I’d need. Major things I’d used to identify myself were gone. But isn’t that what I asked for? Some of the layers were stripped back to reveal what was really underneath. And there are more layers yet.
- What other people think of you is none of your business. Almost exclusively, those closest to me supported my work, even if they didn’t understand it. Those same people have been the ones to lend a hand, and offer strength and encouragement when things didn’t go as planned. It’s because I choose to hang around positive, nurturing people, who understand the importance of leading with your heart in creating a life of purpose, meaning, and fulfillment. The naysayers are simply projecting their own fear on you. While I recognize the importance of making informed decisions, I’m not about to carry anyone else’s fears. I’ve got much more constructive ways to direct my energy.
- Don’t spend a lot of time figuring out why things happen as they do. I’ve often been asked why I think this accident happened. Or even offered opinions about why it happened. Admittedly, the question has crossed my mind. But only fleetingly. It’s important to learn the lessons from the past so they’re not repeated, but as far as understanding why things transpired as they did, I may never know. And I’m not going to waste energy trying to figure it out. I am where I am, and my eyes are focused on where I’m going, and how best to get there. We all know what happens if we look somewhere other than where we want to go.
- Watch for patterns that no longer work for you. One of my greatest tripping points is taking on too much work, robbing my time for self, socializing and Spirit. Healing has been my number one focus over the past four months, so the amount of work I’ve done is significantly reduced. Even so, I’m STILL trying to cram too much in. Year-end is a time for reflection and planning, and I’d drafted goals for 2015, tempered by a reduced workload. Yesterday I took another look. I’d be overloading myself AGAIN if I stuck to them. Those goals will be revised. I do have one that I’m holding out for though. And that’s to present at Horizons Unlimited’s first event in Virginia in April. And riding there!
- Always wear high quality protective gear from head to toe, including that on your bike. My travel wardrobe was properly fitted BMW Tourshell pants and jacket, BMW boots, BMW gloves, and a Schuberth helmet. I ‘d outfitted my bike withAltRider crash guards and a skid plate just before leaving. I bounced around on the road, before sliding and coming to an abrupt stop. The most visible wear is along the left side where the fabric appears slightly scuffed, but otherwise, there are no abrasions, tears, or holes. It’s perfectly wearable and functional.The engine guard and boots protected my legs. The helmet protected my head and face. The suit and gloves absorbed much of the impact and minimized the force on my body. No one expects to have an accident. There’s lots of functional, good-looking gear out there. How much is a functional body worth to you?
These life lessons are not news flashes to most of us. However just as we go through school, the lessons become more difficult and demanding as we go through life. Learning them provides us with a sense of fulfillment and prepares us for greater things.