Sunday, October 15, 2017

FRUSTRATED WITH LIFE? A Quadriplegic's Story

Chapter 12:
Pulling the Rug from Under Me

Indeed, life can be frustrating. If I put my finger on the pulse of society, my guess is the top four things people get frustrated about are money, career, health or a relationship.  Remember, this is a guess, but I think I’m pretty close to being right. Perhaps not in that order.   Everyone is an individual.

Regardless of your circumstances, what matters is how you deal with the issue frustrating you. Why? Because that is what will determine your outcome.  Regardless the issue, we want our outcome to be the one that brings us happiness!  Nothing else is good enough. What’s all the fuss about life if we are not going to live it happy?

Allow me to relate. I have had a spinal cord injury for a little over 20 years. I was in a car accident when I was 21 years old that resulted in a broken neck,  a spinal cord injury, and paralysis from the shoulders down. No sexy details, just a true boring ole’ accident. 

For me, it felt as if the rug of my life had instantly been ripped from underneath. I was falling in midair with no parachute.   Prior to the moment I was injured, I had been on a magic carpet ride, you see.

I was 21 years old, sharing a townhouse with my girlfriend in Connecticut, and had just landed a dream job.  I had been working two jobs to make ends meet. One was as a “Girl Friday” (the person in a small office that does everything from making copies, brewing coffee, answering phones, picking up dry cleaning for boss, etc., etc.), the other as a weekend manager at a small Greenwich salon.

A woman came into the salon one weekend, and I offered her something to drink, as I would any client. We only spoke for literally a minute, but out of nowhere she hands me her business card and tells me to call her the following day.

I call, I make an appointment to see her, and she offers me a job.  As what?  A consultant on Wall Street. Or perhaps you’ve heard the not-so-nice term “headhunter.”  The financial package offered fantastic health insurance, educational expenses reimbursement, and enough money per week that I could quit both my jobs. Added to this was the commission I’d receive when I placed someone in a job.

She explained in general how the business worked and how she came to be where she was. I assured this woman I could learn anything, and what she proposed sounded not only interesting but exciting… my one problem was, I knew nothing about the position she was offering me!

She laughed and said she could teach me all I needed to know about stocks, bonds, mortgage-backed securities, etc. What she couldn’t teach was honesty, integrity, and tenacity. You had to work hard at this career, but never get so caught up in a commission you could make that you placed someone in a job you knew wasn’t in their best interest, but in yours. And she said she saw those qualities in me.

Her company was small, but her clients were big. I worked at that wonderful business, filled with hard-working, intelligent, good women for almost four months. I felt my life was the cherry on top of the sundae. I sang Frank Sinatra’s lyrics, “I’ve got the world on a string, sitting on a rainbow,” 24/7.  I had found my niche in the professional world.  I had arrived! Whoop! Whoop!

Then I broke my neck and became paralyzed for life. My physical independence, my financial independence, my independence in every aspect of my life was over. For an individual that had been on her own since she was very young, frustration took on a new meaning.

For a drink of water, to scratch an itch on my nose, getting dressed, eating, driving, and every tiny detail in between, I couldn’t do any of these on my own… there was nothing I could think of that I had control over. When you feel like you don’t have control over your own business, finances, relationships, etc., you feel frustrated. 

So what to do?  Hmmm… After digesting what it really meant to have a spinal cord injury, I realized I had something that only I could control, no one else.  No doctor, nurse, therapist, friend, family, or foe, could control the thoughts I put in my mind.  I made those up and put them there, nobody else.

It was as if a magical window opened in my hospital room, and I could see outside for the first time. Yet nothing had physically changed.  I simply shifted my perception, allowing my mind, my heart and my soul to open up and see the possibilities.

Once I did that, I felt like a different person. 

Frustration comes when we can’t find a solution or create a plan to change circumstances we do not wish to be in. Frustration comes from feeling out-of-control of our own destiny. I should be the driver of my life, no one else.

So if you are feeling frustrated, your first step is to recognize what you are frustrated about. Next, find one element in your circumstances you can control. It’s there, I promise. Just find one. That one element will lead you to find other elements you can control, and suddenly you have a plan to get you out of the circumstances you are in, and headed toward the life you wish to lead instead.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Norman Vincent Peale, “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”

Amy E. Alexander


Excerpted from FRUSTRATED WITH LIFE? You Are Not Alone, ebook by  Edison R. Guzman and Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., available online from

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