When I hit ‘post’ on this article it will have been 23 years to the minute since I broke my neck. 276 months. 1200 weeks.
Just before I dived in I looked at my watch: 10:31PM.
Would I go back in time and change that moment?
Over the past 23 years I’ve not only been asked the question repeatedly, but I’ve pondered it many times myself. Most of the time I come up with the same answer, and tonight’s no different.
The problem with going back in time and changing something significant is that we are unaware of what the alternative would be. It would be a complete gamble, not only with my own future but potentially the futures of everyone else I’ve met. Decisions have consequences and they very rarely only involve the person who makes the choice. So maybe I should turn the question around on people and ask them: Would you be happy for me to go back and change your life from that moment too?
We have a tendency to see any alternative as an improvement to where we are currently, but the reality is quite different.
You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from. – Cormac McCarthy
So the answer is no, I wouldn’t change the past. But do I regret that night?
That’s slightly more difficult to answer, and I don’t think anybody would believe me if I simply said no. Of course there are times when I regret stupid things I’ve done or said, opportunities that I’ve missed, mistakes I’ve made.
But do I regret breaking my neck? I guess the answer is sometimes. I’m very happy, I love my life and I see things in a positive way. But that doesn’t mean being paralysed doesn’t completely suck at times! To bring it right down to basics, there are things I want to do that I cannot, and it sometimes does get to me. I have learned to deal with it, but life would of course be easier if I was able-bodied.
Whether I have truly accepted myself as a paralysed man won’t be decided for a long time yet, if ever. But when I think about regret, I also think of who I’ve become. I believe I have a big heart. I meditate, practice compassion and do everything I can to understand and help others. It is what I enjoy doing and I’m going to keep doing all I can to get better at it.
I don’t believe for a moment that I would be the person I am today without the 41 years of life I’ve had so far. I have grown and learnt to be patient, to accept things for what they are and although I might sometimes wish for alterations or improvements, it doesn’t mean I would change my whole life. Breaking my neck wasn’t ‘fate’ but maybe it was exactly what was needed to make me who I am.
My situation isn’t perfect – far from it. But I have yet to meet anybody who has a perfect life. People who seem to have close-to-perfect lives are really just those who make the most of their time, enjoy life and grab the opportunities it presents.
If we can embrace the bad things in our lives and learn to accept that maybe those bad things play the part they need to, then setbacks become the stepping stones towards building the experience and strength of character to face our lives head on and with a smile on our faces! Embrace your whole life, every part of it, and rather than spending your time and energy wishing your past was different, focus on the present and the future.
I’ve spent today thinking about my accident, about life, about what makes me happy and what makes me tick. My life has become very simple. Stay healthy, exercise, meditate, be grateful, listen deeply and take opportunities every day.
I say it often and it’s still true: I really do love my life. But I do wonder what things would be like for me if I’d been at home in bed that Sunday at 10:31PM in 1991.