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What’s with “What’s Next?”

2014-10-15 Posted By Jenna

One thing that I always strive for is balance. Now, I won’t lie and say that I achieve it all the time, or most of the time…but I do see its unbelievable value and try and get closer to it every day. That still counts, right?

Our first innovation - Medical & Motivation - was designed to provide support for your physical medical needs AND your emotional needs. Based on my experience, I find it very hard to get to where I need to be physically if I don’t have the drive and my spirit isn’t primed. Try pushing your body to the brink and your head is filled with doubt. It doesn’t work. “Your body hears everything your mind says” - Naomi Judd.

Some people have questioned Phoenix Attitude’s tagline, “What’s Next?” feeling it dark and depressing coming from a business that supports people with medical needs, like me. Some people see it as saying, “I’ve been to hell and back, what’s next? When am I going to be hit by a train in the middle of my living room?” Well, you’re half right.

You weren’t expecting me to say that, were you? But let me tell you where the other half comes in, the balance; it’s a bit of story so get comfortable.

When I was starting 10th grade, my shunt started not working properly. What does that look like for me? Well, I get lethargic, I feel like there is a bowling ball taking up residence in the front of my head, I am remarkably sensitive to light and sound, I have vision problems and I’m nauseated - all the time. Also, from a shunt owner’s perspective, I just happen to be in a small category of people who can have the necessary diagnostic tests performed to diagnose a malfunctioning shunt, and pass them all with flying colours (when there is actually something really wrong). My only option at this point is having my family and doctors recognize that I know my own body and when I say something is really wrong, get me scheduled for exploratory surgery.

But getting me scheduled for exploratory surgery isn’t the easiest thing to do. Think about it, all my tests are saying there’s nothing wrong; and yet, there are other people waiting for surgery whose test results are conclusively saying Patient X needs surgery now. Who do you think is going in first? You guessed it, Patient X, along with every other letter of the alphabet before me. So, I ended up spending most of first term of 10th grade at home, waiting for a surgical slot because I couldn’t function at school.

Before my stint at home, I had just gotten into The West Wing (which might seem weird for a 16 year old…) and so every day, as I waited for surgery, my dad would rent me a new West Wing disc. In a dark room, with the volume on low I was transported to the fast paced halls of the west wing, where people were fighting for good, and going through their fair share of blows. At the end of the first season, leading into the second season, one of West Wing’s main characters is shot during an assassination attempt. He sustains a collapsed lung, tore a major artery and has about 12-14 hours of surgery ahead of him. Of course, this is a fabulous time for flashbacks, setting the stage for the significance of the phrase, “What’s Next?” *DURING A FLASHBACK* Jed (a presidential candidate at this time) snaps, "When I say 'what's next?" it means I'm ready to move on to other things.” *SPOILER ALERT* Josh (the main character who was shot) survives surgery and is visited by the now elected President, Jed, in the recovery room. Josh tries to say something, but Jed has to move in closer to hear it, Leo (another amazing character, who plays the Chief of Staff) asks, “What did he say?” Jed responds, “What’s next?” (Meant to be taken positively as, “let’s move on.”)

Seriously, you have to watch this show! But I digress…

I have spent a lot of my life struggling for moments, for days, for months, some times for years, waiting for a breakthrough. And it would just drive me nuts when I’d need to vent and people would say, “It’ll be ok” or “It could be worse.” (Bear with me). Not because I don’t think they are coming from a good place and maybe even feel a little helpless to help me, but because I now know hitting rock bottom can end up meaning some wonderful things. It’s absolutely a place where you’ve sustained loss: loss of identity, loss of vision, loss of the people around you, even loss of self. These aren’t like losing your keys, you deserve the time to grieve! But, I also suggest that you consider this when you hit rock bottom - you’re still here. So, what are you going to do to become the person you want to be, now? How are you going to accomplish what you want to accomplish? Whether you like it or not, from rock bottom on, you might have a completely blank canvas in front of you, which can be jolting and liberating. You can paint a picture that honours what once was, grieve what you’ve lost, appreciate what you still have and embrace what still can be. It’s up to you. And remember, it doesn’t take big, grande strokes that brings about a masterpiece, they can be small and purposeful, and go from there.

Ok, I know, quit with the painting analogy and go paint on your own time, right? It’s hard to see our loved ones hit rock bottom, engulfed in darkness, hopelessness and have them expecting, with their luck, that a train is about to hit them in their living room. We instinctively want to bombard them with the positive side. We might even be doing this (if we’re completely honest) because we can’t bare to test the boundaries of how far we can let them slip into darkness without losing them to that darkness, trusting that they’ll come back. I think we also jump to positivity because we don’t want them to see doubt on our face. That’s completely normal.

But taking steps we’re comfortable with, and maybe accessing resources available to us in our community, therapy, reaching out to people of faith etc. to help support the situation can enable that person to go through their process. They can have their “What’s next? When am I going to be hit by a train in my living room?” moment(s); hit rock bottom; and have “What’s next?” turn into an opportunity to move on, having survived rock bottom, with the potential to be stronger than ever.

And with that, I’ll leave you with a beautiful clip from Fantasia 2000 that, I think, perfectly demonstrates what can happen when you’re facing your worst fears, and when you come out on the other side. Nothing to lose, everything to gain. (it starts at the 25 second mark

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“Overcome the notion that we must be regular... it robs you of the chance to be EXTRAORDINARY ”
Uta Hagen
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