A courageous life is such an adventure. Everyone’s life is a matter of notable journeys; which can be thrilling, tragic, educational, inspiring or humdrum. How I choose to view the journey is what is important. I am so grateful for the struggles that I’ve lived through because they taught me how to appreciate every moment of my life. I currently get to travel all over the world and experience the magic of different cultures and visit places where new ideas were born. I now see life as an exciting adventure, because I chose to re-adjust my attitude toward life. I can turn any circumstance or situation into a positive experience if I decide to behave appropriately.

I believe that life is meant to be enjoyed. I try to approach each day with excitement about how the day is going to unfold. I think my mission in life is to personify the belief that life is an adventure. My imagination is my most valued gift. It has helped me keep life exciting. I can exemplify to people how life can be enjoyed no matter what kind of limitations we might have.

In case you’re wondering, I wasn’t born with these beliefs. I have had to deal with a number of traumatic experiences that have eventually helped me change my perspective on life. I was brutally raped at the age of 19 and this horrific experience inevitably played a part in my becoming an alcoholic, drug addict and bulimic. I continued in college and completed my education, but these addictions stayed with me.

At the age of thirty I went into a hepatic coma when my liver and pancreas gave out on me. I was in the coma for three and a half months. My family actually hoped I wouldn’t wake up due to the possible brain damage I would have and because of all the problems I had created in their lives.

I’m sure you’ve figured out that I did come out of the coma. I woke up in a nursing home. I was petrified because I thought I was in a mental institution. I tried to get out of bed and fell on my face. I quickly learned that I could not walk, speak or see clearly and, I couldn’t think coherently. Needless to say, I was consumed by depression and grief due to my perceived limitations.

After a while, my family convinced me to go into a thirty-day treatment program for my addictions. I remained in treatment for three and a half months, which is a little ironic since that is exactly how long I was in a coma. I needed every one of those days in treatment due to my inability to absorb information quickly and to be self-sufficient.

When it was time for me to leave treatment, I moved in with my parents in Dodge City, Kansas. I spent close to a year feeling sorry for myself. I became depressed and stuck in the grief over my lost dreams. When I moved to Dodge, I weighed 96 pounds. A year later I weighed 182. I looked as bad as I felt. I wasn’t doing anything to improve my situation, just whining and trying to attract everyone’s pity. Finally my father, a doctor, got fed up with the whole mess and sent me to a hospital in Wichita, Kansas.

At the hospital in Wichita I had a physical therapist named Debby. I will never forget Debby; I now believe she was a gift from God. She spent a lot of time trying to figure out different strategies to get me on my feet. The problem was I would work on the exercises while I was with her, but not any other time. She finally had all she could take and confronted me. Debby told me I was acting like a baby and she was sick of it. She said that no one was going to do the work for me. And, if I wanted to learn how to talk and walk, I was going to have to get up off my fat ass and do what I needed to do. If not, I could continue to sit on that same fat ass and die in the wheel chair. Debby then turned and left. I was so angry. I was determined to learn how to walk just so I could get up and kick her in the ass! But, that comment was the slap in the face with reality that I needed.

I began to receive physical and speech therapy. I became an active member of AA. I got out of the wheel chair and started using a walker. I also worked hard to make my speech understandable. The people in AA helped me to take a look at the life I had led so far and start taking responsibility for the direction my life was going to take. The people in AA helped me to change my attitude toward my impairments. But, most of all, the women in AA became so instrumental in my change. These confident and caring women gave me the courage to do more and overcome the many obstacles I faced. I seemed to be starting from behind in this race. But seeing what I could become gave me the strength to be more, learn more and fight even harder to get my dignity and independence back.

While in college, I eventually became involved in the women’s movement. I studied modern and historical women with ideas different from mine and society’s. I was now using the strength of women from the past, as well as the present to guide me and teach me how to stand up and take control of my life.

A shift has taken place in the social consciousness of women that dates back to the late1890′s. Many women struggled to step out of the established roles society believed they should follow. A number of very audacious women were willing to do this and let them be heard. I have used some of these contemporary and historical women as my role models in my own endeavor to become a strong independent woman.

Audacious women with determination have been my role models. I have been able to believe that I could accomplish anything despite a number of encumbrances that could have been devastating. I have spent many years admiring and respecting Gloria Steinem and Eleanor Roosevelt. They have shown me that being a female does not have to limit my progress in life. I have learned from their behavior and ideas that I don’t have to value someone else’s opinion of me or my actions. However, I can often learn from other people’s opinions even when I disagree with them.

Gloria Steinem didn’t let beauty and a sexy image limit her progress in the ‘Women’s Movement’ or the journalistic world. She took advantage of the doors that her beauty could open and kept them open with her intellect.

Eleanor Roosevelt was never an attractive woman but she was very intelligent and compassionate. She made people feel like they were honestly being heard and understood. She could make them feel like their burdens were being shared. The ability to do this made Ms. Roosevelt a very beautiful person. The really interesting point about Eleanor is that I was always hearing about her when I was a child. Someone would be talking about something she had done or said on TV. The discussion of Eleanor invariably aggravated my parents and would get them talking about her outlandish ideas and the things she did. Of course, this served very well to stimulate my curiosity and my admiration of her even more.

Virginia Woolf was another woman I began to investigate after I started my college life. She did not let her mental illness totally direct the avenue her life took. She was bipolar and suffered through extremes in emotional swings. Virginia was also very intelligent and began to write about the different roles that women played. She noted how people’s preconceived expectations of a woman could limit her life. Virginia was one of the first people to write and publish articles relating to Feminism.

Gertrude Stein had the persona of being very tough and direct. Her opinions were openly stated. She was willing to listen to and participate in implementing new ideas. She was a strong advocate for the artistic and creative world.

Isadora Duncan was trained to be a traditional ballerina. However, she believed the established movements were hindering the expression of emotions. She wanted to use dance as a means of expressing internal feelings. Isadora used the movement of children, nature and music as inspiration. She was also drawn to the manner of dress and the art of the ancient Greeks. Isadora relied on all of these things when she developed her own dance movements. A person could not observe one of Ms. Duncan’s performances without absorbing the emotions she was expressing.

All of these women had the audacity to step out into the world and act on beliefs of their own. Virginia, Gertrude and Isadora were all born in the 1880’s, at the end of the Victorian Era, which made their actions very heroic. These women personified the issues to be dealt with around the turn of the twentieth century. Eleanor and Gloria came on to the world scene later in the twentieth century. All of these women became extremely meaningful to me when I had struggles and obstacles to overcome.

Each of these women battled against the idea that we are limited by the gender of our birth. They were disgusted with the artistic and social mores that were believed to be ingrained in everyone. My intellect was stimulated by the audacity of these women who challenged the social norms. I began to see how I could perhaps be a role model or example to other people. They taught me that I could overcome the negative odds I had against me.

Look at the obstacles these women had stacked up against them. Virginia Woolf was mentally ill. But, she wrote some of the most profound words in support of a woman’s right and obligation to determine the course of her own life. Her essays are outstanding, but her two books that really spoke to me were ‘A Room of One’s Own’ and Mrs. Dalloway’. Isadora Duncan defied the accepted beliefs about dance and created modern dance. Gertrude Stein was a lesbian but she was instrumental in opening doors for new artists. Eleanor Roosevelt was the wife of a president but she didn’t stand in his shadow. Gloria Steinem created a magazine for independent women.

Using these women as an example of strength, I lost 50 pounds and learned how to be self-sufficient. I got back into the counseling profession and realized I had some contributions to make to society.

I began to work in Substance Abuse Treatment Centers and moved to Texas. In Texas, I worked for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice where I really started to see what kind of a purpose my life might have. I was able to use the mistakes I had made in life and turn them into learning experiences. I showed the inmates how they didn’t have to label themselves by their mistakes. They could take an honest look at their lives at the time; see what they did wrong and then figure out new approaches to life. Many of them also used me as an example of how they too could overcome anything. I am proof that a life without alcohol and drugs can be a real adventure. I am a living example of how to prevent physical or social disabilities from limiting your life.

I felt fulfilled when I saw that light of understanding come on in the eyes of my clients. I was amazed to see them start to take responsibility for their own life and make plans to become more productive. The inmates would even talk about going to schools to help kids to learn from the mistakes they had made and to encourage youngsters to make different choices in their lives. Eleanor Roosevelt must have felt the same way when she was able to get laborers to pull together to make changes in their working conditions, or helped the poor figure out ways to improve their situation.

I also worked for the Texas Youth Commission, which were schools for incarcerated juveniles. Watching the kids stand up in front of a group and talk about how they were now going to stay away from drugs was amazing. God only knows if they followed these plans but at least the seed was planted.

What really amazed me about my eleven years working with incarcerated males was the fact that not too long ago it would have been impossible for a female to work in male prisons. I was able to relate to some of the ideas Virginia Woolf expressed in her essays and particularly in the book ‘Orlando’. She delved into the meaninglessness of the differences between the sexes. She explained that men and women experience a lot of the same emotions and exhibit extremely similar strengths and weaknesses.

The traumas I’ve had to deal with have actually strengthened me. When I choose to evaluate situations and look at the lessons I’ve learned, I can experience life as a joyful adventure. I now use my imagination to plan an exciting day no matter where I am. I believe, I in turn, have become an audacious woman.

I really get excited about my travels and life in general. I travel all over the world and visit some of the most exciting places. I have a lot of fun just researching the places I’m going to visit; both the historical aspect of them and what I’m going to have to do to get around. I don’t let it bother me when it takes me longer than others to accomplish goals, I simply start earlier. I also know that my movements are a bit awkward looking but in my mind’s eye I move like Isadora Duncan. I can laugh and joke about my disabilities. I believe people are drawn to me because I live life joyfully.

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