The picture attached to this post is the best excuse I have. It is an X-ray from the last medical checkup on my hip. The metal will be with me for the rest of my life, and there is not a day that goes by that it does not impact my life. I can’t feel it, but I am reminded it is there every day.
In Feb of 2005 I was approaching a house in Iraq, and a man I did not see pointed an AK-47 at me and pulled the trigger. I have seen my fair share of war movies, and in most, the “hero” gets shot then valiantly fights through it, driving forward destroying all of his enemies. That night was nothing like a movie for me. The first round spun me around and knocked my leg out from underneath me. I ended up pinned underneath a vehicle, about 15 feet from the barrel of a gun firing on full auto. A good friend exposed himself to drag me around a corner, then continued the fight. For me, it was the end of the night, and the beginning of a long process.
The bullet clipped a piece of metal in the window frame, and was breaking apart when it hit my hip. The impact itself hurt, the nerve pain was much worse. When I arrived at the hospital, my main complaint was my ankle. I thought it had been completely destroyed. The doctors explained that the round, or the shockwave associated with it traveling through my muscle and tissue had interacted with my sciatic nerve. I could not feel or move my foot. I had drop foot for over six months. When I walked hallways you could hear the echo of my foot slapping the ground, it drove me crazy. The nerve pain was constant for over a year. Throughout the day, I was distracted and the pain was bearable. At night, I had nothing else to concentrate on, and it was consuming. I couldn’t sleep, I was miserable to the people who were trying to support me. At one point I had 14 pill bottles on my bathroom counter, and I liked to wash them down with Captain Morgan. Why not, I had a great excuse, maybe the best excuse ever. I went down the rabbit hole for nearly a year.
I made the choice one day to put the excuse down, and to start clawing my way out of the hole. It took a long time, but I feel I became a better person on the other side. I was told I couldn’t work out, so I went and worked out. I was told I would likely never return to full active duty, so I did. I found a new way to train, and built myself back stronger than I had been before. I respected the injury, and found creative ways to train around it. I was not done being a SEAL, I was not done fighting. I worked my way back to a place that people with decades of schooling in medicine told me would be impossible to achieve.
8 years, 4 months, and 24 days after that night I was medically retired from the Navy. I received a 100 percent, permanent and total disability rating from the VA. Again, another glorious excuse. Another opportunity to sit back and expect others to do something for me. It is inviting and seductive. It doesn’t hurt, it’s not hard, it’s easy to do. It’s also a life lived in the rear-view mirror, a guaranteed recipe for a life unfulfilled.
We all walk through a minefield of excuses, every day of our life. The beauty of this minefield is that you can clearly see the mines, and you have a choice. You get to decide how many, and how often you pick them up. “I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m scared, I’m not smart enough, I don’t know how to do that, I don’t have enough time, I don’t have enough money,” and on for eternity. You get to choose how many excuses you put in your back pocket, slowly anchoring your down as the ounces become pounds. No one can pick them up for you, it is a choice that you alone get to make. How you view them, and how you use them, is also a choice.
I use my past as my excuse to get up in the morning. I use the title of “disabled” as the fuel to work as hard as I can, then give more. I use it to push myself, to attempt things that others think are not possible. I refuse to be defined by the metal in my body, or the metal I used to wear on my uniform.
Put the excuses down and start putting one foot in front of the other. Everyone struggles with this, including myself, none of us are as unique as we may like to think. Start with inches, and turn them into feet. Turn the feet into miles, and the miles into accomplishments that make people sit back and scratch their heads in amazement. Search for your weaknesses, look for your favorite excuse, and turn them into the fire that drives you forward.