“Sad things happen. They do. But we don’t need to live sad forever.” – Mattie Stepanek
The best part of sharing my stories is when a reader remembers their own story and shares it with me.
When that happens, I know two things. First, my story is making a connection with another person, and second, that connection is helping someone share their own experience. Both make me happy.
Vivian Moose read The Guy in The Glass and it reminded her of a glass in her life. In her story, the mirror went from being an ‘enabler of her pity’ to a ‘life saver’ to finally becoming her ‘best friend and teacher.’
Here is Vivian’s story, told in her words and with her full permission.
By Vivian Moose
I can’t say I am always happy with myself but I can say I have learned a great deal about this subject.
In 1980, to save my life, I needed my larynx removed. I just wanted to die. I finally agreed to the surgery, but only after waiting months before consenting. No doubt my cancer only grew worse by waiting.
The operation left me with a permanent opening in my throat. As a woman who takes pride in the way I look, the idea of living with an unsightly opening in my throat was horrible. I became obsessed with looking in my mirror. I took a three month leave of absence from my dream job of teaching special education in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. I had only started a few months earlier and knew my condition would keep me from ever going back to work. I was in the hospital 26 days and just wanted to stay there for the rest of my life. When discharged, I first went to a friend’s house, then, after three days, I was allowed to go home alone.
I spent my days crying and looking in my mirror. When I looked into my mirror all I saw was my throat. Nothing else showed up. I wanted to talk to another woman like me, but there weren’t any. My procedure was so rare for young women. I was alone, with my mirror and my misery.
My sadness drove my friends away. They couldn’t help and my crying all the time was too hard on them. The old saying is true, “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone.”
One fall day I went outside to rake some leaves. As I was raking under a tree, a branch caught the ribbon holding my metal trachea in my stoma. The trachea popped out and I panicked. I didn’t know what to do. Without the trachea, I couldn’t talk. There were no neighbors to help and I had never put it in by myself, my doctors had always done that.
All I knew was that I needed to get it back in, somehow.
I made myself calm down and go to my bathroom for my hated mirror, making myself go step by step to replace the trachea. I kept telling myself, “You can do this Vivian. You HAVE to do this!”
With the trachea finally back in place, I realized, “You have a decision to make and you have to make it now! You can’t go on like this. Either you are going to live your life and live it right or you are going to get the hell out.” After that day my journey turned around. When I calmed down I went to the phone and called my school to speak with my Executive Director. “I want to come back to work,” I said, with no idea what his answer would be.
After some hesitation, and to my relief, he calmly said, “Come in tomorrow and let’s talk.” He let me come back to work and continue my dream. Years later he wrote, “I was so afraid, but I told her to come back, she did, and became a great teacher, not only to her students, but to all who have known her over these many years.”
I still look in my mirror but when I do I see my total, complete self, not just the opening in my neck. I have been so happy ever since that fall day.
What a great story! Thank you Vivian, for writing your story and for sharing it with us. Our Choices Do Matter!
Have you ever read about someone making a choice and thought of stories from your life? If so, maybe the first step is to do what Vivian did and put your thoughts on paper. And if you want, you can share them here, at Choices Do Matter.
Research has shown that older adults who write memoirs and stories are able to boost their well being in many important ways. They are better able to make sense of their emotions and create more calm in their lives.
Journaling and writing lowers stress hormone levels, reduces anxiety, and aids in healing for people of all ages.
Do you have any experience with writing? Have you found storytelling beneficial? Please tell me about those benefits.
As always, the conversation starts here.
“In the ordinary choices of every day we begin to change the direction of our lives.” – Eknath Easwaran