This week’s tardy crush day (FemaleCrushFriday?) we all gather to adore:
I saw an article on the purty Miss Purdy several months ago while thumbing through a hair salon magazine – and even the short mini-piece was awe inspiring enough for me to remember her name and recognize her when her Oprah interview aired this week. This.Bish.Is.Amazing. As a massage therapist and snowboarder, she was just living her beautiful life when a client came in one day and mentioned to her about “not being afraid when she crossed over”. Now, while that shit’d have freaked me out enough to tell the dude he could go ahead, get dressed, and head back home where I’m sure his collection of ceiling strung body parts set up into spinning mobiles awaited him… Amy wasn’t altogether surprised. In fact, she said she’d had this nagging, building feeling every day of her young adult life that something was going to happen to her.
About a month or two later, she caught meningitis.
And lost both legs – just below the knees.
Remembering what this dude had said, she ventured into this near death experience where she says she was offered a chance to GTFO for good, or stay and deal with a life that’d be hard but amazing. And when she chose the latter, the amazing part did indeed ensue – exponentially. And as she was warned, it wasn’t won easily. I think what makes her story so cool is that when she speaks – when she’s interviewed – her recollection and reliving of what she’s endured and what she believes is so vivid and pure that it makes my retelling of it sound like I’m speaking about a totally different person in ancient Aramaic. Like, you know how sometimes when people regale you with a tale, they get kinda nervous and their voices rise and get caught in their throats (#me) and their eyes dart while they try to sound good? This chick’s got nunna that. I’m sure part of it has to do with her upbringing – listening to the likes of Wayne Dwyer and Deepak Chopra sets an excellent foundation for a can-do belief system. But I’m also pretty sure a bit of it had to do with her NDE. It’s just like when she died and came back, this pure no-shit-bitch-ness replaced all those insecurities and fears about life and looking good (though she looks gorg too). When she talks, she’s captivating because there’s zero of that energetic hiccup (Yes, I just made that term up; just go with it) in the delivery of her message.
And why would there be?
She didn’t just strap on the legs and say go. God help the girl, she tried. From the moment she knew they were slicing off her stems, she vowed not to be a victim. But once they were on, it was so agonizingly excruciating, that she went through a day-long wallow sesh in bed before mapping out her Plan B. “That kind of prompted me to ask myself this question: ‘If my life was a book and I was the author, how would I want this story to go?'”
Indeed, some spiritualists will call this being the “third party observer”.
It’s hard as shit to live out and actually do, but it helps so much when employed. It’s the reason I basically write out a rough itinerary for each day – to figure out how I want my life-book to read – making each day’s chapter relevant to the larger novel. But when your problems go from “what time should I run so I get back before dark?” to “how will I ever run again?” there’s a whole different approach. For Amy, it was visualization.
“I saw myself snowboarding again. I had visualized it so strongly in that moment that I didn’t just see myself carving down this mountain of powder. I could feel it,” she says. “I could feel the wind against my face. I could feel the beat of my racing heart. I could feel my muscles twitching as if it was happening in that very moment. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I knew that I was going to do it.”
And how? What do you do when the current ped-prosthetics aren’t snowboard friendly?
You visualize those too.
And then you paint them into reality – like she did.
(“Sometimes I’ll step outside and ‘feel’ water on my prosthetic even though it hasn’t been raining. Then I’ll look down, and see the grass is wet. It’s like my body really believes my feet are still there. I think that’s so… interesting.”)
And much like the “how do I want my life-book to look?”, visualization is another monumentally helpful skill to adapt to everyday life. Amy clearly wanted her life-book to look like the literal book she ended up writing “On my own two feet” – fun in its turn of phrase-ness, considering the feet she now rocks were indeed designed by her. And her mind’s eye seeing technique is what made that story possible. The funny thing? When I watch Amy Purdy share the unfolding of her life, I do what everyone tends to do when they see an overcoming-adversity story of this nature: comparing, and then promptly telling myself, “Well, what right do you have to compare? You have all your limbs!” The thing about this is that while you and I may still have our feet, we end up shooting ourselves in both of them by passing up the inspirational parts of it that could motivate us to live a bigger, better life. Because her overcoming was so much more dramatic and ours is just about having the courage or willingness to meet weight loss goals or start painting again or whatever. Amy recognizes this tendency in people one hundred and twenty percent (after all, as she says in the TED talk below, she had those concerns herself before her amputation). And that’s why she acknowledges that we all have our own hardships and that we’re all carrying some kind of trauma – that she’s not different; hers are just more visible. What’s more, she says she doesn’t want people to look at her life or interviews and get a distant feel-good vibe that dissipates within a day. She wants to example set so that others can feel that same fearless way of living that’s so liberating.
“I don’t want people to see me and say, ‘oh, that’s inspiring. She’s inspiring’…
I want them to feel something in themselves that makes them live an inspired life.”