Adversity: Turning Negative Experiences Into Life Lessons for Growth

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Life Lessons—I had only been in the ocean just off the beachfront property at our Hotel in Cancun for 6 minutes when I felt a sharp, searing pain. The pain was unbearable, as if a shark had ripped off my right foot, and it instantly went numb. When I yanked my leg out of the water, blood gushed from the vein in the right arch of my foot, spilling into the sea.

What had happened? There was so much blood it was impossible to tell. A family on the beach stood in shock, watching. A man jumped in and pulled me from the water, scooping me into his arms for the close to half mile trek to the hotel lobby.

I have hiked twenty miles through the jungle of Peru before and taken dangerous trips into the heart of Cali, Columbia. I have journeyed through Ecuador, Romania, and other parts of the planet. I was raised in Florida on the beach and swam with sharks and sting rays countless times, never with a thought. They are as common to me as snakes in my backyard in Texas. But it was Cancun, of all places, the American tourist Mecca, the Disneyland of Mexico, where I was injured.

Just moments before, a friend on the shore asked me to pose for a picture. She captured the moment on her iPhone, and when we looked through the images later to see what attacked me, we noticed that there was a photo of the exact moment I was stuck by the sting ray.

The grimace on my face shows the extreme pain. After surgery to remove the barb, and stitches to stop the bleeding from the vein, I was pushed around in a wheelchair. I'm not a good patient and couldn't do that for more than a few hours, so I graduated to crutches.

When I returned home, I started researching the sea creature. Did you know that your chances of getting stung by a sting ray are statistically somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 to 5,000? One source says it's the same as being bit by a shark, but I doubt that.

Sting rays have a venom that causes pain up to two hours or more, as it courses through your body. That guy managed to have precise aim, and not only did he sting me, hard, but he found the main blood vein in my foot. Not a fun day.

Various sites offer advice on what to do to treat a sting ray attack. Take the barb out? Or not. Steve Irwin was barbed in the chest and died. My advice is to get to a hospital, right away, if it's bad. Stay strong, and brace for the pain.

The most important thing? To turn the experience into an opportunity for growth. Important lessons can be learned from scary experiences, namely to dwell on the positive instead of the negative or what could potentially have been fatal.

Now that I'm home I've ditched the crutches and I'm planning on a run. The bandage is still on and I bought stuffed sting rays for the boys. With any unfortunate event, find the humor in it if you can, let it go, and get off those crutches as soon as possible! There's another adventure around the corner.

How do you handle tough life lessons What are tips for focusing on the positive in trying times? How can you look at life as an adventure?

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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I'm a book author, homeschool mom of boys, mountain runner and advocate for the homeless. Founder of Write it Out, a homeless recovery program that teaches writers workshops to the homeless and gang members, in order to focus on using the power of words to restore, recover, and rehabilitate.


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