​Making Life-Changing Decisions

Posted by Tim Gilmer in Life After Paralysis on November 24, 2022 # Lifestyle

Tim Gilmer and grandchildrenIs there a way to approach important choices, some fool-proof method that ensures we always make the right choice? I would have to say no. Each decision is best made according to its unique character, and each is best approached by considering its uniqueness.

When it comes to choosing a path, many of us think that nothing comes easy, so we prepare for battle. If a door is closed to us, we find a way to knock it down, bulldoze our way around it, or advocate for accommodation and never give up. Sometimes we succeed, but we also endure significant stress and pick up battle scars in the process. Another method is to let it be and take the path of least resistance. If a door opens easily and leads to another door, we take that as a sign that it is meant to be, so we seize the opportunity. If the door remains closed, we cross it off our list and look for an alternate door.

Both have pros and cons. I’ve found that it can be best to choose the method that fits the circumstances. For my first ten years or so post-SCI, I preferred the passive method of taking the path of least resistance, mostly because I didn’t want to make a fuss or call attention to myself. But after several years, I grew tired of feeling the sting of discrimination and started speaking out. I put on my battle armor and pressed the conflict. I succeeded, but I paid the price. I became known in my area as “the wheelchair guy” who was always complaining. Ironically, I got a taste of equal opportunity but didn’t like the limited role that I had created for myself. And I felt segregated.

After several years of succeeding but feeling incomplete, an opportunity arose. At the time, I was teaching writing classes part-time while writing and farming organic vegetables. I liked spending time with both students and farm workers and the everyday people who bought our vegetables. After publishing a few stories for New Mobility magazine, I learned that NM was seeking a new editor. At first, I passed because I had never been an editor. Then I took a close look at the duties and responsibilities of the job and realized that most of the requirements I had already met, or I was doing something similar. So, I tossed my hat in the ring.

The doors started opening. I decided to get advice from a close friend, a pastor. He advised me to pray for guidance but leave it in God’s hands and be content with whatever happens, knowing it was God’s will, not mine. I had difficulty accepting that because I didn’t like the passive role. That wasn’t how I got where I was. Surprisingly, though, that attitude began to take hold, and it led me to be more transparent, open and honest than I’d ever been. And more relaxed. When I was asked what my vision for the magazine was, I said, “I don’t know. I don’t have a vision. I like the magazine as is.”

I thought that would end my chances since I knew several dozen people had applied, but instead, I advanced to the next level of interviews. I kept the attitude, praying as my pastor suggested. When I got the call telling me I had the job, I was shocked. I literally could not speak. “Tim, are you there? Are you OK? Did you hear me?”

Finally, emotional, grateful, I found my voice: “I didn’t realize until this moment how much I wanted the job,” I said.

Like the book of Ecclesiastes teaches: “To everything, there is a season … a time to keep silence, and a time to speak...”

Tim Gilmer graduated from UCLA in the late-1960’s, added an M.A. from the Southern Oregon University in 1977, taught writing classes in Portland for 12 years, then embarked on a writing career. After becoming an Oregon Literary Fellow, he went on to join New Mobility magazine in 2000 and edited the magazine for 18 years. He has published upwards of 100 articles, 200 columns, occasional movie reviews and essays. He and Sam, his wife and companion of 47 years, also own and operate an organic farm south of Portland, where they live with their daughter and son-in-law, four grandsons, and a resident barn owl. An excerpt from a memoir about his early post-SCI years, as part of a compendium of his writing over the past 30 years, can be read at his website — All You Need

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.