The Beautiful Brokenness outside of My Window

Posted by Dr. Dan Gottlieb in Life After Paralysis on May 30, 2018 # Health

Outside of my bedroom window, I am so fortunate to get to see the beauty of raw nature every day. I feel so peaceful as I watch the trees both nearby and in the distance moving gently in the breeze and how the lower leaves might be moving while the upper wants seem still. I watch how they change just a little each season as their roots grow wider for more stability. I never fail to feel awe and humility when I look outside knowing that most of those trees will be here long after I am gone.

Here In the Northeast we were hammered by storms this winter. We’ve had rain, snow and high winds causing a good deal of destruction. One cloudy morning in late winter I was looking outside enjoying the different shades of gray. There was just something beautiful and stately about what I was seeing, it was so still and silent.

And then my gaze moved down a bit and I saw that a thin tree had broken in half. In the midst of this peaceful and still vision, there was thee broken tree that was pale beige where it was broken. Somehow then beige did not fit with that beautiful quiet gray image. I guess that because I feel such an intimate relationship with these trees, my trees, I was disturbed by what I saw. Despite the fact that 99% of what was out there was still gray and silent, my eyes kept moving down to what is broken. And every time I did that, I got upset all over again. Like most of us, I wanted what I had yesterday and wanted to reject the brokenness of today.

That’s what we humans do. Following any adversity whether it is living with paralysis, loss of a loved one, dealing with depression or having a loved one who suffers, we wish to have what we had yesterday. Like an amputee who experiences phantom pain in a limb that is no longer there, the pain is where the limb once was. Our pain is where yesterday was.

My sister died of the glioblastoma and over the course of the year between her diagnosis and death, I watched her grow weaker and more confused every time I visited. And every time I visited, I wanted the Sharon that I had last week. And by the time I left, I loved this Sharon. This story was repeated every week for a year. And when she died, I still grasped for her as though my hand was in water and I kept trying to grab some. Yesterday. I wanted yesterday.

And in that process of searching for yesterday, our eyes continue to focus on what’s broken. It’s our instinct to address what is wrong rather than what is right. When my daughter was around 18, she fell into grave danger. She had an eating disorder that came very close to taking her life. One day she said: “daddy, I feel like I am a diamond inside of a tumor and I don’t know what’s going to happen” I spent the next year doing everything I could to destroy the tumor. And I failed. And then one day she found some kindred spirits and they discovered strengths in one another.

It was the diamond that destroyed tumor. Instead of repeatedly focusing at what’s broken, research shows that we benefit more from cultivating what is right-our resilience, our good hearts, our kindness etc. Finding what beautiful by nurturing the diamond.

The more I looked out my window, the more my eyes had a softer gaze so that I could see the big picture. And after a while, I realized that broken tree had its own beauty. And now I don’t look at it. I look for it.

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.