Insights: Tough Lessons to Learn

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Who does not like double chocolate salted caramel cake?

I made one last week for my friend’s birthday. It was quite the process, with different fillings and all from scratch. I like doing kind things for people. It feels good.

Last Friday we had that storm blow into town—not the best day to be out and about, yet off I went to my friend’s house with cake in hand.

Stepping out of the car, it was dark and wet. Looking for the stairs, and balancing the cake along with a bowl of cream, I was not paying enough attention to my footing.  Before I knew it, I was face down on the ground.

As I fell, I heard and felt a crack in my upper arm. I realized I could not move. The pain was excruciating. I called out for help. My friends came running over to me. Picking me up and deciding how I was going to get to the hospital seemed to take forever. Shock set in. I was shaking and nauseous. With some effort I was put in a car and took what seemed like the longest ever drive to Hoag Hospital.

Thank goodness for my friend, who was my advocate and was there to give me emotional support. Emergency rooms are about getting the medical issues taken care of and not the emotional warmth we all need when in trauma.

My diagnosis: broken upper arm, shoulder ball dislocation and fracture.

What is so interesting is that by connecting with someone through empathy and/or touch, the pain decreases and makes us feel safer.

When I was discharged and got home, another friend sat holding my hand till I could fall asleep.

The next day, friends came forward without asking to help me in so many ways. I cannot even express the gratitude I feel towards them: the flowers, the meals, the running of errands, the texts, the offers of driving.

Knowing people care is a wonderful feeling. Studies show that it helps healing.

So now I am left with my pain, possible surgery, my recovery and myself. Those things I have to manage internally. Friends can be supportive, yet there is a piece that I have to digest on my own.

What I teach my clients is a three-step process when we come across difficult times.

1: “Accept this moment as it is” (Eckhart Tolle). Face what is going on or what happened. This does not mean you have to like what is/has happened, but resistance makes it more difficult to manage the difficulty. Resistance creates persistence and keeps us on a hamster wheel. It is our instinct to resist, so it is important to be okay with this resistance and with compassion move into accepting of ‘what is’.

2: “Feelings or emotions are the universal language and are to be honored. They are the authentic expression of who you are at your deepest place” (Judith Wright).  Allowing ourselves to feel and not judge our emotions is imperative to healing and processing pain. They allow us to let go. I cried a lot today as I realized I have a journey ahead of me in healing. I am exhausted and yet it feels good to have let out some of the sadness, the grief, and the pain.

3: “We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake (or suffers pain) never make a discovery” (Samuel Smiles). We learn so much more from our pain, physical and emotional than what goes well. I am not there yet in this process, but I know there will be something for me to learn.

And by the way, the cake somehow managed to survive the fall and was enjoyed by all (hesitantly because of what happened).

Part of a life’s lesson here is that even when we do kind things, it does not mean we are protected from tough things happening. It is part of life.

Contact Dr. Shelly Zavala at or [email protected].

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