When Someone Else's Words Change Your Narrative

I’ve always allowed books to find me.

By that I mean my literary choices are not based on best-seller lists or endorsements from celebrities and/or “thought leaders.” Instead, I often encounter the books I want to read for pleasure while researching topics for articles and blog posts I write for clients.

And these days, I find more titles on a university-press website, from which I select the paperbacks for members of my alumni book club group to read. That’s where Paisley Rekdahl’s “The Broken Journey” found me. And I’m so glad it did. By the time I finished the book yesterday, some of the anxiety and anger I’ve been harboring about personal and professional issues have begun to subside.

There’s nothing upbeat about “The Broken Country.” It’s an unvarnished, painful examination of a brutal knife attack in 2012 that left two victims with life-altering injuries, for which their attacker was eventually sentenced to two, current prison terms of three years to life for attempted murder.

“The Broken Country” is about far more than Kiet Thanh Ly’s attack on Keltin Barney and Tim DeJulis outside a grocery store in Utah (I encourage you to read the book to get the rest of this complex story). What resonated with me the most was what DeJulis endured after the knifing. Initially, he couldn’t eat, couldn’t talk, and couldn’t move his right arm or leg. “The knife Ly used to stab him pierced to nearly the center of his brain, nicking the area where language and memory are stored,” Rekdahl wrote. Over the course of six months, he “develops and grows like a child, saying the wrong things … stumbling on the stairs …” Two years after the attack, DeJulis had regained much of what he’d lost physically, but the hardest thing he had to accept, Rekdahl wrote, was that “he doesn’t know exactly who he is anymore, because he can’t remember who he was.”

The heartbreaking details of DeJulis’ recovery put my recent issues in perspective. Just a month before Christmas, I was nearly T-boned by an SUV. I was unharmed. However, my insurance company swiftly declared my 8-year-old sedan – which I had meticulously maintained – a total loss. That meant I’d have to buy a car and be saddled with a car payment. Worse is the fact that even though the driver of the SUV was speeding (a witness confirmed it; I never saw the vehicle before impact), there is still “contributory negligence” on my part simply because I was trying to make a left turn. So, my insurance premiums will soon rise.

Determined to avoid financing a new car, I bought a vehicle from a private seller with the settlement money from my insurer. It’s not what I want, but it’ll do.

I was dealing with all of this while also grappling with a client about cost overruns on a project. The reality of the numerous charges that the client had been demanding surfaced when I sent an invoice for services rendered. So, the project is now on hold. I can only hope that this project does not cost me a ton of business in the long run. If it does, I know I have done my best on every phase of this and myriad projects.

In spite of my issues, I am reminded, thanks to “The Broken Country,” of how precious life is – regardless of the challenges that inevitably surface.

When Someone Else's Words Change Your Narrative