If you keep telling the same small story you’ll keep getting the same small life.    –  Jean Houston

Every once in a blue moon someone comes along that we know has crossed our path for a reason. One of the recent additions to my own roster of these kind of people – those that I hold in such high esteem I consider them chosen family members – is Nicolette Maroulis.

Nico and I met recently while I was working with the committee for the Wounded Warrior Dinner an event produced and sponsored by the Capitol of Texas Triathlon. Another committee member (of course it was one of my Twitter buds – thanks, Darren!) connected us and I immediately felt a bond.

The reasons for this bond are many. For one, in the 25 years since I cast aside a wheelchair and willed my body and my life into a different story than the one the doctors told me I’ve not met another single person on the planet that shares this distinction with me. Until now. So the sisterhood bond is strong!

Nico was one of those Americans who, like many of us that watched in horror as the towers fell on 9-11, had to get up and DO SOMETHING about it. As a single mother of four children at the time I felt the same resolve – no, compulsion – to act and couldn’t find a way to do it as dramatically. I had a family depending on me and there was little way I could see that I could pack ALL five of us up and find my way to ground zero in spite of my dream otherwise. Believe me, I worked through several scenarios and romantic ambitions to do just that.

This resolve, however, soon set my life on yet another trajectory since my own trauma decades before and opened up new ways of looking at passions I had always had, the life lessons I had learned, and how they might be used for the common good.

ERIC GREGORY / Lincoln Journal Star Photo: Nicolette Maroulis during a 63 day, 4000 mile trek across country with a group of other wounded veterans. Begun on a hand cycle due to the effects of 3 1/2 years in a wheelchair, she recently graduated to a road bike.

ERIC GREGORY, Lincoln Journal Star

And God bless her, Nico acted. After joining the Navy this Master at Arms second class was injured performing her duties as a K9 bomb dog handler.  Nico then spent 3-1/2 years in a wheel chair not sure if she’d ever walk again. Not surprisingly to anyone that knows her, the same warrior spirit within her that sent Nico to join the Navy willed her to walk again. And she did.

Meeting Nico has resurrected my own need to bring a sense of purpose to all that I do. For now I’ll settle for reminding those who will listen that we all have a choice to use the challenges that life sends us – both health and otherwise – as opportunities and tools for transformation.

The power of this kind of transformation was all brought home powerfully for me when at the end of a recent 4000 mile trek across the country a Gettysburg, Pennsylvania journalist captured Nico being Nico:

In mid-day heat, Maroulis laid her own bicycle down, ran to a position behind the veteran and began pushing him onward, uphill. Her legs churned as she ran. Other bicyclists rode nearby, ready to lend a hand.

The 63-day “Sea to Shining Sea” bike ride across country was nearing its climax for wounded warriors like the man in the handcycle – and the 33-year-old Navy woman who was pushing him.

When she’d tired, Maroulis went back down the hill and back of the peleton 

[sic] to retrieve her bike. This from a woman who was told she might never walk again.

You see Nico began this journey on a hand cycle due to the effects of her years in a wheelchair. By the end of the summer she was not only strong enough for a road bike, in true Nico form she was strong enough to help a brother.

When you really boil it all down we all have a choice when life sends us a challenge: we can just survive what life throws at us, or we can choose to truly thrive to the best of our abilities.

You either get it – or you don’t.

I feel blessed every day that I do.

~

[Photo courtesy Nico Maroulis: Beginning the 4000-mile Sea to Shining Sea ride with a group of other wounded veterans, Nico completes the ritual of christening her hand cycle in the San Francisco Bay before heading out.]