A Letter to the Man Who Saved My Life

 
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I am none of these things.

And. I am all of these things.

Because of you, I know this to be true. 

Seventeen years ago, I was sent to you. I don't need help, I told myself.

And, I showed up anyway. 

My first semester of college. A new title of Olympic Gold Medalist. A broken shoulder.

Who am I? Who am I supposed to be?

And, there you were. Your firm handshake, bright smile and deep belly laugh.

In that corner office, photographs of your former athletes on every shelf.

{My favorite: Desmond Howard's SB XXXI pic, even though he beat my beloved Patriots that year.}

And, so many books.

There you were. Unafraid to take on my attitude. Unafraid to challenge my edge.

Unafraid to tackle the toxic undercurrents that were slowly killing me.

Unafraid to speak the TRUTH.

Unafraid, because you saw me.

The real me. 

Buried underneath the pain of a broken shoulder. You told me: Your shoulder is injured, YOU are not broken. 

Buried underneath the loss of identity - childhood dream realized - now what? You told me: Swimming is what you do, it's not who you are. 

When I was forced out of the water - the very thing that carried me to my dreams - I wondered who am I without all this? You told me: You are not your successes. You are not your failures. You are not your struggles. You are you.

You saw me retreat inward, trying desperately not to be seen; trying desperately to hide from the booming voice of my inner critic who shouted: Not athletic enough. Not fit enough. Not strong enough. Never enough. You told me: You are not that voice. You are enough. 

And when that voice became too much for the two of us, you brought in help.

You taught me that asking for help takes COURAGE and STRENGTH.

You saw ME. All of me.

Without judgement.

Arm-in-arm, we walked to a place of healing.

We walked to a place of nourishment - mind + body + soul.

We walked to a place of inner peace. And joy.

You believed in me.

You called me on my shit. And, there was a lot of it. You showed up anyway. 

You taught me that serving others is one of the most powerful ways to heal - because we can't show up fully for someone else unless we pour into ourselves.

You unapologetically and compassionately told me what I NEEDED to hear - which wasn't always what I WANTED to hear.

Control the controllables, you said.

Words I live by.

You shared stories of fellow Wolverines who walked through struggle before me.

You inspired me and reassured me:

I wasn't alone in this. 

You empowered me to find my brave voice.

You helped me gain clarity on how I wanted to show up in this world.

You challenged me. And even though I hated the homework you assigned,

I did it anyway:

 
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Because, I trusted you.

You taught me that mentors can be found in the pages of powerful books.

You taught me that I could do hard things because you asked me to do hard things.

While you stood beside me. Guiding. Encouraging. Challenging. Believing.

The hardest things: Owning my story. Letting go. Asking for help. And, learning how to receive it.

And, doing them saved my life.

When I walked into your office at 19 years-old, just two months after winning an Olympic gold medal, I was battling injured athlete syndrome, depression, suicidal thoughts and a full blown eating disorder.

You saved my life.

More than once.

Who knew that the Universe would hurl the darkest, hardest, most brutal shit at me a decade after our last meeting?

As I watched the entire cardiac floor rush to my 12 month-old daughter's bedside after her open-heart surgery - alarms beeping and buzzing, the overhead pages pierced my ears and confirmed my worst nightmare. Unable to hold my baby girl, I rocked back and forth a few feet away for forty-five grueling minutes as they worked together to save her life.

I knew on the deepest level the only thing I could do was sit and watch. And surrender. And pray. 

Control the controllables, you said. Words that have stayed with me.

The trauma left it's tracks on my brain.

Because of you,

I learned how to ask for help.

Because of you,

I knew I was not broken even though I felt it.

Because of you,

I knew I had the strength inside of me to heal even though I felt weak.

Because of you,

I knew I would find joy again.

Because of you,

I knew I could do hard things.

Because of you,

I rose from the rubble of my life a truer version of myself. 

Prepare like it's your turn because you never know when your number will be called, you said.

{And, how cool that we got to watch TB12 LIVE this truth in 2001 during our time together.}

I am forever grateful for the skill set I developed in the two years I worked with you. There are no words that could adequately capture the depth of gratitude I have for you as a human being. Teacher. Mentor. Coach.

In the words of Rumi,

"The wound is the place where the light enters you."

YOU, G, were the light that reignited the one already inside of me. 

You helped me navigate the darkness. You helped me step into my light.

And when the lights went out again ~ though you were hundreds of miles away, I carried you with me.

Control the controllables. Yes, sir.

YOU are part of my story. YOU are part of my WHY. 

You know what's pretty powerful?

When you look back on a 17 year-old homework assignment:

 
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And, you're living it.

Thank you, Greg Harden. Forever and always.

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Because of you, I pay it forward.

 
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To download a free copy of my Control the Controllables mini deep dive for dreamer chasers, coaches, educators, athletes, leaders and parents, head over here. It’s my gift to you.

If this blog resonates, please feel free to pass along and share with others.

With gratitude,

Samantha

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Samantha Arsenault Livingstone is an Olympic Gold Medalist, high-performance coach and consultant, transformational speaker, educator and entrepreneur. She is the founder of Livingstone High Performance, LLC. and the Rise Free Academy - inspiring, empowering and equipping athletes, coaches and women who lead with the skills they need to cultivate high-performance - to achieve AND feel fulfilled along the way. 

In addition to private and group coaching, Samantha consults with teams and organizations on athlete wellness, Mindful Sport Performance Enhancement (MSPE), leadership, courage building, rising skills and creating high-performance environments. 

A mama of heart warrior and mama of twins, Samantha and her husband, Rob, live in the Berkshires with their four girls. To learn more about her offerings, go over to www.samanthalivingstone.com