Dream with Legs

March 10, 2015

I was watching an interview on television with Amy Purdy, an Olympian bronze medalist in snowboarding who also took second place in a recent season of Dancing with the Stars.

In the interview, she said something that so struck me, I had to dash to my computer and write it down:

“If my life were a book, and I were the writer, how would I want the book to go?”

Amy says she had this thought at an especially difficult juncture in her life, and that once she posed the question, she realized that she wanted that book to go exactly the way she’d always pictured it: she would have a big, exciting life as a highly successful competitive snowboarder and inspire millions. At one point in that book, she would be interviewed on television by Oprah.

Which was, in fact, exactly who she was being interviewed by right now. Every part of that book of which she had imagined herself as the writer had since come true.

All of which is admirable enough. But here’s the thing: back when she was having that conversation with herself, that difficult juncture when she made the decision to hold that vision for herself, there was one little detail about her life that to anyone else, might have made publishing that book seem like an impossibility.

She had no legs.

At age nineteen Amy suffered a horrific bout of infectious meningitis that nearly killed her (the doctors pegged her chances of living at 2 percent) and led to the amputation of both legs. Awakening on her hospital bed to find her legs terminating just below her knees, Amy felt overwhelmed by the impossibility of her dreams.

But not for very long.

Seven months later, she was snowboarding again — with prosthetic legs. A few months after that, she came in third in a major competition.

Amy says she can still feel her feet and even feel herself wiggling her toes. Must be something like the phenomenon of “referred pain,” she figures — the nerves and brain still responding as if she had feet.

That makes sense.


She also relates a moment when she was standing outside and suddenly felt the wetness of a drop of rain splashing on her foot. She looked down. And sure enough, there was the drop, on her carbon-steel foot, right where she’d felt it.

It has happened to her, she says, more than once.

The Quakers have a wonderful saying: “When you pray, move your feet.” Or to put it another way:

A dream becomes real only when you give it legs.

When you pray, move your feet. I love that saying and think of it often.

But what do you do if you don’t have any feet?

Move them anyway.


1 Comment

  1. Linda Ryan, RN BSN

    Wonderful post, wonderful Oprah interview and really wonderful idea (Move them anyway!). Amy is one of those people who, when I hear their story, I think “How dare I think I’m having a bad day? How dare I complain?” And now, I will add “How dare I not move my feet?” Thank you, John!


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