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Chasing The Light: Laura Stauffer

“ If you’ve woken up breathing, congratulations! You’ve been given another chance. “

As if out of a R.L Stine novel, I watched my body become more distant. I felt like I was floating, witnessing a crowd of doctors and nurses hovering against a backdrop of glaring trauma room lights. Something shifted and I was enshrouded in an expanse of white light; weightless and drifting towards its source. I felt as though I was being pulled by a magnetic force. I was completely free of pain and had awareness only of the all encompassing brightness.

A deep, clear voice called. “Come back; you are still needed here.”

In the years and numerous struggles and successes that have followed that crash, I come back to that moment in the Lincoln Trauma Center. We all have a calling; a reason that we are here on this earth. The struggle as life is in a constant state of flow and change, what works in one season may not work in another. This past year reminds the whole planet that life can change, dramatically, in the blink of an eye, often in ways that are unforeseen. At the bedrock of life’s turmoil, I find my way forward through my faith and through answering this intrinsic quest to find purpose; physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, socially. Running has been a pathway and a process to find my way forward.

In my adult life, I have experienced more than 10 serious setbacks that have left me struggling to move, think, and walk. Lyme Disease. Autoimmune flare-ups. Being rear-ended multiple times. Having car ramps and a cement board suddenly fall on my head from what seemed like a stable garage wall. Being hit by a drunk driver, as a passenger, en route from Starbucks at 2pm on a random Tuesday afternoon.

My mom used to tell me we all go through life with struggles.” Bitter or Better, the difference is “I.” As a researcher, I wanted to know more. As studies on adverse events in childhood and resilience confirm, setbacks and obstacles do have a long term impact on health, though factors from community and individual characteristics enable an individual to be more likely to succeed.

The following factors have shown to be universal protective factors:

→ Close relationships with caring adults

→Having a sense of purpose *(which has been shown to add years to life expectancy)

→Individual competencies such as self-regulation, autonomy, problem solving, ect

→Communities that value people and support health and personal growth

→ Opportunities to connect socially

→ Practical support

Being part of a running tribe created a perfect environment for all these resilience building conditions to flourish. my close relationships with other teens and adults who were caring and supportive, even if other aspects of my life weren’t going as I had hoped. I started marathon running while I was raising two toddlers with special health challenges. Running helped me process my grief and frustration along with celebrating each hard-won milestone. My dear running friend and I would pour out our tears, laughter, and exasperation during the pre-dawn and early morning hours each Saturday. As Jess from Diary of a Mom states.

Welcome to the club. To the rest of the world, you’re fine. I promise. But once you’ve been there you can’t miss it. I know it seems like you are staring down an impossibly steep learning curve, but one day you’ll look down and realize how far you’ve come. You’ll find your village. Those who understand. You will cherish them.

As the miles flashed by, the endorphins, laughter, and tension released through running helped shift perspective. By the end of our sweaty or freezing runs, the world seemed a more friendly and hopeful place.

This last week, three years after my fateful crash, I celebrated a milestone. For the past three years, my son has had a specific wish: to run the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon. I’ve battled brain and spine injuries, vision loss, crushed bones. He has struggled with debilitating auto-immune issues, asthma, torn ligaments, and autism.

This year, we did it. Together.

As we all find our new paths forward after quarantine, personal struggles and successes, I encourage everyone reading this to fill in their own blanks.

Because of my life, others are inspired to…………

Rise strong, Rugged runner. Rugged community member, Resilient person. Rise STRONG! Then encourage someone else!

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