My Second “First” Year of Life

I wrote this blog post this weekend but have debated whether to post or not.  Something strange happened to my ability to say anything on this blog once it landed in the hands of 1.5 million strangers with this post on Feeling Too Fat to Be Photographed but for this very signifigant anniversary I just had to say something.  So before I second guess myself again, here it is.  And as always, thanks for reading.

So this is how I started my second “First” year of life.

March 30, 2012 I crawled and fumbled my way out of a heap of steel and heat and glass.  I grabbed the hand of a welcome stranger and made my tumbling exit from my car…a tree suddenly in the middle of it.  Like a calf’s first steps I collapsed to the ground. . . body trembling, legs not quite up to the task.

The Crash

I landed in a nest of fat, hairy caterpillars that crawled all over me.  I wiggled my toes, turned my neck fractions of an inch, touched each finger to my thumb.  A quick assessment of my new physical body.  Would I have legs that worked?  A neck that could turn?  Hands that could manipulate the dials of a camera?

My body was overcome with shaking, carrying the reverberations of my crash.  It was like when you sloppily hold a baseball bat and your hands sting with the metallic vibration of a fastball.

I watched the stranger frantically run in and out of my upward stare…begging him to call my husband…pleading to God “oh Jesus…please Jesus” and from an equally primal place a string of particularly un-Jesus-like f-words.

My car was having a similar meltdowm.  The classical music blasting through the speakers (originally, to calm my nerves on the drive) carried prayers of “oh Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” up to heaven on soothing violin notes while at the same time punctuating those prayers with a HONK.  HONK.  HONK. like a string of expletives escaping uncontrolled.

I just wanted to close my eyes.  The smell of burning gas.  The pounding classical music.  The uncontrollable shaking.  My head was crowded with sounds and smells.  I couldn’t think . . . I just needed to turn off one sense, just for a minute.  But like I learned in my favorite episode of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman (ok…don’t laugh :)) I knew to keep my eyes open and try to stay awake.

Strangers gathered one by one and out of no where a Boy Scout leader in full uniform appeared and started giving orders.  He looked like he was having the best day of his life – using all those First Responder skills he’d never had the chance to show off.  He asked me my name, what day it was, and if I knew what happened.  Someone brought me a cold bottle of water.  Someone called my husband.  Some folks just knelt on the ground next to me and picked off the caterpillars.

The Paramdedics arrived quickly.  They cut my clothes off.  And yes, oh yes precious . . . they had to cut my Spanx off of me on the side of that highway.  But somewhere between having my Spanx cut off of me and having 4 nurses move my plus-sized, half-naked body around from X-ray to MRI, to CAT scan and back again…I realized that despite my current circumstance I was going to be just fine.  I was going to kick this setback in the ass.  I was going to . . . well . . . I was going to take a Morphine nap and wake up two days and 1 titanium leg later.

And that is how I started my second first year of life.  Because someone jammed their fat little finger on the  reset button of the life of Teresa Porter that day.  I powered down for a minute and then beep, beep, beep (those ‘beeps’ are probably the expletives I was mumbling on the side of the road) … there I was again.

What felt like the clanging, crashing, smoky end to my life was actually a beautiful new beginning.  And what was once a heap of destruction was actually the birth of something triumphant.

So it is 1 year later and I still carry the accident with me.

The Boy Scout, a reminder that in moments of fear and doubt and hurt and pain someone will step up to help.  Sometimes, blisfully, they even show up looking exactly like what help should look like.  I mean, a boy scout?!

The classical music, a reminder to breathe, be still, listen.  Also, maybe life’s most dramatic moments really do have a movie soundtrack.  I thought mine would sound more like Cindy Lauper and less like Chopin but whatever.

The Spanx, well, we’ll call that a lesson in perspective.  Can you hear me girl-in-the-bathroom-who-just-discovered-food-in-your-teeth?  Those embarrassing moments happen to all of us.  You know what doesn’t often happen?  Having the SPANX cut off of you on the side of a HIGHWAY.  See…perspective :)

Finally,  the caterpillars.  It is simple.  The caterpillars reminded me of the promise that we can start all over again, it is just the lucky few of us who get the chance to celebrate the day we fell from the cocoon.

Learning to Walk


20 Responses to “My Second “First” Year of Life”

  1. First off – *hugs* & Congratulations on surviving the first anniversary!
    I know how tough it can be, having gone through my own “recovery process”.

    Each year it WILL get a little easier to get past this day.

    Yes, there may be umpty odd million of us out here but don’t be afraid to scream, cry, wail, cheer, gloat, or frolic – it’s your Blog & we’re all pulling for you.

    Keep going & keep growing!


    • Teresa says:

      Allison – Thank you so much! I enjoyed a dinner with family to celebrate the official anniversary this past Saturday and it felt like the perfect way to mark the occasion. Thank you for reading!

  2. christine says:

    wow. i’m glad you took the time to share. what an amazing story and perspective. happy birthday… of sorts (oh, and as the chaplain for a boy scout troop, i’m kind of smiling huge about the image of a scoutmaster showing up on your scene and knowing exactly what to do…)


    • Teresa says:

      I seriously couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the scoutmaster! I thought I was really losing my mind at that point. He was awesome! So glad he knew what to do so he could relay vitals to the EMTs when they arrived. Thumbs up for the Boy Scouts!

  3. Katy says:

    Teresa – You rock! You have fabulous self-awareness & you are able to articulate so well! Congratulations on your metamorphosis! Keep smiling & more importantly — keep writing!


  4. Pam says:

    What a heck of a story. Amazing, just like you!!!

  5. Gina says:

    Wow Teresa!

    I can’t help but cry reading this post to think how far you’ve come in the past year. I can remember coming to visit you in the hospital; and look at you now! It’s truly a miracle. So thankful to have you with us still and happy to read your inspiring words on this blog and continue to see the beautiful work you’re doing with your photography. What an awesome new beginning. Happy one year anniversary to you, and can’t wait to see what God has in store for you in the next year and many more to come!

  6. Patty says:

    Go figure,a boy scout…but is there really anyone else who could’ve have given so much meaning to such a living nightmare? God has more of a sense of humor than I that He did. I’ll have to remember to purchase that overpriced fundraising popocorn from the scouts this year..a stranger’s way of thanking them for helping you to your second “First.”

    The message in your post on Feeling “Too Fat to Be Photographed” touched the secret parts of my soul. I held my breath, I wept, I smiled. I, too was a “head shot only” girl, for a long time. I’ve changed my ways…I am leaving a trail of images to prove that I lived a real life and that there was more to me than just a head. Thank you for that..and thank you for sharing yourself with 1.5 million people…it made a difference.

    Totally unrealted…but I would someday love love love to be photgraphed by you!

    • Kathleen says:

      I am crying reading this. Thank you for sharing it. I feel like I have found a new friend and I’ve never met you. You touch my heart in unbelievable ways. Sending you much love and hugs!

      • Kathleen says:

        “The message in your post on Feeling “Too Fat to Be Photographed” touched the secret parts of my soul. I held my breath, I wept, I smiled. I, too was a “head shot only” girl, for a long time. I’ve changed my ways…I am leaving a trail of images to prove that I lived a real life and that there was more to me than just a head. Thank you for that..and thank you for sharing yourself with 1.5 million people…it made a difference.”

        I totally agree!!!!!

  7. Beautiful perspective. (((HUGS))) Life is hard, but you are a fighter indeed!

  8. Joanna says:

    You write so well, and you take such beautiful pictures – and I’m so glad your ‘feeling too fat to be photographed’ went viral and I was able to discover your blog. Keep up the good work!

  9. Nancy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. It really touched my heart this morning!

  10. Teresa, I’m transported by your honest, joyous writing. I’m honored to know you! Love, Lyn

  11. Ali says:

    Amazing. As expected! Don’t let anyone put a cramp in your voice, you have so many brilliant things to say!

  12. Teresa,

    I did find your Too Fat to be Photographed blog post on Facebook this morning. So well done. I too am a photographer and when my dad was dying of cancer I finally made family portraits that he always wished for even though I was “too fat”. I only regretted not doing it sooner so he could have enjoyed it longer.

    This post was another amazing one. Glad you got discovered because your honesty and humor and vulnerability are a blessing in this “perfect” world. I look forward to reading more. :)

  13. kandie says:

    your post is so inspiring and a mantra of mine also i am a hairdresser/ makeup/ artist and a survivor of leaukemia finished chemo june 2013. I had, operative word here,a sister who hated photos my family cling greedily to ANY THING, we have of her in it she had scoliosis a severe curvature of her spine which triggered unwanted stares and glares. She was an amazing sister ,artist and to me after our mother died in 1973 a rock for myself. your story is amazing and thought provoking, i lost all my hair no biggy looked like uncle fester from addams family no biggy pictures ARE OUR STORY OF OUR LIVES WE MUST SNAP ON GOD BLESS YOU KEEP YOU STRONG AND SO GLAD YOU SHARED YOUR EXPERIENCE THANK YOU PS SAY A PRAYER FOR MY DOG SHADOW LOST HIM ON FRI AT FAMILIES HOUSE IN YELLVILLE AR. over thanksgiving holiday! hope to read more of your posts keep it up! kandie

  14. Janet Hasbargen (Brian's mom) says:

    Good blog…enjoyed reading your posts.

  15. Pat says:

    Both my husband and I hate having our photo taken but when I took up scrapbooking I told him to get used to it. Life is always to short and the people we love leave too soon so take photos preserve the memories and I bet those photos will get looked at more then glossy magazines with ‘perfect’people. LOL

  16. Merri says:

    A nest of caterpillars the day of the accident and a butterfly on your shirt during physical therapy. Love the transformation symbolism! :)

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