30A Editorial Photography & Education » 30A editorial photographer. Serving 30A & Panama City Beach, Florida.

forced to slow down in a beach town

I never give it enough credit because I never meant to stay.  The first thing I did when I got that piece of paper in my hand was throw my cap up in the air and run away faster than green grass goes through a goose.  But then I grew up…  And life happened… And I found myself coming back to this sleepy beach town to heal by the sea.  My family smothered me in love and I learned to love again.  So I decided to stay a while.

Even after all this time, a not-so-insignificant piece of my heart remained in the city – our nation’s city – and I felt like aspects of the life I’d lived there would never compare.  And those comparisons slowly chipped away at the hole in my heart I’d worked so hard to patch with a plaster of sand and salt.

As I’ve navigated the latest chapter of the book I call my life I’ve found myself saying “I’m so fortunate to have a great healthcare team far away from here who actually knows what they’re doing. The timing always worked out perfectly so I could get out of town.”

But then I came back, my doctors went on vacation and I was left alone with the vague but uplifting instructions to “write your own story.” Because the truth was that nobody knew what would happen after a few weeks.

Enter Donna. We met at her office just next to the surf shop and across the street from the beach.  The summer heat and salt air wafted around as I shoved my walker aside out of embarrassment and tried to make it to the door. Then we talked… She took pages of notes, shook her head and then examined my body gently.

When we met again she seemed to know the exact right things not only to do but to say but to make me shut up and listen.

“I’ve done the research… Turns out there is none. At least none that applies to you. The fact that you’re getting around as well you are is incredible. You’re a living, walking miracle. Nobody has done what you’re doing and you’re blazing trails for people to learn from in the future.  We can do this together, with your doctors, but you need to listen to your body and heart. It’s time to check your ego at the door and stop doing everything 400%. Use your walker and get over it. This is going to take a while.  One day what you’re doing is going to help guide others in their recovery. But now, with this… You have to write your own story.”

My jaw dropped at her loving boldness and then I said “Wait, what did you say??? Did I use that phrase before? Do you normally say that?”

“No… But that’s what you’re doing. Writing your own story.”

Teary eyed.  Those four words again.   Write.  Your.  Own.  Story.

Suddenly, her words sunk in and I said “Ok… Let’s do it. But first, I need to fulfill a promise to someone else that didn’t know me but was bold enough to show up and speak truth to me when I needed it.  They showed up at my door to give me words of wisdom and gifts to encourage me, but when they asked for a picture I denied them because I was simply too embarrassed about still being bruised and puffy. But today I’ve got their t-shirt on and I want a photo with you. May I just set my walker aside for a moment? I’ll lean against the wall and promise not to fall.

She gave me a joking eye-roll, but finally allowed it.

In that moment, I realized that God knew what He was doing all along when he led my heart back to this little town…  The love and grace I’ve been given here can’t hold a flame to any shiny monument.  And those quietly confident people I’ve met? They’re exactly the type of characters needed to help me walk through this chapter of life.

– Holly


p.s. – There’s only one day left to buy a cute t-shirt (click here!) and help raise money for researching rare medical genetic disorders.  (We’ve raised almost $1000 so far!)  Spread the love while spreading the message that we’re all capable of writing our own stories.

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