Broken is a story about serendipity, and serendipities always come in packages other than we expect. Michelle Scully’s story begins on a bright, unseasonably warm January day, one of those days when the blue of the winter shines so brilliant it hurts the eyes. Spring’s coming, and she can’t help but go out for a ride on her mare Wichado (‘Wish’). “No big plans, no expectations, just going with the moment,” she tells herself. Just a ride on a beautiful January day.
That’s how serendipities work, Michelle writes. “It’s a fine irony that some of our most significant life experiences start out with hopeful serendipity. I guess the point of serendipity is that we don’t know the outcome before we begin.” Because once we see something from a different perspective, things can never be the same.
This book makes a clear distinction between the time before and the time after. “We can all identify our own moment,” she writes, “that blink of an eye drawing an indelible black Sharpie line.” For Michelle, her Sharpie line streaked like the path of the rabbit that shot between her horse Wish’s legs on that January day, leaving her crumpled on the ground and unable to walk. She crawled a half mile home, only to find out she had shattered the L1 vertebrae in her back and would have to undergo life-changing surgery.
What do you do after something horrible happens? That’s the tricky question. Not long after she returned home, Michelle had a dream: “I felt the joy lingering upon awakening,” she writes. “In my dream, I am riding on a dun horse and we are galloping into the sunset. Full-on galloping. Moving as fast as you can go kind of galloping. . . .We are flying across the open space with nothing to slow us down.” No broken spine, no pain. Just freedom, racing towards the horizon. But even so, how could she get back on a horse now that a section of her spine had been replaced with titanium bars and screws? That’s a tougher question.
Michelle runs head-on into serendipity and embraces it. “Embrace the schlub,” she says. “There is a season for everything. Some of them aren’t even close to what we’d envisioned for our lives. But it is in reconciling our vision with our reality the challenge lies.” Because once we accept that new reality, we can regrow. It took falling off a horse for Michelle to see it, but once she looked into the new mirror held in front of her, she saw it: “Broken isn’t my only story; it’s a part of my life’s story.”
Broken is not truly a story of being broken. It’s a story about being healed. About making a new life when the unexpected thrusts itself in and changes everything. About getting back up when you fall, brushing yourself off, and climbing back on for another go. For all its title says, Broken is not a story of despair. It’s easy to become maudlin and self-pitying when writing about difficult times, and Michelle avoids both adroitly, sharing the difficult realities of re-starting life after trauma with humor and thoughtfulness. Perhaps it’s her innate cowgirl toughness or her pioneer roots. Whatever may be, Michelle Scully tackles misery and suffering straight on, looking it in the eye, and overcomes it.
To purchase a copy of Broken: Tales of A Titanium cowgirl, head to the book’s page on Amazon.