When I was two years old, I was sitting on a carriage swing with my older sister. She sat on one side while I sat on the other side facing her. The neighborhood kids were pushing us too hard and I wanted them to stop, so I put my foot down and my leg snapped. It split in two above the ankle. I had just learned to walk, so after my tiny leg was encased in a plaster cast, it was back to crawling for me.
When I was twenty-six, I again lost my ability to walk when the car I was traveling in was struck head-on by an oncoming car. It was a high-speed impact on the highway and fortunately I was wearing a seat belt. Unfortunately, my spinal chord was displaced by 40 degrees, I broke T-12, my body was paralyzed from the waist down, and the doctors at the Mayo Clinic (where I was flown by air ambulance) gave me less than 5 percent chance of walking again. It was a slow, painstaking process of re-learning and rehabilitation.
Not surprisingly, these two events gave me an attendant fear of “stepping out.” There is no part of me that is interested in getting injured again, having spent too much of my life encased in body casts and wheelchairs. But I have always been a risk-taker, with a yearning to see and do new things. Perhaps that’s why exploring my own creativity has always been important to me. I needed another “world” I could explore that would not bring bodily harm. The world that I found was a place that the ancient Sufis called the “imaginal world.” I like to call it third space.