Happiness in an Unexpected Place : "Along the Way"

Published: May. 31, 2016 at 8:45 PM MDT
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10 years ago, Jaclyn Lanae found what she was looking for.

At 26 years old, she'd been chasing goals and objects she thought would make her happy, but never did.

She was disillusioned, sad, and apathetic.

Until something changed her entire perspective on life, as we go "Along the Way" just west of Rapid City.

"Falling Rock" is a place to stop and take in the eye catching views.

Author Jaclyn Lanae says, "It's a beautiful hiking and rock climbing area that's just loved by the Black Hills and all over the world really."

And in all the world, one of the things Rapid City's Jaclyn Lanae loves: is motorcycles.

Jaclyn Lanae says, "There's something about the independence and the control and the freedom and the experience, the smell, the sounds, the interaction of all of the energy and you, you can just see and feel on a much higher level than you do in a car."

But it was an unintended stop, in this very place, 10 years ago, that led to a life changing shift in perspective of joy, peace, and happiness.

Jaclyn Lanae says, "I truly believe that my soul wanted this, that it was destined for me to be able to understand and have this perspective."

It was August 2006, Jaclyn was a passenger on a motorcycle in a terrible crash, on this very curve, where both she and the driver were injured but survived. She remembers nothing of the accident, but strongly believes *no one* is to blame...and describes it to the best of her understanding.

Lanae says, "Is that I would have hit the side of the truck just past that yellow marker down there."

"And when I hit the road, the trailer that he was hauling with the Bobcat on it ran over my legs and shredded most of the flesh off, but also kicked me back to the other side of the road here," she says.

Lanae says, "Severed an artery in one of my legs and so I was bleeding out on the side of the road."

She says, "I officially coded in the helicopter and again at the Rapid City Regional facility"

Jaclyn Lanae says, "Almost every bone in the left side of my body was broken, lacerated liver and spleen, both lungs had collapsed."

Jaclyn Lanae says, "My prognosis immediately when my parents first arrived at the hospital was that I had a 50 percent chance of surviving if they amputated both my legs."

She says her mother fought in favor of saving both her legs and her life: when neither was a sure thing. The trauma was so severe she was kept in an induced coma for two weeks.

There were flowers everywhere, bouquet after bouquet, until eventually her fighting spirit was waking up.

Jaclyn Lanae says, "My family was told she'll never walk again, even if she keeps her legs she'll never walk again, but 2 months into my stay at the hospital I gained the strength to be able to stand."

"I remember the first steps in the hospital itself being scary and I was glad to get back in my bed and not just because it hurt and that bothered me. I did not want to be that kind of person, " says Lanae.

Jaclyn says, "I just carried around this fear with me all of the time that my body would literally, I would fall and my body would literally break apart at all of the seams you know"

So she learned how to fight the fear.

"But you have to shut the fear up and you can do that you just have to say, shut up, I'm doing it anyway," says Jaclyn.

And while the fear did not vanish, neither did her will to overcome.

Jaclyn Lanae says, "When I first got out of the hospital everything was terrifying and by that I mean everything. Taking the first steps was horrifying, cracks in sidewalks, little pieces of gravel."

Step by step, she moved forward.

"I was using a wheelchair and a walker and I had this great sense of hope kind of, it was brief, but it was powerful and for a minute I was glad that I was alive and that was something that I hadn't felt since I'd been in the hospital and prior to that not in years," says Jaclyn.

And as her body healed, a life lesson was revealed, that changed everything.

Jaclyn says, "All of those criteria that had made me so sad and really just sort of apathetic about life in general didn't matter and I understood that the gift of life is just the living."

After nearly losing everything, she learned to savor the small things.

Jaclyn Lanae says, "The joy that we get from our lives is really in our heads, it's a frame of mind and when you have a sense of gratitude about the tiniest little gifts, the tiniest little things they become the most tremendous treasures, they become the most beautiful elements of just being alive."

About 7 months after the accident, she began to ride again.

"And the motorcycle was absolutely the most daunting of the,you know, marks of healing for me, but it was also non negotiable," she says.

A decade later, turns out this place known for eye catching views, this place where her life almost ended, is also the place where her journey to happiness began.

Jaclyn says, "Our lives are the gift."

"The way that we love, the way that we live, the way that we feel joy, that's the whole point. That's why we're here, that what we share with other people," says Lanae.

There's so much more to her story, it's almost like there should be a book, and indeed there is.

It's called "The Me I was".Jaci wrote it, and it's one of those reads that just could...change the way you look at life.

Her book is available both online and at Mitzi's Book's in Rapid City.

If you've met someone cool "Along the Way" please call or e-mail us to let us know.