25,200 Seconds

What would you do if you were stuck with just your mind for 25,200 seconds? What thoughts would you choose? What ideas would you have? What emotions would run the show?

25,200 seconds is another way of saying 7 hours.

One week ago today I was given this challenge in a form I never ever saw coming.

A challenge that could have taken my life.

I woke early as I was preparing for a big day – sitting at the kitchen counter I was catching up on emails and prepping for the class that I was going to teach that night.

I was on the phone with my mom, “I’ll shoot you this email and then I’m going to go out to feed, I’ll be back in about 15 minutes to go over these notes.”

I hung up.

I looked at the temperature. It was 7 degrees.

I had sweatpants on and long-sleeved shirt, no socks – meh, who needs socks I’ll only by 15 minutes.

I put my Carharts on over everything, hat and gloves and went out back with the dogs. I fed all critters, let chickens out and then decided to throw more hay to the horses as it was cold.

We stack our hay 6 tons at a time and it stacks 10-12 feet high. We were getting down to the last layer of it, it was two bales deep and 10-12 ft high. We have an industrial tarp covering the hay and then have it canopied over and bungeed to the ground to form a lean-to of such so we can walk around it and park the wheelbarrow under it etc.

In the past 72 hours we had 12 inches of new snow.

The tarp was heavy with snow.

I was standing underneath the canopy of tarp, in front of the 12 foot wall of hay, opening a new bale. I heard snow sliding and as I looked up the wall of hay toppled down on top of me wrapping me in the tarp, snow, and pile of hay bales.

Each bale of hay is 65-75 lbs – there were close to 30 that fell on top and around me.

I tried to move. I could not. I was pinned, trapped in hay. Snow. And tarp.

I did not have my phone.

I did not have my knife.

It was 8 am. I was supposed to meet Justin at 1:30 for a meeting.

This is not happening, I thought. This is not happening. This cannot be happening.

And then in one small breath I said out loud, this IS happening. God. Please not today. Don’t take me today. This really is happening.

I landed on my right side with my right ear pressed up against my right shoulder and my arm outstretched. I could move nothing except my left hand and my right foot. I can’t breathe, I thought. I can’t breath, there is no air. All I could feel was tarp. There was no air.

If I only had a knife.

If I only had air.

If only I had put socks on.

Think Tanda. Think.

I grabbed a chunk of tarp with my left hand and shimmied it up to my mouth. I gnawed a small hole in the tarp to where I could stick my finger through and I then dug small holes in the snow beneath me to create air pockets.

If I only had a knife.

As long as I have air, I kept thinking, I can stay here for a while.

I just need air.

Its 8:00 am, I thought. No one is expecting me to be anywhere til 1:30 pm.

I kept counting those hours. That’s 5.5 hours from now. Right? Yes. 5.5 hours from now.

As long as I have air.

My body went into shock, convulsing to try and stay warm. In and out of shivering and shock I tried to breathe as shallowly as possible.  

I did not show up to the meeting at 1:30.

Justin came home and dug me out at 3 pm.

7 hours later.

25,200 seconds later.

It was 10 degrees outside.

Many have asked me – how did I choose to spend all of those seconds?

Well, I watched.

I watched my thoughts.

 I watched it wonder to being faced with death. To the ones I was leaving behind. To the reality of what was happening.

I watched my thoughts drift. Drift from death to life. From trust to disbelief. From fear to gratitude.

I walked myself into heart palpitations all the way to total calm.

The circumstances did not change. It was only me and my thoughts that could.

And for all 25,200 seconds I got to choose.

And as each second ticked by – not knowing the outcome – I consciously chose to think calm. Think air. Think circulation. Think shiver. Think gratitude for the extraordinary life that we have created.

Think trust.

Pray.

Think love.

Pray again.

And when Justin found me 7 hours later under the hundreds of pounds on hay and snow, those seconds didn’t just stop and life took back over.

I STILL have 100% control over what I am thinking and how it is affecting my life positively or negatively.

And so do you.

So I invite you to start with paying attention to your thoughts for ONE of the seconds of the thousands we have a day.

We can transform our life with our thoughts. And it starts with noticing. Noticing what we are choosing to think about every day. What we gravitate towards and then ask yourself if that is serving you. Ask yourself if you were to KEEP thinking those things would you love your life even more …or not.

I could have thought myself into a panic attack. I could have thought myself into claustrophobia. I could have thought myself into hypothermia. I could have thought myself into a lot of things.

And with a lot of prayer, luck and a lot of trust, I thought my way into walking out of that situation totally unscathed.

What are you thinking yourself into?

Pay attention – try it for 25,200 seconds.

Tanda Cook