One of the biggest challenges of recovering from my bicycle accident has been learning a new set of skills to do the same old things I did every day. Walking. Showering. Typing. Driving. Talking on the phone. As anyone who’s been in a similar situation can attest, this is not fun. Stepping back, however, this situation has shown me that my real challenge isn’t with the accident or its repercussions, but with learning how to learn (again).
On one hand the accident has really forced me to realize just how much unconscious mental and physical energy goes into simply being. Forget racing or riding a bicycle for second…I mean just being. Many of the things that we take entirely for granted are pretty complicated.
Did you know that taking a shower, from the moment you walk in all smelly to the moment you walk out all squeaky clean, has something like 80 steps involved? From taking off each piece of clothing to getting into the shower to reaching all those hard to reach places to drying off, etc. Of course taking a shower isn’t hard; but having to think about taking a shower while you take a shower really drives home all that we take for granted.
On a macro level, situations like these have really helped me to develop a newfound respect, not only for people who are challenged, or experiencing challenges, but also for anyone who’s learning something new. Here’s why.
I had forgotten what “new” feels like because I’ve been away from the game for so long. I have spent the better part of my adult life living inside an imaginary “box” where I only did things that I was good at. My world had become so narrow to the point where I had created a safe space where I could succeed and be important.
My accident threw a monkey wrench into those elaborate plans. It has really shown me while that kind of comfy space (the one where I get to be the hero or in first place–by default!) is an easy place to be…it’s not the best place for me. I had become complacent, forgetting how to learn new things because I wasn’t doing new things. I had lost touch with what it felt like to do something new.
Being in a new space means more than doing new stuff, it means being receptive to it. The power of my accident is that I _have to_ do the walking / showering / driving stuff so I can get back to life as I knew it. The opportunity I have is to somehow apply that same process and experience to other aspects of my life.
It’s not enough to tell someone something so they can learn it: Patrick, just put your foot here to walk. They have to feel it to learn it. I need to feel what walking is like to my body now so I can figure out how to do it. I need to feel that liberating rush of moving my legs freely in the water, as it will inspire me to keep striving. I am reminded daily of the importance of “new” just by virtue of the recovery process.
The emails and messages and notes I receive daily, sharing stories of challenging journeys and experiences, are a reminder that I can in a new live space as well — that is, if I want to learn how. Fortunately I am surrounded by amazing family and friends (and folks like you!) who are there to show me, through your love and support, that it’s possible to learn my way into a new way of living.
I respond best to challenges, and this is a big one for sure. While I’m told my body will heal up just fine, no one can tell me what leading a challenging life will bring. Both will take a lot of work, but the path ahead appears filled with equal parts opportunity and uncertainty. I am happy to take on those kind of odds…and I hope to see you on the other side.
+++++++++++ Personal Update +++++++++++
Things are getting better daily. I rode the recumbent bike for 20 minutes on Monday and Tuesday was actually in the therapy pool doing something that remotely resembled a workout. I am working hard to lose the cane soon enough and hope to be back in my own house…with my own family, as soon as I am able to walk stairs. As always, there are more challenges that lie ahead. But the bigger they are, the stronger they’ll make me. I’m excited.