“Am I going to be a vegetable?” Those were the first words I mustered to the ER nurse hovering over the stretcher. The reason I asked was that I couldn’t remember the past 45 minutes and was worried my brain was scrambled.
“No, your head seems fine,” he reassured me while wheeling an MRI machine over, just to make sure.
I had been t-boned by a Chrysler while riding my bike through Seattle at dusk on a fall night. The car hit me and I flew through the windshield, landing in the passenger seat next to a very startled 20-year-old woman. I then jumped back out the way I had entered, passed out in the middle of the intersection, and woke up en route to the Harborview ER in an ambulance. Amazingly, I survived the crash with only a Jackson Pollock-esque smattering of glass cuts and, oh yeah, a broken leg.
Sometimes as welcome as a cold beer and afternoon nap after a successful morning road race, sometimes unnervingly thrust upon us like a cyclist on the hood of a car, recovery is an important part of every active person’s life. But if you’re anything like me, recovery tends to last a little too long for comfort and the crazy-brain starts its bargaining. “Four to six weeks of rest” the doc might say… Well, how about after two I “test the waters” and try a little run? Next thing I know it’s been a year and I’m still in forced recovery mode, my body never having had the chance to fully heal.
So, how am I learning to let go and let recovery work its magic? One way has been to embrace the gift of time that appears with a break from my regularly scheduled activities. Filling the extra hours with coffee dates with old friends, finishing that book that’s been on the nightstand for months, going to the yoga class I never seem to have time for. And, maybe even more importantly, the slow down provides the opportunity to be honest with myself and recognize that I often place my self worth in what I’m able to accomplish and the satisfaction of an “always on the go” lifestyle. However, recovery periods have shown me that often strength lies more in what I am able to let go of than what I am able to achieve.
The good news is, recovery eventually allows for return. It’s been six years since my accident, and my right leg still isn’t quite what it used to be, but it’s a hell of a lot better than it was — I can tell it’s getting stronger every year. In fact, I remember looking at my x-rays with my doctor while he explained that I wouldn’t be able to regularly run again after the accident. Well, I just ran my first marathon. And it won’t be my last. Booyah!
If you’re in a recovery phase right now, why not throw on a pair of compression socks, put your legs up the wall, and take a deep breath in… a slow breath out? Before you know it, you’ll be back in the game. And you may even find there’s something you’ve enjoyed on the way back.