It seems as I get older, I have more anniversaries filling up the calendar. More days that have taken on some sort of meaning or symbolism. Deaths, birthdays, marriages, and breakups. All these things begin to fill these seemingly arbitrary dates of the year with represent a life lived.
The reason I think about this is that I’ve been acutely aware of the anniversary of the day I found my self laid out on the concrete. Of the moment I ended up learning more than I wanted to about the processes of our medical system and what it means to be hurt. It’s been almost a year since those moments carved scars onto my body and brain, placed metal on my bones, and began the process of making memories of pain and resilience.
This is what an anniversary means to me, a quiet time to reflect the advancement of a moment in my life that shines out like a beacon on a dark night. A way to categorize and quantify change and progress. It’s unfortunate that most of these anniversaries are ultimately painted in dark and moody colors. Though that’s what makes the reflection of a spring renewed so stark in its differences.
I learned a lot from all of this. I’ve grown and changed from the experience that no one would readily ask for. My body is healed and moving better than before. My mind has recovered slowly but surely. It’s through all of the pain that I sitting here, directing my life a new and different way. I now know something that most I hope would never get the chance to know. I was lucky to learn it in a way that didn’t leave me more broken. I find myself thankful for the moments that came after that accident, as they reaffirmed and reformed some fundamental beliefs I had and would have carried with me through all of my days.
It’s in this recollection, this moment in silent thought, that I can appreciate the moments that I now have and experiences that have come from it. It’s been a year away from twisted metal, smells of prosperous, glass, metal, and concrete. I am thankful to have the opportunity to have an anniversary because it ended up not being the end but just the beginning.
It’s moving forward, beyond this accident, beyond these feelings, and parsing apart the new me from this accidental self that only erupted from the flowing rain. A slow set of moments that have started to collect speed, a set of days that travel faster as the momentum in my legs finally can carry me forward. It’s not the end but it’s the goodbye for now, a small bow before the curtain call, before the encore, before the exit, knowing that the show is mostly over and real life will resume again. Things have happened, and will continue to happen like the lingering flash of memories that still persists within my sleep-deprived mind. I keep on seeing the past and the future split between my eyes like hands in front of my face, ready to be pulled in any which direction that the wind blows. As the horizon nears, I look back at where I came realizing it now part of me now, but must move ahead just the same, a bitter sweet moment as life moves on.
The accident is coming to a close, though its ripple will be felt for months and perhaps years afterwards. This through this experience that I am able to get a clearer picture of the world, an image that is more directed and more focused on this recovery. It has allowed me to know exactly who I am in these most dire of situations and for that I am grateful. There really isn’t much to say about how I feel about this coming to a close, these things don’t happen abruptly but slowly and almost imperceptibly across time so that as I have gotten here I know where I was and where I am but have no idea all the steps taken for me to get to where I am.
As it draws to an end, and turn that corner onto something new, I realize that I may intersect with this road again, this place where I spent so many days moving through and taking in the world in a different way. A scenic route found on an incidental detour, the road will always be there as I have traveled down upon it part of my journey to where I need to go. I may look back at it with fond memories of the twist and turns but it’s time to depart and get back on my journey toward my dream.
Thank you for coming with me this far, I’m sure this isn’t the end of my recovery but it is at least it the point where I can start on something new. Stronger Every Day.
It’s the combination of past inadequacies and current tribulations that I found myself needing a breath of fresh air. I couldn’t hold it in, the rooms were too stifling for the emotions that threatened to boil over and I didn’t want the image of me to be tainted by the small weaknesses that plague my heart. It was a dumb thought that needed to be felt. Almost an inevitable feeling that was to be faced. Something that I knew was coming and maybe was perpetuated by my lack of emotional healing. This idea of blame, a responsibility of my current situation and the continued avoidance of my failure as part of it. Eventually it would catch up to me, I just didn’t know when. It was there, on the roof of my school building when I broke down for a second and it all came flooding out.
I didn’t realize it was there, sitting in the back of my mind. A little voice blaming me for this accident and all the changes because of it. The opportunities lost, the failures I felt both personally and productively. I had been guarded against it but was secretly hoping it would eventually erupted in my face. Like a child waiting for his punishment that appears to never come, ultimately sabotaging the happiness he could attain as guilt of a deed gone unpunished.
I knew it would come to this, I had felt if for months waiting for what would fall into place, hoping my life would just explode into a million little pieces. It’s almost easier that way, you don’t have to face the blame because your life reflected what was already felt inside. I avoided it, which made me avoid the things I hold dear, as sick sense of self punishment that perpetuates only disaster.
It’s a feeling of undeservedness to all the kindness I received, why was no one seeing what I was seeing. Why did no one blame me like I blamed myself? Why could no one see the idiot behind the crippled body who didn’t avoid the chaos to come?
It’s just a bad mix of feelings, that feeds on the past trauma and feelings of inadequacy, multiplying in size until something happens and my self breaks down and falls like rocks unable to support this personal image I had been propping up. Reliving this unresolved conflict that I believed went away only makes me realize that even when you fight your demons that doesn’t mean they disappear.
I was and haven’t been my best self, relying too heavily on the comfort to ease the burden of my failures. Hiding way and subconsciously waiting for this day to come. Even then, having accomplished something great but not entirely what I wanted was all it took to me realize that daze I had been living in. A soft blow pushing me over shows me how fragile I may have already been.
I strongly believe that knowing and understanding of ourselves will give us strength and power overcome the long road ahead. It’s though my naivety that that it made me believe that maybe by knowing I could avoid the trauma in it’s entity. I have taken the stance since my accident, with these emotions that come, to go ahead and feel them, embrace them as they are part of who I am and where I’m at. To realize them, process them, understand them, and let them go. It’s then in this small part of me that I hate, that makes me know I’m healing. It’s then in this small part of myself that I hate, that makes me know I’m human. It’s a process, and it doesn’t come all at once, but now because I acknowledge these feelings I can finally do something about them.
As my recovery is speeding up, and a sense of normalcy is on the horizon but there is a bit of confusion. I don’t know whether this normalcy is the sunset of my recovery or the sunrise for all that comes after.
You see I have been announcing all week my big news, first that will be attending a PhD program in the fall and second that I am finally able to wear a pair of normal shoes and walk semi-normally. Walking seemed the more pressing event, the one that every morning is a clear reminder of my once lack of ability to do so. That was until today, when I was walking around talking with a friend that it hit me…I’m leaving… In less than half a year I will have relocated to a place about 3,000 miles away from where I have lived my entire life. I knew this feeling would come, and I am sure the simple pang that I felt was only a precursor to what will be a treasure trove of tumult in the coming months. I knew this would come, but I have never felt this way in my whole life.
It was a moment where I wanted to grab whole of the idea of home and take it with me. Take it’s essence and throw on wall in my future room. What is my home to me, what is a representation of what this place means to me? It’s like a child holding on a toy for dear life because they are afraid to lose the memory of having had the toy in the first place. Not enough object permanence to think that it won’t be gone once it’s time to close my eyes and go to bed.
That’s the weird thing about the whole situation, it’s not like I won’t see it again, or that I won’t be back semi-regularly but it’s more of the sentimental. I understand now why people get tattoos that represent where they came from. Like a happy scar to show everyone and yourself what you’ve been through. To represent a people that you belong to. What is that though, is home a mug, or a spoon? A picture on a wall, or a book on the shelf? Is it the way I walk, or an attitude I walk with. I don’t understand at all but I do understand this feeling of wanting to grab it with all my strength and take it as far as I can go.
What this recovery has taught me is that anything can be taken in one rainy night, except memories and the feelings that we have. This slightly strange bump on my ankle is only the physical manifestation of what was. The scar left is just a reminder, but what is most salient is the people in my life that have come with me on my journey and… it sucks because just as I have gotten up to walk it feels like I am going to be leaving this all behind. Like I have finally got back on my feet from nasty fall to have to go charging ahead. The race isn’t over but I will be leaving a place I am comfortable, a place that I know, a place with all of you.
To come back you have to leave, and I will be taking some part of everyone I know as I go. So maybe home will be a picture on a wall, or book on the shelf because they remind me of what was and what is waiting on the other side of the sea. Maybe these scars on my body and metal plate in my leg are just there to remind me of who I am and my identity can’t be taken from me. I may be recovering but it doesn’t mean that things will back to the way they were.
I am a sentimentalist at heart but it’s hard to say how I feel. I will miss it all when I go, but even if I had the power to stop time I wouldn’t. The road may be changing but it doesn’t mean the time I had and have haven’t been worth the ride. There may be things I leave undone, or feeling left unexpressed but I want to make sure everyone knows that these times mean so much to me and thank you all for coming along, willingly or unwillingly. This new direction I am starting was always where I wanted to go. A new adventure to be had and like all things it’s worth while it will take a lot of effort. I think I’ll be okay though because you all have helped me along the way.
To end, I have favorite quote from one of my favorite movies Gattaca. It’s corny, sentimental, and truly how I feel.
For someone who was never meant for this world, I must confess I’m suddenly having a hard time leaving it. Of course, they say every atom in our bodies was once part of a star. Maybe I’m not leaving… maybe I’m going home.
There is a great dichotomy in being, both through injury and in life generally. It’s a give and take that calls to control us and creates the unique experience that is paramount to living as people.
It’s hard though to deal with this, just as the act of being industrious, the desire to build and do works in direct opposition to desire to rest and laze about. Both of these things are essential though, working in tandem to create a reality of balance. Take for instance walking , something I have sought to do since the moment I laid flat on my back on one of those hospital gurneys for the first time. Walking is something I have to avoid and yet it something that comes so natural. The want of putting my foot down and placing weight upon it sits there in the back of my mind as I know that walking could break me. It’s so strange, I am told to rest but in resting I want to get out and be free. A lot of my life has been playing out this way causing this division within myself.
It’s just like what I’ve mentioned before with my lack of motivation, that inability to act causes both stress and anxiety about all that has not been done. I want to do, so the desire itself make manifest when I sit down at the keys and act upon that desire, the problem is the distraction that comes along with that feeling. Back and forth, it’s a fight for balance in my life and each day has to establish its own place on the teeter-totter. It’s this passé-ness that I have trouble with, flowing with the wind of emotion leaves no room for accomplishing dreams.
I think that’s why I have also had so much trouble with visions of myself and what I can and should do. It’s hard to recognsize because the only way inside to reflect and to reflect beings about the pain of what the accident and these last several months have been. These forces that ultimately settle in a true love-hate relationship with the man within bemuddles the rigidly established norms that I had fought so hard to impliment in the first place. It’s not a matter of blame but a desire for order. With everything in flux, and it being not of my own volition, I am left to try and establish something with the piece I have left.
I don’t know when I will feel the normalcy again, and I know I can never go back to the way things were but its the balance within that dicotomy that I desire. The unceasing differences from day to day though are beautiful and fantastic leave me with, for lack of a better term, with no leg to stand on.
I just got back from a conference in another city, which in it of itself demarcated the another step in the recovery process both in the ability to move about social space without feeling like a total burden and being once again able to fly with the worry of impending death. It was there though that I came across these two concepts, recollection and reminiscence. Now, I think most of us understand what these words mean but in a psychological context these constructs are different. Recollection is the act of recalling past information. Reminiscence is the when remember of add in a little bit of flavor or emotion the memory. Each one plays a different roll in our lives, but as they do they end up shaping our perspective on the world.
You see, the interesting thing about memory is that’s not complete. It’s like a picture seen through a filter, it’s only a portion of what was because of our limited purview. There are two problems with this, first that as time passes the memory fades from view ultimately becoming smaller and more less detailed as time goes on. The second is that a memory remembered after the first time is just a memory of that memory, corrupting itself upon the context of the reason of remembrance.
This means that the memories of what has happened to me up to this point are slowly fading from view. That each time I hope to recapture those moments will ultimately play into how I see this event and which filters will be used this time to change its color.
This happens though with happen with all the things in my life, that ultimately the times that I’ve had will never remain perfectly pristine in my memory palace regardless of how much I hope to safe guard them. Things will change as things have been changing with this recovery. There was a hope in me that things wouldn’t, at least not too much. Sure I always want to fixed those things that I find inadequate in my life but things were going just fine before all of this.
I can’t stop the change just like I can’t stop the memory, all I can do is choose how I view it. Is my reminiscence going to be about a time that I had fallen down or a time that I got back up? Will these part of me that felt pain persist in the hereafter when all my injuries have gone away and all I feel is the ache in my heart for a time long past?
It’s in reminiscence that my world has changed as the color of my memory is taking on a different tone and hue. I am not scared of the scenes that plague me because they too are fading slowly. What I fear is what will happen with these memories when I am all done. What will be the view of myself and what has happened when recovery is over and I have to live with what happened? I don’t know, but I will find out.
We all change, we all grow, and life has to adapt with it, no matter how much we want things to stay the same. Recovery sucks, but maybe tomorrow I will remember it sucking just a little less.
I’ve mulled over what exactly I’ve been wanting to talk about in this temporary series about my injury. Going back and forth about the unique struggles that present themselves so causually after an accident. I ask myself, what is that I am looking to get out of this, what sort of insight can I absorb from sitting down and writing for a while about an aspect of my life. There are many thing I am sure will go left unsaid, and in a couple weeks time as I start physical therapy and get back up on my feet the content will shift from the sole focus of recovery to the life after whatever that may be. Until then I want to try to crystalize this experience as much as possible to add to an understanding for those have never been, and hopefully never will be, in a situation like this and to once again catalog a major moment in my life.
But where do we go from there, this log of experiences ultimately will fade into memory like all the others to the moments thankfully ultimately resting in the back of my mind only to become an anecdote that may arise at meetings and parties. The expereience has changed how I see things but has left me the ability to heal.
I don’t know what will happen in the future with all of this. How much of the trauma will set in? What will it be like when I decide to walk, run, play, and climb again? What will it be like when it gets cold and I feel the chill of steel pressing up against my warm skin? These at the moment are just unknown experiences that I will have to endure when they arise. Even if I try distill these memories into tangible form something will ultimately be lost in translating from the physicality to prose.
There are things I want to say but I don’t know how. At least not in a cohesive way and my mind works to try and understand everything that is going on I lose little bits of it every day in the process. I also don’t want to add to the suffering to I have already caused by making people see my suffering. Maybe I am too prideful to give up that independence so I suffer sometimes in silence. Taking a moment and playing it off as joke make it at least seem more manageable. As I think I had mentioned before the thing that hurts me most is the suffering of others because there is nothing I can do about it except keep faith and help whenever I can.
But I should be more honest with these feelings, with these experiences that I am having because who knows whom it may help in the future. So here is a little honesty. Sometime when I close my eyes I still see it, like flashes of light when you someone turns a lamp in a darkened room. See the different pieces what had happened like a jigsaw puzzle attempting to back together again. Most of the time these flashes are nothing more than randomly accessed memory, easy to pass off. Other times I can feel a pang in my heart as I know that my body still feels the fear of what happened as if it’s slowly etching itself on my bones building the memory into my muscles.
It’s also my automomy, this idea that I treasure so much, that comes into question. How far can I really go now? I can’t even drive, but even if I did have a car and good right foot what would it be like when I get behind that wheel again. I’m starting to feel that hesitation, this unconscionable fear that may plague me for years to come. That’s not even the half of it. I can’t even walk on my own two feet, always needing some sort of tool to assist me in something I did as naturally as breathing. Blocks feel like miles as the distance and unevenness of the pavement become the enemies of motion. When it comes time I will be able to walk again but it will feel like starting over especially with my how my muscles have slowly faded away.
It’s all just so new, and yet it’s getting tiring to deal with. It’s a marathon not a sprint, not that I could do either, but there is just so much too it.
I think what I want to leave is this. There is so much to being human, and when we break from this routine things get a little weird. We learn so much about the world and about ourselves that sometimes we can get overloaded. I’ll try and be more honest, and work harder than I did before. There is no going to the past and fixing things, it’s about adapting to the reality which we live. It will be over soon, and then we can begin again.
“I’m terrible at resting” is what I say when people ask me why I’m out and about even when I’m injured. That’s only partially true. It’s more out of fear that I can’t stay hold up in my room taking it easy, waiting for my body to heal. It’s the most dangerous place for me, because of allure, the temptation of letting go too much. It’s as if I’m a recovering comfort addict, someone who has fallen into the warm arms of a pillow that refuses to let go. One who spent a good portion of his life avoiding his problems by trying to maximize this happiness through things around him. Many long nights trying to find the meaning in life in the stories of the page or the pixels on the screen but never finding the true fulfillment until I left those things behind and decided to face reality once again.
It’s through knowing this and finding unimpeachable bliss in effort that my current situation becomes so dangerous. It’s easy to slip back into that sphere of comfort, blame my injury for the hours the pass before my eyes that see nothing done. To make excuses for the things that at the moment seem too troubling for me. To fall away and allow all I’ve done to turn to sand and dust so it can become a place to rest my weary head.
It’s hard because I know I need to rest. To allow my body to fix itself from the trauma I have caused. But I’m scared by it, scared that all of what I am may fade away with it like the atrophy of my muscles in my now broken leg. Terrified about the challenges to come and my inablity to act as quickly or as easily. It feels as if my hand’s and back can’t hold all which I find important. Like the bruises I bear live beneath the skin and touched my soul causing it to scream out and stop me because it hurts. I never had these problems when I could chase after my dreams but here I am trying to pick up the pieces of life temporarily fractured by the rain, steel, and concrete.
I feel weak again, at the mercy of the whims of time and body. What I want is peace from myself as this comfortable zone drives these negative feelings inside. It’s something that perpetuates itself and commands that the only way free of these feelings is to fold back into the comfort and push reality aside for just long enough for my problems to go away.
This is no way to live a life, or the way I want my life to go. It’s where I am but not where I will be forever. Tomorrow is a new day for a new reality to rise and that’s where I need to be. In the present, struggling against this feeling, against the hard days and the inactivity that overwhelms me, because at the end of the day fight is worth it no matter how long it takes to win.
Though I can’t recommend it, I can say it does produce results! I had been spending 5 mornings of my week at the gym exercising but all I really needed to do is be get into a car accident and become essentially bedridden for a week to lose some unwanted weight. Maybe of the sleep that I have been getting or the lack of food intake but I can at least say for me that looking a little slimmer even with my muscles atrophying as I type wasn’t exactly an unwanted side effect. Now the problem will be when I eventually do get back to the gym how exactly am I suppose to map my progress, my right legs muscle that I had been spending time working on is looking pretty weak so the loss isn’t fat but to counteract that I do have a surgical steel plate in my ankle which might tip the scales against my favor. Regardless to say it’s time to get a bit ridiculous with what has been going on.
You see, almost dying and being in semi-constant pain has some upsides.
First, that once again in my life people are simply impressed that I can get up and stand. Now I know the last time that happened was probably around the time I learn to walk but it still feels good when people are impressed by the simple things. It makes what I do all the more impressive in the long run and I can honestly say that it feels pretty good when people have that astonished face with me doing something I learned to do when I was a toddler.
Second, I have gotten into the habit of sharing my schedule with only some people so that whenever I walk into a room people are always surprised and happy to see me. Now that might not be the best use of my communication skills but it’s nice to know that just showing up can make people happy. Though this was true before, my ever-lingering presence on campus and at work made my existence a little more assured so now me showing up is a nice surprise for those around me. I am sure it will run its course of the next couple of weeks but at least for now it nice to see.
Third, people have stopped complaining around me. Now that is not something I’ve ever said or have done but it’s one of those things when someone is walking around with a peg leg and a cane most people feel less inclined to rant about the guy who was going too slow down the street.
Fourth, now that I am recovering and going long distances is a bit of chore I found that saying I am tired and want to rest get taken a bit more seriously. Though that is not to say that I hadn’t been getting tired in the afternoons like a kindergartener but now people are more accepting when I put my head down and take a small snooze for about 20 minutes throughout the day.
Fifth, I have an epic story to tell as my car accident was a standard car accident. Now, obviously not something to boast about but if you have a good story to tell about how it happened it does make the pain of it actually happening a little less painful.
Sixth, the next six to eight weeks I have a whole new realm of jokes that I previously didn’t get access to because I was more able-bodied. Though I am sure people will tire of it sooner than that I still get a kick of telling people that normally I would drive but with my driving foot in a boot I really have only two speeds, really slow and really fast so putting me behind the wheel might not necessarily be the best idea.
Lastly, now whenever I say inspirational stuff it has a bit more weight to it. Not that I didn’t say these things before but when you’re being told that you have to live your life like there is no tomorrow by a guy who could have died I guess people take that more seriously. Kind of like a near-death experience street cred. But hey, I will take what I can get.
It’s not all bad getting an injury and how much can I really complain when the response of my family and friends is an outpouring of love. Though I might have fractures and broken bones, torn ligaments, a collapsed lung what I have gotten back is the reassurance that I have chosen and been given great people in my life, and could I really ask for much more than that… though pancakes does sound really good right now.