Free Solo Walking

Forgive any mistakes in my last post, I wrote it on my iPhone with one hand. Please forgive any mistakes on this post too; though I have a keyboard I’m still operating with one hand in a splint which makes typing interesting. Now, I don’t believe my story is remarkable in and of itself. Many have befallen worse circumstances than I have, many have overcome greater adversity, many are stronger than me, and many have ended up worse off than me. But that’s the thing, there are many. I only claim that my story may be relate-able to many, because many have and many will experience various aspects of what I’m going through. It helps me in my darkest hours to hear from those who’ve tread similar paths; hopefully I can pay that forward and deliver a little good mojo those of you who might need it when the time comes.

The hardest part of training for climbing is not climbing. If you can manage that, then the rest is easy.

The hardest part of recovery is deciding to begin. Just keep telling yourself that. Especially if it’s not true.

Once upon a time in the hospital:
It’s like free-solo walking just to get to the bathroom. I close my eyes and the world spins, so I open them again and wait for the mud in my brain to settle. Eventually the world sobers up and I can see straight. Might as well take stock of my situation. At this point I have one useful arm (the other is in a full cast), no sense of balance, my neck and skull are fractured, and there are nine staples in the back of my head. Days later I would finally be able to reach my skull and my hand would return with tufts of hair and chunks of dried blood. My vision was blurred and my eyes had trouble focusing farther than a few yards away. At this point, I’m still not accustomed to the deafness in my left ear (for that matter, as I’m proofreading, I’m still not accustomed to it). My sensory inputs are diminished, as is my capacity to think. Everything takes effort, but I am aware that all is not well in the land of Oz. I know my faculties are diminished, and I proceed with ever increasing caution. I’m a firm believer that the only safety in this world lies in being able to make good decisions; if that ability is compromised I must be particularly wary. In essence, my world is a ten-foot-eggshell, and just as fragile. Anything farther than about ten feet simply doesn’t exist. I cannot fall. If I were to lose my balance, there would be no chance to brace for impact. My left arm is immobilized in a full cast, and my right arm feels inexplicably weak. It wasn’t until I came off the pain medications that I would realize my right shoulder was injured. I knew that a fall would be utterly catastrophic in this condition.

But I’ll be damned if I’m going to piss in that bottle again.

There! I'm pretty now?
There! I’m pretty now? No, definitely not.

I can sense balance through my fingers. I don’t need my hands to support myself, just to feel which way is up and down… I can work with that! I survey my surroundings; The world spins as I turn my head. It stabilizes as I touch a finger to the bedside railing. There is a chair three feet from my hospital bed. Three feet from that are the beefy bathroom door hinges. Three feet from there is the door handle, and then the railings inside the bathroom.

-I push the button on my bed to raise my back and sit up.
-I swing my legs over the bed and the world spins.
-Tap.
-My finger finds balance on the bed-rail and I lower my feet to the floor. The world doesn’t spin. My plan is working.
-I tap the chair.
-Two steps forward.
-Tap. I steady myself again
-Two steps sideways.
-Stop. Its spinning again.
-I tap the door handle and the world steadies itself.
-I’m in.

I needed no support from my hands; my legs were strong. I just didn’t know how to coordinate them without some sort of alternative sense of balance. Congratulations, I can now wipe my own ass.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

You’re battered, you’re broken, you’re down but not out. What do you do? That depends, what CAN you do? Where do you want to go? Once you know those things, its just a mater of connecting the dots. When you get down to it, that’s a lot like training in a general sense. And life too. If you don’t have a target, you’ll never hit the bullseye. Recovery is not a spectator sport, neither is it a passive activity. You have to reach out and grab it by the horns.

All I'm thinking in this photo is
All I’m thinking in this photo is “Fuckthatrock”

If you know where you are, and where you want to be, connecting the two is just a matter of logic. Google maps does that millions of times a day. Granted, there are obvious conditions which affect connecting two places or two states of being, and I know there are factors that could ruin my goals, but even this is just logic. Google maps won’t find driving directions from Japan to Costa Rica, but if you’re smart you can hop a ride on an airplane. There’s no way to connect those dots with four wheels, but there’s more than one way to get around. There’s more than one way to face your obstacles as well.

I want to send Separate Reality roughly a year from now. I don’t yet know if that’s possible or reasonable, but I have a rough idea of what it’ll take to get there, and I know the effort and rehab it will take to get there will enrich and enable my future regardless of whether I achieve the goal. Especially if I play it safe and avoid pushing anything too soon. To achieve this, I’ll need to train. To train, I’ll need to get back to work. To get to work, I need to drive. To drive, it would be nice to have both hands, and the ability to turn my head. I can’t regain use of my arm and my head while they are immobilized, and they’ll be immobilized until a doctor clears my injuries for movement. I need to see a doctor. That’s something I can do. That is my goal, I have a target. And nothing else matters.

I have broken many things in my body, but not my ability to hope. I still have that. For now.

You won’t always be the strongest or the fastest, but you can be the toughest. (internet wisdom)

Note: I have seen the doctor now. Many doctors, actually. But more on that later once I’ve collected my thoughts. For now I’ll just keep telling myself that the hardest part of recovery is deciding to begin, and try not to prove myself wrong in the meantime.

Another Note: I’ve got my left hand back, after a fashion. It’s too bad off for surgery, but at least I can use it. It might remain useful for five days, or the rest of my life, there’s no way to tell. It’s been bad for at least five years now, and I’ve been managing because I was unaware, so at least there’s some measure of hope. Its a ticking timebomb with an unknown fuse, but it’s lasted this long; There’s no telling what I can accomplish before it goes off, so I might as well get it while I can. The good news is I can drive now. There’s nothing to be done for my wrist, so they let me have it back.

P.P.P.S: I’ve been recovering faster than I can comprehend. These posts will be constantly lagging a few weeks behind my current condition because it seems it takes me longer to collect my thoughts than it does to heal. At present I’m working on rehabilitating my injuries through a little bit of easy movement, and signing all the documents it requires to go back to work. Don’t fear for me too much, yet. You’ve got to wait and see how the story ends, and it’s already progressed farther than I could cover in this post.

After the accident, I climbed the kiddie wall. I'd never quite thought of doing that before. Now I climb 5.0, but at least I'm moving.
One month after the accident, I climbed the kiddie wall. I’d never quite thought of doing that before, but it seemed like a worthy goal. Now I can say I climb 5.0, but at least I’m moving. Not something I’ll be doing often, but a pitch a week might be a good way to measure my progress.