These aren’t the rocks I landed on but they look the same. I come to you in pain. Pain when I breathe, walk, talk, eat, sleep and even when I contemplate being in pain. And, it’s entirely my fault. I put the bike together in anticipation of a ride this coming weekend. Its’ still the work week, so I have a good, solid to-do list staring back at me. Seat installed, front tire bolted on, lights aimed in the right direction. Ready. Set. Go.
Maybe I’ll just take it for a quick spin to make sure all is well. No more than a mile. I coast down the driveway, slowly crawl my way up and out into the neighborhood. Less than a tenth of a mile from the house I notice the bike is making a strange noise, so I look down for one second. What an important second it turns out to be. Looking up I notice a random curb at a random place, in a neighborhood entirely void of curbs. Except for this one, ten-foot section. I look down to see that my front wheel is parallel to the curb, and more importantly, touching the curb itself.
Because I’m turning to the right slightly my body momentum is going left, the exact worst direction. I know immediately I’m going down. It’s just a matter of when and how hard. The impact with the curb flicks the front wheel out to the right. “Just unclip and put your foot down,” my brain says. But my heart knows it’s too late. As I look down wondering what patch of Earth will be my final destination, I see nothing but rock. Not pebbles, mind you, rocks. Perfect, four six, and eight inch rocks. The entire rest of the neighborhood is grass. Nice, soft, spongy grass. But my destination is rock.
When you know you are going down on a bicycle the rule of thumb is “never put your hand down.” This is the quickest way to a broken collar bone. So, what do I do? I put my hand down. The next to hit is my shoulder. I hit HARD. I try to roll as I hit which next connects my left ribcage to the rocky pattern below. As my body flips over backwards after the impact I see that I am still attached to the bike. But I am distracted by the noise emitting from my body. The noise is foreign to me, a strange, primal howl of sorts. I wonder where the noise is coming from. And then I realize, it’s me. It’s all me.
My entire ribcage feels like it tears loose from whatever superstructure is supposed to hold it together. I stand and feel for my collarbone. Collarbone intact. I next move my entire arm and shoulder while waiting for the crunching sound I fear. Nothing. Smooth and solid with no pain whatsoever. I notice my left hand is perfect, no marks at all. “Did I come out unscathed,” I wonder. And then I turn to reach for the bike and a searing pain engulfs my entire torso. The ribs. The damn ribs are not okay.
I slowly glide back to the house to see if I have damaged my beloved cycling bib and jersey. My brother calls and I explain the situation. “Did you record the crash?” he asks.”I would love to see it.” When I disappoint him with my answer he asks, “I wonder if the neighbors have a camera on their driveway?” No such luck. The younger brother a letdown during disaster, but I do love his pluck. I would want to see it too.
Breathing, moving, walking, bending, sleeping and eating are the only times I find myself in pain. My persistent but mild cough from my existing illness now comes with intense and jabbing pain each time I attempt to clear my pipes. And I have no one to blame but me. All these years of pushing pedals and yet I find a way to damage myself at slow speed less than a quarter mile from home. Yes, yes, that’s me. I’m the idiot.
But here is the thing. With pain comes appreciation. Appreciation of how nice pain free life really is. And a reminder that we simply do not have time to waste. Pain free life means focused, driven, and fruitful life, but let’s be honest my digital friends, we are all headed to the pain cave at one time or another. This pain will go but more will eagerly come to take its place. A kidney stone, a fall from a ladder or a fateful step toward your favorite flavor of jellyfish. We all know it’s comiing. When it does, embrace it as best as possible. Feel those searing nerve endings. Talk to them if need be. They are, after all, an essential part of who you are.