Breathe Through It

Sometimes things just don’t go how you planned.

Filed under: writing

I began the year planning to write more on this website, to bike more than ever (was aiming for 10,000 miles in 2018), and to find an amazing new career opportunity by February.

Welp, in February I broke my first bone. Or rather, bones. In several different ways. A car turned left in front of me while I was riding my bike, cutting me off, causing me to crash, and resulting in a nasty fracture on my second and third metacarpal bones in my left hand (thankfully, I’m right handed). The crash could’ve been much worse in so many ways, but it was still a jarring experience and it certainly put a wrench in my plans for the beginning of the year.

It hasn’t been super fun. But in many ways, I’m also glad it happened. Here’s a few thoughts and learnings from the experience so far.

1. Perspective

I played it very safe growing up. I was the band geek and the video game nerd, not the one climbing trees or skateboarding. Until now, I’d never broken a bone. The only surgery I’d ever had was getting my wisdom teeth out in high school and LASIK a couple years back. This was a whole new ballgame.

For the first couple weeks, I was deeply frustrated by the injury. I couldn’t tie my shoes. I could barely play with my dog. And I certainly couldn’t ride my bike outside. It was difficult and painful to do laundry, check the mail, and go get coffee. And it meant using a computer—and typing anything beyond text messages on my phone—was pretty much out of the question.

My fitness stalled, my job search paused, and my travel plans had to shift (which is especially frustrating when the love of your life lives on the other side of the country). My life went from “what do I need to do today” to “what can I do today, given I only have one hand?” Talk about perspective.

2. Breathing Through It

There are countless reasons I’m thankful for my girlfriend, but I’m especially grateful for the wisdom she brings to my daily life. On one particularly frustrating day, when she could tell I was in a mood about my injury, she put me in my place.

“I can tell you’re in a mood,” she said. “I know it’s frustrating. But just breathe through it.”

That may be some of the best advice I’ve ever received.

In the days and weeks that followed, her guidance has really changed how I see the experience. Sure, it’s been full of anxiety, pain, and setbacks—but I’ve come to realize this is just another great learning experience in my life. It’s an experience where I get to better understand the relationship between my body and mind; where I stop taking for granted the tools we’re born with; and one where I fully appreciate the wonders of modern medicine, kind practitioners, and quiet, meditative thought.

3. Curiosity

The injury has also made me more curious than ever about healthcare in America—from how insurance works to how prescription medications impact the body and mind.

Since the doctors prescribed Hydrocodone for my pain, I decided to read a book on the opioid epidemic. Because I was off the bike for a while, I started researching other ways to work out at home, even buying some weights. And I’ve googled and experimented with a myriad of ways to complete tasks one-handed, from tying ties and shoelaces to driving and folding laundry.

The other day, I came across a passage in “Pivot” by Jenny Blake that seemed to describe a lot of my recent thinking perfectly. In the book, she explains how it can be easy to get caught mentally “spinning”—generally applying to career moves, but just as easily to any other anxiety or indecision:

At this point, there are two courses of action to take—or a combination of both:

  1. Get quiet: Relax, meditate, tune in to your intuition. If there is no clarity, sit with the discomfort and have faith that the right next action will arise. Surrender to the uncertainty. Trust that things will work out, and look for learning in the meantime.
  2. Get curious: See the situation like a scientist. Look for experiments to run. Gather more data. Ask different, more refined questions. Observe your thoughts over a period of time.

Little did I realize, thanks to the perspective I’ve gained, my girlfriend’s wisdom, and my own boredom and curiosity… I’ve been doing a little bit of both to get through my recovery. And it works.

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