Archive for April, 2014

I’ve always thought things to be a bit trite when the conversation turns to the weather. I am, however, discounting the fact that here in Colorado, the weather can be a very dynamic subject indeed. To refer to the weather here as “trite,” especially this time of year when it doesn’t seem as if winter is done yet could be fatal. I loosely think of this as the “Donner Effect.” It could mean the difference between getting somewhere safely and getting stuck in mountain snow several feet deep and changing the way you look at food forever. There, despite your better judgment, you may nonetheless find yourself hungrily eyeballing people around you and wondering how they might taste on a bed of lettuce with a little salsa verde spread on top…

Even the dogs in the backseat would start to feel a little fear as their hackles mysteriously begin to rise despite the absence of a cat, or another girl dog. Then, they realize you’ve been looking at them in the rearview mirror and, intuitive creatures that they are, can just tell you are thinking “Hmm, that old gal over there looks like she’d taste pretty leathery, but that young pup’ll do in a pinch…”

Anyway, drama aside, any skier or snowboarder can tell you that some of the best snow often falls this time of year, or at least they’d like to think so, given the need to justify the high cost of season lift passes-which is a drama in itself. But that’s up in the high country.

Here in the low country-the Denver Metro, that is-snowfalls this time of year typically mean muddy shoes and wet socks (or a muddy shoe and a wet sock, for those missing a foot or more off one leg), and an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet of earthworms for any red breasted robin. All they have to do is roll out of the nest, down the tree, and onto the street, where they can happily hop around from puddle to puddle, suckin’ ’em up like so many al dente spaghetti noodles. “A bottle of red, a bottle of white, it all depends upon your appetite…”
Kidding aside, my neighbors and I woke up two mornings ago to a nice, white blanket of snow which, though it looked nice, we all knew would turn to slush in only about fifteen minutes. And though it was great for the grass and great for the birds-terrible for the earthworms, though, in a Darwin Awards sort of way-it was likely to leave an indelible mark upon linoleum kitchens and carpeted living rooms alike throughout the neighborhood.

You’ve heard of house proud? Well, how about truck proud? In this neighborhood, the men are very proud of their “four-by’s,” to a point where I sometimes believe they’d sooner take off their muddy boots and put pink, fluffy slippers on instead before risking getting the interior dirty on sloppy days like yesterday. Mud belongs on the outside, don’tcha know?

But ask their wives, and I bet they’ll tell you the same thing: These are the same guys that won’t think twice about wearing those same muddy boots into the house. But, if you think about it, it makes sense, as no man wants his wife or kids to see him wearing pink fuzzy slippers around the house. In the truck it’s okay, though, ’cause only the dog will see him there and he ain’t talkin’ anyway. It’s enough to make me wonder what, if anything, the neighborhood women who drive trucks might put on their feet on muddy days. Heck, life’s confusing enough as it is; it makes me glad we drive a brown Subaru wagon (but not glad enough to put down my street address, just in case any of the neighbors are reading…).
See? Talking about the weather isn’t always bad, especially when it’s me doing the talking. I’ve hardly mentioned the weather at all, and even when I did, I really didn’t. So, in case you haven’t had enough yet, all I really meant to say was that yesterday, after it warmed up, I drove Sophie down to the nearby bushes she loves to run around in. Just as I thought, mosquitoes had been busy breeding-as if they were confident malaria had no known medical remedy and that causing another outbreak would be a matter of community pride.

As I’d expected, many of the newborn mosquitoes, a.k.a. six-hour-olds, clung to the windows, daring me to come out so they could suck a little blood and take it back to feed their two-day-old parents. And, if there was enough left over and the old sods were still alive, their elderly three-day-old grandparents would get some, too.

This in mind, I hit the gas pedal and, at around 15 mph, even the heartiest of the bugs blew off the windows. The windshield wiper took care of the rest in a cold-hearted, uncaring, Darwin Awards kind of way, but this time for mosquitoes. Then I rolled down the windows so Sophie could stick her nose out and feel the wind rushing between her ears and up her little doggie nostrils too.

I was a little hesitant to do it, even though I know how much she loves it, because every now and then a rogue breeze finds its way up her nose and causes her to sneeze. It usually creates a simultaneous whiplash effect for her, which usually abruptly and violently ends with a sharp “thunk” on the car door window frame as well as an ejection of a generous portion of doggy-snot. It’s the sort of thing that could draw applause from even the most stoic of cats, though it typically only causes a grimace of empathic pain to cross my face because, let’s face it, cats are smart enough to not stick their heads out of moving car door windows and, whenever possible, avoid being in moving cars at all.

So off we went, riding along with the car windows down, and Sophie’s head sticking out of one window. I could hear the gentle, scrunching sound of the gravel underneath the car tires. Then, to my amazement, I had a fleeting sensation of sitting in the bedroom, first thing in the morning! “What’s happening,” I wonder, “this has to be a dream!”

Actually, I wasn’t dreaming at all. In fact, I was completely lucid. What fooled me, however, was that the local frogs were also in their beginning throes of breeding season, gettin’ down and dirty makin’ tadpoles. It was the sound of that racket that took me back to the bedroom, where my multi–adjustable white noise machine had been making that same sound since Christmas. Ha! I had grown so used to hearing the machine version of The Amphibian Dating Game that I didn’t recognize it in nature! Well, there you have it, the reason for the seasons, at least as far as I can tell.

And, if you are as confused by these reasons as I am-and I bet you could be if you really tried-then you can understand why I chose communications as my college curriculum and not biology. What’s more, just as I began this posting by stating my belief that talking about the weather is among the lowest, least creative forms of conversation, I haven’t really said anything about the weather at all. That said, if I could suddenly combine this with the odd skill of pointing at things that aren’t really there in a TV studio-but are plainly visible to viewers at home-I guess I have the right stuff to be a TV weatherman! Think Brick What’s-His-Name from the movie Anchorman, and you’ll know what I mean. Now, where did I leave my slippers?

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I’m a firm believer that there are no coincidences, and that everything happens for a reason. But this doesn’t mean that when something noteworthy occurs, we recognize it for what it is, or even understand the reason for it at the time. For over nineteen months since my accident occurred, for example, I had been wondering why. In fact, a long list of Why questions arose in my mind, for which I never had an answer. Why did this accident occur at all? Why did I survive it? Why is everything so painful? How long will it be this way? Why, why, why? And on and on it went. Clearly, I knew deep down there must be a reason for what was happening, but I never seemed to have a reason why. I became very, very frustrated, to a point where I was ready to give up many times. It never seemed to make any sense, experiencing these repercussions from my accident-the pain, arrogant doctors, and a general inability to do things I took for granted only a short while before, etc. To my credit, at least I kept asking and wondering Why, as if I knew there was a reason but didn’t yet know what it was.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve begun to pick up some solid reasons for what was happening. Understanding them has accelerated my healing-and minimized my most painful symptoms-just by being present, even though I don’t yet know why they’re there. And maybe I never will. But this didn’t happen by accident. For several months, there has been a succession of positive people introduced into my life, too many to mention right now, really. Their names will likely pop up here and there in this blog over time, but what’s important is that they are there for me now. In fact, we are all there for each other, and therein lies our strength.
At first, I didn’t think anything of it; one or two friendly people coming along here and there didn’t seem all that unusual. Then three or four more, then five or six more. Suddenly, I realized there were now several new people in my life, positive and powerful people who, though I didn’t know it then, would be the foundation upon which I could build a new life. As I said about how I now see my post-accident life in an earlier posting, “my adventure can now really begin.” And it’s true.
When it comes to uncovering truths about yourself that have been there all along yet you have failed to see them, it’s hard to describe sudden awareness of any of those truths as a revelation. After all, they were there all the time, but they just weren’t visible. But, as a close friend mentioned just the other day “when the student is ready, the teachers will appear.” For me, the most prominent and powerfully positive person in my life is my wife, Kami. She has long been a conduit of my energy-both good and bad, (often the latter, I must admit)-and it’s no coincidence that she introduced to me-or should I say re-introduced to me-a notion that had long been established in my mind, back in my mid-20s. That is, considering the limiting and toxic role shame has played in my life.
Growing up, I was immersed in shame. Mom and Dad had their share of shame issues, and these spread like wildfire through our house, to a point where it was our norm, our reality. Shame had such a remarkable influence and played such a powerful role that it, or more precisely the fear of even more shame, defined our lives. Though I think we were all too close to see it, the driving force behind all of this shame was Fear. We were always afraid, afraid we couldn’t afford this, or hold onto that, that maybe we weren’t good enough-or deserving enough. There was always a palpable fear of what could happen. Naturally, in the midst of such an environment, true joy and gratitude for what we actually had went unacknowledged and unappreciated. Fear was the dominant, driving energy, cloaked in the insidious disguise of Shame.
What we didn’t know then was that everyone experiences shame, that no one is immune from it. Nor should we be. There are many good reasons for the existence of shame in our world, such as the role it plays in humility (read modesty) that keeps any one of us from believing we are an all-powerful, living deity of sorts. But in our family, what we did not realize was that everyone’s shame-each of us individually- seems to us like the most shameful thing imaginable because it is our shame. But, for now, what I intend to address here is how shame concerns me personally.
Suffice it to say that my parents, both very productive people in their own right, had created a home that largely duplicated the homes in which they’d been raised. I believe they learned, as kids at home, that the conflict that accompanies fear-based living, in this case through shame, was a normal part of every day, family life. And so it was before them, then later for me and my siblings as well, and there is no fault to be found in that. My parents, being the goodhearted, well-intentioned people they are, simply did the best they could with what they knew at the time. Beyond that, their time was highly divided between work, raising a family, running a household, and all those other things that are part of everyday family life.
In this sense, they were probably too busy to see the real root of conflict within our family, even if they knew to look for it. I certainly didn’t, for there were many, many times in which good, and truly positive times existed, enough to keep us from questioning those occasions when life was less than pretty. Eventually, as I approached eighteen, I prepared to move out of the house and into the adult world. I had spent my final and most memorable years there as an awkward, self-conscious teenager. And just as the last song you hear can stick in your head long after it’s over, I similarly replayed many of the same experiences from my childhood, and it left me feeling particularly naked and exposed within my new world.
As I said, our own shame is paramount in our lives, for we are the ones who are most aware of it and therefore, the most vulnerable to it.
But, one evening a few weeks back, Kami made mention of a book by a man named John Bradshaw, who I knew earlier (from my early 20s) as the author of a book called Homecoming. Then, I saw him as just another best-selling author who was heavily promoted on PBS during pledge drives. It made PBS lotsa money, and garnered Bradshaw a considerable amount of attention as well. So, while I may have picked up a thing or two about his book-and even met him briefly as a volunteer answering phones at a local PBS pledge drive-I took little else with me then.
But as I said, there are no coincidences-there is a reason for everything. Kami brought to my attention a more recent bestseller by John Bradshaw, this one entitled Healing the Shame That Binds You. Suddenly, a light went off in my head and I thought, “A-ha! It is shame that has been my nemesis all of these years and that’s what I need to resolve if I am to ever make my life my own. Immediately, I purchased the audio version of the book and digested it hungrily, page by page, and chapter by chapter. Each section, it seemed, contained a parallel to be found with what Bradshaw mentioned and what I had experienced. Sometimes, it seemed as if he described verbatim my experiences.
And even though I said before that it’s hard to consider something that was within you all along a revelation, reading that book was a revelatory experience for me. The answers had been right there, under my nose all along, perfectly positioned in a place where I could not see them. But now that I had, it was truly liberating. I woke up the following morning feeling liberated-I felt so much energy, mostly gratitude and joy for finally coming one step closer to answering the question Why that I had been asking for so long. It seemed there was so much to think about and so much to do about it that I hardly knew where to begin. Nevertheless, I’d never felt more confident that this was possible, and I continue feeling this today.
Within a matter of days, an influx of people and events took place that raised my self-awareness to previously unimaginable levels. In fact, I have recently been so busy with these activities that it wasn’t until just now that I made this observation.
In addition to the influx of positive people that had already been showing up, these new events suddenly brought groups of such people into my life. The first of these to come to mind was the opening night of an eight-week-long program entitled A Course in Miracles. There, I was surrounded by like-minded people in a safe and sacred space. There, we were encouraged to articulate what we believed to be our best personal course of action for surmounting the sometimes overwhelming obstacles and/or toxic attitudes residing within us that served to block our progress.
Enter another “a-ha” thought, and I was off and running, this time in the right direction.
The following weekend, a Hay House conference event-named after its founder, Louise Hay-entitled I Can Do It took place in Denver. There, I experienced two days of immersion and concepts that all served to promote gratitude, joy, and positivity. The focus was upon how these concepts could manifest themselves in our everyday lives in consistent and pervasive ways. Kicking it all off was an engaging and enlightening two-hour presentation by multiple best-selling author Dr. Wayne Dyer. His personality shone through as he made point after point regarding some of the more noteworthy events of his 74+ years of life on this planet. While I’d heard of him, I’d never read any of his forty-three published books, nor heard or saw any of his broadcast interviews or presentations.
However, while standing in line before the show to pick up a few bottles of water, Dr. Dyer strolled past the line and through the crowd, as if a man without a care or worry in the world. Seeing this, a man who is touted as a rock star in the world of self-improvement and healing, strolling through an audience before the show as if it were nothing-made me love him immediately. I mean really, what are the chances we would ever see this happen with pro athletes before a big game, or musicians before a big performance, or even the President of the United States prior to making an address to the nation? In my experience, the chances are nil. Yet this modest man through all his humility, made what was perhaps the most indelible impression upon my mind as to the power of change that one person can bring to this world.
The following day, Dr. Roger Teel, the founding minister of Denver’s nondenominational Mile Hi church-made a thought-provoking presentation of his own, followed by an afternoon presentation by Kate Northrup concerning the psychology of personal finances. Just as important, we were surrounded by friends throughout, not to mention thousands of other like-minded souls who just as easily would have been willing to share their experiences with us as we would with them. It was a wonderful event, filled with possibility and positivity, gratitude and joy, and education and enlightenment.
Being immersed in such an environment, I realized, could not undo a lifetime of immersion in a lesser environment. But it was not meant to. Rather, the primary focus was upon living in the here and now and in anticipating and building a life based not on Fear but in Joy. And while I was something of a sponge there, soaking in many of these details presented to me formally for the first time, my learning curve was very steep and I felt like a kid in a candy store. But, it seemed, most everyone else did, too.
We are all, as I came to realize, a work in progress and life itself is a learning process that continues forever.
For all of the tangible points I encountered during A Course in Miracles and the I Can Do It seminar, the final remarkable event (for this posting, anyways!) in which I participated was a John of God prayer circle two nights ago in Boulder. Sitting in a darkened church meeting room, nearly two dozen of us basked in front of a candlelit altar upon which varying likenesses of ten entities were displayed, among them Archangel Michael, Jesus of Nazareth, Holy Mary, Dom Ignacio, and several others.
Since this event was about faith-as well as the exponential power of prayer among a group-it’s easy to describe. That is, everything that took place was of an ethereal nature that simply must be experienced to be understood. In fact, although I experienced it, it’s safe to say I don’t understand it. But then again, that’s how I define faith anyways, and that’s what this event was all about. All I know is that when I left the meeting, I felt enervated, healed-at least from the pain in my hand, and that’s what I’d been praying for, and that I had several new and positive people that were now part of my life.
Note: John of God is a healer who lives in Brazil, in a location known as The Casa. The basis of his healing is simple, but sometimes difficult to find in our everyday, manic worlds-Love, that is. If you are interested for whatever reason, I highly encourage you to research him online, in writing, or in whatever manner suits you best.
Finally, please always remember that every entry I make in this blog is created with love and gratitude and joy. The Love and the Joy comes from my heart and is directed both from the place inside me where my words gather for eventual presentation to you as well as for the powerful feeling I get from writing. The gratitude I have is for you, the reader, whom I hope will take something positive from what I have written here, even if-maybe especially if-all you take from it is a smile

Even though the subject of this blog is about my recent need to learn to adapt to living with one hand in a two-handed world, it’s still worth mentioning that pain continues to play a major part of my life. Pain management is a daily reality for me, though sometimes, as anyone with a serious injury or illness involving pain can attest, certain days are better than others. The only problem is, of course, that we never know which days will be good and which days will be crummy. But that’s just how it is, and I’ve learned to live with it.

However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned to look on the light side of it either. “A Day Without Pain is Like a Day Without Sunshine,” I’ve often said, mostly with the idea of (believe it or not) cheering up myself a little bit. Before my accident, I was not above self-deprecating humor, and I’m not about to change that now, no matter how it might appear to others who don’t know me. I highly doubt that anyone cares, really (see? I’m doing it again…).

That said, it’s also worth noting that I consider pain to be a separate entity, wholly apart from me, almost like another personality. I believe Pain is all in the mind anyway, where our personalities reside, so to me, it’s an accurate analogy. Even so, my own unique mind-body connection being what it is, I sometimes feel it’d be nice to be able to jump outside of myself and into another body. It wouldn’t even have to be another healthy body really – a body with different pain in different places will do fine if it means I’ll get a respite from the constant pain I’m used to having now. But, of course, just because I wish this could happen doesn’t make it so. If this were the case, I would’ve won the Tour de France several times over, and I’d be a millionaire several times over, too, from having winning lottery tickets. But, alas, that isn’t the case.

So, my survival mechanism for this has been to view pain as something with which I have a special relationship. In a sense, it is a significant other in that it plays a very powerful role in my life; it influences much of what I do, what I think, and how I do things. Pain is something that can’t be reasoned with, though I try to anyway, if for no other reason than I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t. But don’t get me wrong-I have been in much more pain than I am now, and it’s that thought that keeps me going when I might otherwise feel incapacitated from it. Even so, I sometimes still pull away from the world around me because, when I’m hurting, it seems as if everything stinks, nothing is fun at all, and I just want to curl up in a corner somewhere, hope to fall asleep and then, when I wake up, I’ll find it was all just a bad dream that is over now.

Wishful thinking, yes, but at least it keeps my brain active. I recently read somewhere-on a refrigerator magnet, I think-“the voices in my head may not be real, but they come up with some pretty good ideas.” In a very real sense, that’s me; the brain works in very mysterious ways, and those who purport to know how it works-brain surgeons, for example-are full of Bolshevik when they try to convince me, or anyone, that they know what they’re talking about. The brain is, I believe, as much a black art as a science-if not more so-and that anybody who messes with the brain and gets a person to continue working even semi-properly afterwards just got lucky, that’s all. But that’s a subject for another time, and I’ve plenty to talk about when it comes to Western medicine and it’s arrogant belief that it and only it holds the key to everyone’s health…

So, as promised, here is an excellent idea that is directly related to the purpose of this blog, namely, living with one hand in a two-handed world. When it comes to managing pain, distractions play a major role in my strategy. Listening to music, watching movies, watching my diet, reflecting on past successes and transgressions, and looking forward to creating new ones. All of these things and many, many more constitute my daily brain activity. One distraction in particular has been Lumosity, the brain training and development “game” which, if I’m not mistaken, refers to itself as part of a scientific study that calls itself “the human genome project.”

Who knows what that vacuous name could mean, though in my experience such vague descriptions often hide a multitude of sins. I know, because I personally have been responsible for covering up for a wide multitude of sins myself, and I have a very easy to understand first, middle, and last name.

Lumosity is a terrific example of an activity that requires two hands in order to participate. Before my accident, I truly enjoyed the benefits of Lumosity, even though it did take place under the ever-watchful eye of the “human genome project.” Since the mid-1990s, I’ve had a couple of mild, closed-head traumatic brain injuries, a.k.a. TBI’s, and the Lumosity exercises helped create a pleasantly distracting, and sometimes even enjoyable way in which I could quantify the progress of my own brain’s improvement.

The aforementioned brain surgeons might describe a person’s ongoing progress in Lumosity’s “brain games” as akin to “increasing neuronal activity in atrophied areas of the cerebral cortex” or some other similar, lofty-sounding terms. Howeve, it is enough for me to simply say that parts of my brain were simply rusty from lack of use, and once I started using them again, some of that rust rubbed off, and Voila! My brain began working better again.

By that I mean finding the right words to complete a sentence was no longer such a struggle, and also I enjoyed some memory improvement. Mostly this came in the form of remembering little things; where I left my car keys, for example, and whether the underwear in my dresser drawer was clean or not. Never mind the fact that I shouldn’t have been driving a car anyway, especially if I couldn’t tell if my underwear was clean or dirty. And what would dirty underwear be doing in my dresser drawer anyway?

Anyway, one or two of Lumosity’s five daily games almost always required the use of two hands to complete. Well, since I now had but one hand with which to work, I fully expected the folks at Lumosity to be sensitive to this fact and willing to modify my daily strategy accordingly.

But after contacting Lumosity in writing and describing my new circumstances, I never heard back from them. So I tried to hedge my bets by cutting and pasting the same words and forwarding them to as many different places at Lumosity as possible, even to one place that I think was a marketing department. How on earth something called “the human genome project” could have a marketing department I could not figure out. But then again, I was foolish enough to believe that something called “the human genome project” would have enough of a heart to understand my predicament and consider modifying itself for me.

But this was not so. In fact, I believe that just the opposite was true. In fact, I began thinking that maybe the folks at “the human genome project” blamed me for suddenly having an unusable arm and, what’s more, I had an inexplicable unwillingness to heal and, as such, would become personally responsible for ruining their secret “project.” Clearly, I was a threat to them and, even though this all took place months ago, I still find myself hesitant to go outside at night without the dog lest there be a “human genome hit man” lurking in the bushes.

So, as this example demonstrates, even though I can no longer play Lumosity games, it hasn’t kept me from using it as a distraction from my pain. And in the process I can feel good about getting my money’s worth for the service in a way nobody else likely has.

As for my consciously having an unwillingness to heal, I can only say this:

I’ve always been something of a nonconformist-and proud of it, too. But I can’t ever imagine myself saying “I’ll show those people who’s boss – it’s my arm, and I’ll decide whether it hurts or not, or whether I’ll ever use it again or not, etc., not them” and then I’d stick out my tongue and say “nyah-nyah nyah-nyah nyah…”

Mind you, I’m not above doing that, and I’ve done it before, probably even within the past couple of years. And, if I’m not mistaken, there is a picture of me taped to the fridge right now that shows me doing just that, wearing bunny ears fashioned from one of those long, twisty balloons-the kind that circus clowns love to make and give to adults to wear so they aren’t the only ones who look like asses in front of the kids, s.

Anyway, such childish, stick-my-tongue-out retorts to perceived “authority” has been my fallback probably since grade school, largely because I don’t think well on my feet (and I often don’t think well sitting on my rear end, either), and it’s the only thing I could come up with at the time. These days, after having more than my share of unpleasant interactions with pompous, self-important, smarty-pants doctors, I figure that if I am unable to come up with a witty, well-directed comeback to someone who’s talking down to me in the first place, I might as well make them work a little for it and give them a reason to really, really, really talk down to me.

Somehow, in a very twisted way, I take enjoyment from this, which I guess is better than keeping it all bottled up until, like a repeatedly shaken soda can, I explode and make a big, sticky mess everywhere. But hey, they’re doctors, and their job is to make me feel better, and if that’s what it takes to make me feel better, so be it. But all that is in the past now and, though it may sound like fun (it was), I am now more inclined to “act my age” as they say and behave more like the graying, 40-something-year-old man who has as much hair growing out of his ears and his nose as he has left on top of his head. In other words, I do my best to think before opening my mouth so as to not inadvertently say inflammatory things.

To my credit, I recently realized that my own energies were best directed inward, where I needed them to help me heal. Sadly, it’s true that I used to reserve the right to throw a tantrum that would make a two-year-old proud. But as I said a few paragraphs earlier, I have been responsible for covering up a multitude of sins and, though it’s a stretch, I suppose this could be considered one of them, albeit a very mild one at that. But the bottom line remains the same: Distractions in just about any imaginable form are key to my salvation from Pain.

Finally, on a serious note, my evolving behavior and the mindset behind those behaviors have been an undeniable part of my collective experiences that have become part of the recovery process. While I am older and wiser for it, I have crawled through a lot of mud-much of it of my own making-just to get to this point in my recovery. But, as I look with joy to tomorrow, I wonder what new and noble experiences might await me next; I suppose I’ll just have to wait to find out… “nyah-nyah nyah-nyah nyah!”

For a guy who hasn’t been on a bike in over twenty months, I’ve been on a heckuva ride. Ups, downs, and everything in between has been the norm, and is still something I’m not used to-maybe I never will be. All that aside, I am finally reaching a point in my recovery where I can speak freely about this here on this blog, and also have consistent energy with which to make fairly regular postings. Yes, pain has been a mainstay of my life since then. More pain, in fact, than I could ever have imagined, and for longer than I’d ever thought possible. However, that’s how it went, and that sometimes how it still goes. And while I’ve yet to sleep a full night-a chunk of 2-3 hours is a lot for me-I somehow managed to stay on this side of psychotic. Understandably, my energy levels-and my corresponding sanity-has long felt pretty sketchy.

In his book It’s Not about the Bike, Lance Armstrong details his victorious battle with cancer, among other things. When I first read that book 5 or so years ago, I was pretty sure that its title had something to do with the kind of bike he was riding. A pro racer like Armstrong, I figured, could get his hands on pretty much any bike he wanted, no matter it’s cost, or the exotic composites used to make it, or whatever. Therefore, I took the book’s title as implying something along the lines that “Lance is so great it doesn’t matter what bike he is on…”

But now, I understand what the title really means, and it has nothing to do with a bicycle at all. After all, when it comes to life-and-death issues-like cancer, or car accidents, for example-material things like bicycles don’t matter one bit. In fact, no amount of money or pile of material goods matters at all when you’re lying in an ER, drugged up on painkillers with your life completely out of your control and in the hands someone whose face is hidden behind a white mask. Whether you realize it at the time or not-I sure didn’t-there can be nothing quite like that, nothing at all, and no matter who you are, sooner or later you can’t help but realize there’s a lesson to be learned from it. And it’s not a lesson that comes from the pain; rather it’s because of the pain.

In my case, I have learned from this experience both sooner and later, though the lessons I’ve learned have been very different. Early on, my lessons were more physical in nature; I couldn’t believe that within just a few days of my accident, I had been in my best physical condition ever, able to ride for hours on end and to conquer 14,000 foot plus mountain peaks on my bike. Clearly, my definition of “pain” before the crash was very different than afterward, the only similarities being that they both involved a bike and a cuss word at the moment of impact!

But seriously, although I was afraid to let it come to the forefront of my mind at the time, I had an uneasy feeling that I would spend much of the foreseeable future watching all that muscle and aerobic capacity winnow away while my body fought to regain a foothold on my injuries. Eventually, though, my body prevailed, and overcame each injury little by little, and one by one. Now, I am left with one remaining injury-nerve damage to my left arm that renders it unusable. It will take some time, I’m sure, before the final judgment will be made as to whether or not-or how much-I will get back. As the title of Armstrong’s book might’ve read if he were in my shoes, It’s Not About the Arm. But this is the place where my adventure really begins…

For some time, I have been able to actually enjoy my physical predicament by making jokes about it, sometimes unbeknownst to strangers, and sometimes unbeknownst even to me. For example, someone once asked me how I was doing, and I replied “I’m all right…” “Ha, ha, ha, that’s very funny, I get it,” he said. And I said “You know what, I get it too, and it is pretty funny!” Ever since then, silly puns like that (and much, much worse!) have come and gone, offering a little comic relief when I probably would’ve needed it anyways, no matter how many usable arms I had. “Can you give me a hand,” and “I’m feeling left out” are a couple of my other favorites.

But make no mistake-before running out and inflicting terrible pain upon yourself and rendering one of your arms or legs useless, keep in mind that it isn’t the laugh party that I am making it out to be; fun and games, maybe, but laugh party? No way. At least not yet!