The Bitter Aftertaste
If you ask Dave what has been one of the driving forces in my recovery, he'd probably say something relating to how bitter I am. Actually, if you ask most anyone who knows me well, they'd probably tell you the same. Sure, being bitter can have negative connotations, but at the same time, it can really motivate you.
Things were really starting to look up for me on so many fronts before the accident - financially things were getting better and more stable, job interviews (!!) in the aerospace industry, an upcoming vacation that involved skiing and buying a sweet Dynafit setup, several cross-country hiking trips planned for the summer, and I could go on and on. Well, it's obvious where all of that stands right now. Trying to make ends meet, with all of my bionic back and other bills, while not working is entertaining to say the very least. You should really ask Dave how many time I've been in tears on his shoulder over this whole mess. Needless to say, we didn't go on a ski vacation and we don't have sweet Dynafit setups yet. We haven't done any cross-country hiking trips either, although I hear EVO calling my name very soon. If you really want to know about bitter, ask me what it's like to get a call from a NASA contractor (that I've interviewed with before) about a specific position opening a few weeks after getting out of the hospital. I was months from being cleared to work and drive at that point. Just imagine how I felt. Just try imagining...
It's been very hard to deal with feeling like everything was ripped away from you in a split second. The past six months, I've been trying to stay strong and fight through it, but it's been painfully difficult. Some days the only thing I can do is smile and pretend like everything is okay. In reality, I'm being torn apart inside. All I can really do these days is hope that it will all work out. I mean, I'm still alive for a reason, right?!
The way I've come to see things over the past several months is that there are three different outcomes that could have happened - 1) I could be dead, 2) I could be paralyzed and bitter or 3) I could be walking again and bitter. I am thankful, and I'm sure many others are too, that Option 1 didn't happen. It's been pointed out to me several times that people have fallen from shorter distances and died. I fell from 15+ feet, landed on "concrete" snow/ice, and SURVIVED. That still blows my mind. I don't like option 2 either. My surgeon reminded me at the three month follow-up that they weren't sure I'd walk again before surgery. My doctor and physical therapist remind me that I am very lucky I had such an awesome surgeon. It's absolutely crazy to think about how close I was to being paralyzed and having to live with that for the rest of my life. Talk about a reason to be bitter. Struggling through learning how to use my legs again was a small price to pay for being able to walk again. Option 3 is what I was dealt and I'm learning to adapt to it. Even on the most frustrating and upsetting days, I am still alive AND I can walk again. Mind. Blown.
Making Bitterness Taste Good
I remember telling Dave that I was bitter as we looked out at the Great Western Divide the weekend that I made it to the top of Moro Rock unassisted. He asked if I was just bitter. I quickly responded, "I am so fucking bitter." He could tell, as I was staring at the mountains I love, that it was killing my soul not to be exploring them. It was that moment, staring at the Great Western Divide, that I was going to use the bitterness I was feeling as a driving force to get me back in the Sierra. I wanted to get my soul back.
As we hiked to Piute Pass on Saturday, I thought a lot about the progress I've made and just life in general. I remember when I first started hiking again, I was devastated about not making the goal I set of getting to Shadow Lake on my second hike since breaking my back. A month ago, when we didn't make my goal of Lamarck Col (due to weather and Dave's AMS symptoms), I was okay with it. I've learned over the past several months, that life is all about adapting. It hasn't always been easy to do, but I'm learning and evolving as days go by. As we were heading up the final slope to Piute Pass, I was shedding tears of joy. This was the first time we'd hiked to the west side of the Sierra Crest since I became bionic. As I sat in Humphreys Basin and soaked in the views, I still couldn't believe I was there. I did my longest hike to date on Saturday, 12 miles, and remembered how grateful I was to be hiking again.
|Soaking in the view of Mt Humphreys|
I'm not going to rehash a lot of what I've said in other posts about the strides I've made and how hard I've been fighting to get back to doing what I love. If you look at the progress I've made over the past few months, making it to the Great Western Divide actually has the potential to happen this year. It's still a stretch, but I think this is a lesson that nothing is impossible, not matter how impossible it seems or what obstacles get in your way.
The Big Picture
There have been several lessons that I have learned over the past several months. Some big, some small. I've learned what really matters and what does not. I've learned that I can't please everyone. There are going to be those that aren't thrilled with the fact that I'm hiking again, or that I'm "graduating" PT already. I'm going to have my critics and I'm just going to have to deal with it. I have to do what's best for me... which is getting back to the Sierra.
Another lesson that I've learned, that really hit home late last week, is to live life to the fullest every single day and never take anything for granted. It could all change in a split second. I learned that the hard way in February. You never know what nature will throw at you, especially in the mountains, so cherish every second that you have and live every day like it's your last. Do what you love and are passionate about. That's what really matters.