Monday, June 1, 2020

Social Media: What I Want

I like looking at Facebook to see silly photos of my friends and my friends’ kids, to find out about food trucks coming to my neighborhood, and to remember people I don’t see very often.

I like looking at Instagram to see beautiful photos of beautiful places where people I may or may not know go on beautiful adventures.

I like looking at Twitter to hear different perspectives about political topics, and other random subjects. 

I like watching YouTube to find recipes for cooking delicious things on the grill, and to watch music performances. 

That’s what I want from social media. Right now, though, every one of the outlets I pay attention to is riddled with posts related to the murder of George Floyd. A similar thing happened with countless other black people who’ve been killed by our society. Social Media erupted. And rightly so. People have a right to be angry, and to express their anger and frustration through the means by which we communicate these days. 

I want my social media feeds to go back to the way they were. And also I’m glad that they’re being disrupted right now. Because from where I sit (white, male, middle-aged, cis-gender, employed, part of a healthy family, and with access to resources … the very definition of a position of great privilege in this society), I need to be disrupted. We all need to be disrupted right now. Because there’s pain and brokenness and suffering and struggle and turmoil and sorrow in our society today … and if we’re not disturbed about that, all we’ll do is perpetuate the problem. 

I want my social media feed to go back to the way I like it. But I hope that doesn’t happen right away. Because if things go back to the way they were before right away, then nothing will have changed. And we need change in our world, in our society, in our nation. 

I really do still want to see silly photos of children, and beautiful photos of outdoor adventure spaces. And at the same time, I want to see our world become more equitable. It's not gonna be easy, though.

The way I see it, this is what my role should be. 1) Shut up, listen to people who have been marginalized by society for centuries, and believe what they say. 2) Call out other white people when they perpetuate racism and hatred, because 400 years of our national history have taught us that white people don't listen to anyone who's not also white. 

It’s not gonna be easy. And it’ll be worth it. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

I wish: a brief lament

I realized a couple weeks ago that I’ve kind of gotten used to most of the lasting effects of my spinal cord injury. If I’m distracted by other things, I just move. But if I think about the ways I move differently now, I notice deficiencies.

Most of the time when I notice deficiencies, I either focus my conscious brain on engaging the muscles that aren’t working right; or I think to myself something like, “I need to exercise that muscle more intentionally.”

The view from as high as we got
The other day, though, I got frustrated. See, what happened is that we were out hiking. We had just started down when we were passed by this guy who had a child in his backpack. He was moving quickly, and with confidence. He didn’t look rushed. He moved really smoothly and fluidly as he flew by us.

I thought to myself (as I focused almost all my attention on foot placement and muscle engagement), “I used to move like that. I wish I could still move like that.”

When I think about how much more extensive my injury could have been, I recognize that I’m ridiculously lucky to be as mobile as I am. And still every so often I lament what I’ve lost.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

It's Been a Year

It’s been a year.

It was a year ago today that I broke myself.

What was supposed to be a short day of skiing has turned into a year (and counting) of diminished physical capacity.

It turned into a year of trying to understand that I don’t move physically through the world the way I used to - the way I wish I did.

It turned into a year of coming to recognize who the people are who love me - and recognizing that they love me because of who I am, not what I can do.

It was a year ago that I broke myself.

It’s been a year that I’ve spent experiencing healing.

It’s been a good year.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Six Months

Six months.

That’s how long it’s been that I’ve been figuring out how to deal with a spinal cord injury. And six months feels like a milestone, for a few different reasons.

Here’s why. Last Sunday I went back to work. There didn’t ever seem to be a question about whether I’d be able to work again - it was mostly that we didn’t know when. The doctors say, and the research seems to point to, the reality is that the first six months after a spinal cord injury are the most important for recovery. So we decided a long time ago that I’d focus almost exclusively on recovery for the first six months. Then, a few weeks ago, it started to feel like I’d recovered enough mentally and physically to be able to pay attention to both physical recovery and starting to work again.

Here’s why. We’ve gotten mostly moved into our new house. No, the boxes aren’t all unpacked. No, the garage and basement storage spaces aren’t quite organized the way they ought to be. No, we don’t have every piece of furniture exactly where it should be. Yes, we just recently got some of the art hung on the walls. Over the month or so since we moved in, this space has started feeling more and more like home.

Here’s why. Last Saturday I participated in an organized bike ride event again. It was a fundraiser for the hospital where I did the first five weeks of post-ICU rehab. During the ride, another group of cyclists passed the group I was with. I snuck out of our group and held on the back of the other group for a few minutes. Without knowing it, that group helped me feel more like myself.

Here’s why. More than all the rest. I’ve been ridiculously lucky to have been surrounded by a community of people who picked me up and carried me when I was most broken.

The community of people, some of whom I don’t have any idea who they are, stepped up by giving money to help us be able to pay bills while I was on disability leave from work.

The community at the gym where I used to work out stepped up by carrying heavy things. And when I was ready, buying me beer and whiskey. And by recognizing the struggle someone who likes to be active might have with reduced mobility.

The community at the church where I’m the pastor stepped up by praying. Continually. Relentlessly. And by sending handmade cards and posters and get-well thoughts that I could use to decorate my hospital room and my heart.

And most significantly for me, my family carried me when I was broken. The children in my life treated me like normal, but a little more gently. My parents showed up at the hospital, and at the other hospital, and in our tiny apartment, and as chauffeur, and in continual messages of support (including my dad always waving at me, but with just one finger).

More than anyone else, my wife isn’t giving up on me. She promised me in the ICU that we were gonna get figure this all out together, no matter what. And we’re figuring it out.

I’ve talked a lot in the past about the importance of community, and about the truth that it’s ok for people who are in need to rely on those who love them. I said that from a purely theoretical and theological perspective. In the past six months I’ve experienced that truth - the truth that it’s better to live this life as part of a community than to be isolated.


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

I Place My Foot Carefully: A Reflection on Moving

“I place my foot carefully
            out of necessity
      so that my progress is
      unhindered by a misstep
            a stumble

using my hands well
      is critical
      they’re instrumental
            in maintaining good balance
      and help facilitate
            forward progress

it takes concentration
      my body knows
      when my mind wanders
      then brings all of me back
            to focus
            on the next step

when it all works together
      I get where I’m going
            and revel in
      success achieved”

was written about climbing Class 3 ridges in Colorado’s high country; also applies to recent excursions along city sidewalks.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Lamenting and Rejoicing: Some Thoughts on Goals

“What are your goals for fitness if you join this gym?” the coach/owner asked me when I applied for membership.

“I want to be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want to” was my reply. (It was only later on that I added “I want to be able to get off the toilet when I’m 90” to the list of goals.)

For a while I felt like I’d accomplished that goal (the first one – I’m not 90 yet). I wasn’t the fittest; I wasn’t the fastest; I wasn’t the strongest. But there was a good chunk of time when I felt like there wasn’t much I wouldn’t have been able to get up and go to at a moment’s notice.

That all changed about four months ago. Today there are a bunch of chairs that I can’t stand up from without hoisting myself with my arms. Today I can’t walk without limping; I can’t run; and if I’m on the floor, standing up takes a lot of effort and concentration (and isn’t always a successful endeavour on the first attempt).

My current physical condition feels like a problem. Now, I’ve been known to say that the solution to every problem is to do more squats. Not strong enough? Do more squats. Bad day at work? More squats. Failing classes in school? More squats. Just got dumped by your boyfriend or girlfriend? Squats.

Today, though, I can’t do a single squat.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot that I am able to do that I couldn’t do before. Three months ago I spent most of my time in a wheelchair. I rejoice in the physical capabilities I’ve recovered.

At the same time, though, one of the things that gets me more than most of the rest is that I used to be able to participate in the activities; now I find myself a bystander, watching from here what’s happening over there.

My fitness goals are still the same as before. And so, I lament what I haven’t recovered. Yet.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Continuing Recovery

I came away from my skiing accident broken. The knee that was injured (ACL and MCL) is part of the same leg that has been most significantly affected by the Spinal Cord Injury. It really didn’t work at all for at least a couple days. And when I started to be able to use it again, regaining muscular control was complicated by the fact that the ligaments weren’t doing what they were supposed to.

In addition to that leg hardly working at all, I’d lost most of my cardiovascular fitness while I was laying in the ICU for ten days – so much so that when I started PT, five minutes of balancing on my knees wore me out enough that I needed a breather. And while I made huge gains during PT, I spent most of the next five weeks in a wheelchair.

So when the inpatient portion of post-accident rehab was done, I had virtually no stamina. When I was discharged and able to be home again, every couple hours I’d have to stop what I was doing so I could lay down for a while. And when I wasn’t resting, I really wasn’t doing very much of anything except being more upright than horizontal.

It felt like a blow to my identity to need rest after a couple hours of simply existing in the world. I’ve never been the fittest guy around, but for years I’ve been able to spend a whole day going nonstop without really taking a break. Further, there are numerous times when I’ve strung together seven days like that in a row.

The physical recovery I longed for was that the mostly-broken leg would work again, and that I could regain most of the stamina that I’d lost.

Finally, over the past week or so, I’ve felt a beautiful confluence of healing. Our trip to California forced me to not stop for almost the whole day for a few days in a row ... which served to increase my stamina. And just this past week, one of the muscles that hasn’t worked for months finally started engaging again ... which allows my whole body to work more like it’s supposed to.

Add to that the fact that I’ve recently been able to start going on longer bike rides – bike rides on an actual bike, instead of that silly spin bike in the gym. It’s a good thing, because I’m registered for a 50k bike ride in a couple months.

The bike ride is a fundraiser for Craig Hospital. Craig is a specialty hospital which treats spinal cord injury and brain injury patients. I was inpatient there for five weeks, and continue to do Physical Therapy there as an outpatient. The staff there does phenomenal work. I’d encourage you to support Craig by making a contribution through my Pedal 4 Possible fundraising page

I’m not quite ready to take on the course I’ve registered for. Lucky for me I have time to build enough stamina between now and then.