Thursday, March 18, 2021

Two Years

Two years ago today a big chunk of my reality changed. 

As my seven readers might know, on March 18, 2019 I was involved in some kind of skiing accident which left me in one hospital for ten days and another hospital for five weeks.  Nope, I don’t have the slightest idea what happened on the mountain. Yep, I got to ride in a helicopter. Nope, I don’t remember the helicopter ride. Yep, I’d like to go for another flight in a helicopter someday, but without the trauma. 


The effects of that trauma still remain. They’ve diminished over the past two years, but my mobility is still limited. 


I count myself ridiculously lucky to be able to walk. And I wish it was easier to walk without limping. And as much as I dislike running, I wish I could. 


I love that I can go up and down stairs. And I wish that I didn’t have to focus on every single step I take going up and down. But I still take the stairs instead of the escalator most of the time.


I feel like being able to work out in a gym setting like I used to is life-giving. And I lament having lost capacity across all exercise categories. Still, I’m gonna do what I’ve been doing in the gym for the past eight years, which is simply working on getting fitter tomorrow than I am today. 


Maybe more than all the other physical realities, I’m really stoked that I can still ride bikes. 


***


But physicality, while it’s really important, is only one small part of reality. Over the past two years, I’ve been able to explore my sense of self within the context of physicality. And I’ve also been able to do the same within the contexts of love in relationship; and family; and community; and vocation. And I’ve come to realize that I win. 


Vocation: The congregation I was serving as pastor surrounded me with so much prayer and care that I was overwhelmed (and that support was both related and unrelated to my injury). And the congregation I started serving as pastor almost one year ago has accepted me without reservation, entirely unrelated to my physical circumstance. Also (and this should be obvious), people of all different physical abilities can be pastors. 


Community: In addition to the folks who are connected to the congregations where I’ve been a pastor, there are lots of other people who stepped up and surrounded me and my family with support and encouragement and help. The fitnessing community, the music community, and the friends community were all invaluable to me for a variety of reasons … mostly just helping to keep me mentally and emotionally stable. 


Family: My parents, children, step-children, and extended family have all treated me with the right amount of care and concern that was balanced by just enough sarcasm and name-calling that I felt as normal as possible over these two years. 


Love in Relationship: I don’t know where I would be right now if I didn’t get to be part of an amazing relationship based in mutual love and respect. I’ve thought about it, and I’m entirely certain that I would be much worse off if Nicole and I weren’t together through what feels like a circus of continually
confusing chaos (much of which has almost nothing to do with any Spinal Cord Injury). Even more, it is really joyful and life-giving to be able to journey through the adventure that is life with someone who I enjoy adventuring with.


***


It’s been two years as of today since a big chunk of my reality changed. Sure, I have physical limitations as a result of the incident two years ago. And sure, sometimes those physical limitations are frustrating. But that incident is only one part of my story, and certainly not the most important part. Having broken myself while skiing two years ago doesn’t define me. I am defined to a much greater degree by embracing and being embraced by those who love me. 


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Some Thoughts on the Currently-In-Process Transition of Political Power in USAmerica

 I did not vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. While I found him to be impersonal and disconnected from an average person’s reality, those judgements had nothing to do with my vote. Rather, I looked at his policy proposals and decided that my theology and political perspective differed too much from those proposals. 


I did vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. While I found her to be impersonal and disconnected from an average person’s reality, those judgements had nothing to do with my vote. Instead, I looked at her policy proposals and decided that they were more in line with my own theology and political perspective than not. 


I was disappointed that the candidate I voted for didn’t win the election in 2016, just like I’ve been disappointed every time the candidate I voted for didn’t win an election. I was disappointed by the vitriol and hatred spewed by those who were disappointed in the results of the 2008 election. I was disappointed by the vitriol and hatred demonstrated by those who were saddened by the results of the 2012 election. I was embarrassed by the vitriol and hatred embodied by those who were dissatisfied by the results of the 2016 election. 


For the past four years I’ve prayed regularly for President Trump. He was our president, elected legally by a minority of voters and a majority of the electoral college. I wished the best for him, because as our nation is successful our President is successful.


And yesterday our next president was inaugurated. I will pray regularly for President Biden because he is our president, elected legally by a majority of voters and a majority of the electoral college. I wish the best for him, because as our nation is successful then he will be successful.


The election didn’t go the way I hoped in 2016. But I’ve never once said that President Trump was not my president. I’m a citizen of the United States of America; Mr. Trump was properly elected as our President; therefore, he was my president. I disagreed with many of the decisions he made and many of the policy positions he promoted. He was the president of the nation of which I’m a citizen, so he was my president. 


One of the things I’ve heard yelled on social media is something like, “If you don’t like our president, you should move to a different country.” I disagree. Part of the founding and foundation of our nation is that we have the freedom to disagree with the ruling authorities. Healthy disagreements are essential to the health and vitality of our nation and our democratic republican government.


Those who say something like, “He’s not my president” probably should pick up and move to a different country, what they’re disagreeing with is our system of electing officials and not with a singular president’s policy decisions. I thought that over the past four years, and I think that now. 


$0.02

Monday, January 18, 2021

I Fell Down the Stairs

I fell down the stairs the other day. It was only a couple stairs, at the bottom of the staircase. It was a slow fall, and I knew it was happening. I never felt like I was in danger of injury from that fall. 

But still, I fell. And I couldn’t stop myself. It was scary, because in that moment I had no control over whether I would stop falling.


I tripped and fell again a few days later. I was stepping over something. First, I stepped over with the leg that doesn’t work like it should any more. No problem. Then the other leg followed. But since I wasn’t concentrating enough, that toe caught on the obstacle. 


And so I fell. And I couldn’t stop myself. And this time I ripped my jeans. 


Two years ago, I wouldn’t have fallen either time. When I slipped on the stairs, I would have just landed on the next step down and regained my balance. A few days later, I would have just hopped on the one leg when the other toe got caught. 


But the muscles don’t work right any more. Actually, that’s not quite right. It feels more like the electricity doesn’t work right any more - like there’s a short in my neurological system, and the signal isn’t getting to where it ought to be quickly enough. 


A few people have asked if I’m fully recovered from my injury. My common response is that I’ll never be fully recovered - that this injury will be affecting me for the rest of my life. Those words have been coming out of my mouth, but I keep on not believing them. Somewhere in my own being, I seem to expect that I’ll keep on getting better, and that one day I’ll be fully recovered. 


And then I fall down the stairs. Or I trip on the ground. Or I have use my hand to lift my leg into the car. Or I fall down while I’m putting my pants on. Or I trip and fall going up the stairs (which isn’t as potentially catastrophic as falling down the stairs). 


So, here’s my conundrum. I could accept my current physical capabilities as they are - and admittedly, I’m much more physically capable than I might have been after the injury I experienced. Or instead, I could keep trying to increase my recovery. But that means I’ll have to keep on trying to push my current limits and risk falling down the stairs again.


Friday, September 18, 2020

Eighteen Months: Thoughts on Recovery So Far

It’s been 18 months. Eighteen months ago today I drove up the mountain to spend the morning skiing. They tell me that I ended up riding down from the mountain in a helicopter that headed straight to the hospital emergency room.

It didn’t take too long for the doctors to figure out that I’d broken a few vertebrae. It took a couple weeks for the doctors to start talking with any sort of certainty about the extent of my spinal cord injury. Even then they were reluctant to say much definitively or to make prognoses.

Within a couple weeks, I was told that the extent of my injury officially put me in the category “quadriplegic” … which confused me (and I’ll never use that term to describe myself) because even by then I’d recovered probably 80% of the movement in my one hand, and the other never did seem to be affected.

About the same time I received this information, I was also told what a general timeline for recovery might be. In short what I heard was that the first six months were critical – that I should work as diligently as possible in those first six months in order to realize the greatest gains.

What I heard next was that while gains might not be quite so obvious, that I might expect to continue seeing improvement for as long as 18 months.

I’m thankful that the past eighteen months have proven that prediction right. Early on, the gains were obvious to me and to everyone who watched me move around. Recently, though, the improvements are much more subtle – probably not noticeable by most people, but enough for me to know that I move a little better today than I did a month ago.

One thing I don’t remember anyone saying when they talked about a recovery timeline was that I should expect after eighteen months. Will my recovery and improvements stagnate? Now that it’s been eighteen months, should I not expect any more improvements?  

It’s been eighteen months. I feel lucky that I’ve regained as much mobility as I have. I’m grateful that I can move around mostly normally.

It’s been eighteen months, and I get frustrated that I can’t move around as smoothly as I used to could. Just this morning, I almost yelled and threw things when I stubbed my toe on the (smooth, even, predictable) floor, because that leg doesn’t work right any more.

It’s been eighteen months. I don’t know the future, so there’s no way for me to know today whether I’ll continue making mobility improvements tomorrow; or next month; or next year; or five years from now. But I’ll keep working at it, doing my best to be more capable every day than I was the day before.

$ 0.02

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.