The secret to happiness is low expectations.
For someone who just a few months ago, wouldn't have to think twice about doing a 200 mile bike ride with 20,000 feet of climbing and 70% dirt roads, it's been a real adjustment to find myself seriously challenged by a walk around the block. But this is my current reality. On September 8, I was out for a short bike ride, when I was hit from behind by a truck. The resulting spine fracture was stabilized with surgery. My latest x-rays now feature lots of rods, plates and screws in various parts of my body. I am quite thankful to the deputies and paramedics who were first on the scene, as well as the surgeon that I am still able to wiggle my toes and attempt that walk around the block. Every time my pain level spikes to 10, I do remind myself that I'm lucky that I can even feel the pain.
I don't know whether it's a result of massive data-mining of internet-fueled instant news and social media, or if we really are experiencing an epidemic of distracted, inattentive, careless, narcissistic driving; but my daily newsfeed (twitter, facebook and more traditional sources of news) has been filled with stories of way too many cyclists being run down and severely injured or killed in easily preventable circumstances - i.e. if folks would just drive as if it matters. If they would just realize that they are supposed to share the road with others, whether it is motor vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, etc; if they would think about how lethal their 2 plus ton car can be in any collision; if they cared about their fellow human beings enough to slow down, pay attention and share the road; there might be fewer of these devastating stories.
I may not be physically paralyzed, but I am becoming so paralyzed by fear that I may not be able to get back on my bike when the physical impediments to do so are gone. As someone who defines herself as a cyclist first, this is beyond life-altering.
In the past few weeks, I have heard from too many friends, who have gone through a similar life-altering experience. Too many people have reached out to me both publicly and privately with tragically familiar tales. But I will lean on them for help to overcome my fear. I will look to them for advice on how to come back, while knowing so personally and intimately the risks and consequences.
Cycling has always been my outlet for stress, but it's not just an outlet. I define myself as cyclist first and foremost, and if I can't reclaim that state of being, this distracted driver who ran me down on September 8 will have robbed me of my identity.