What goes down always comes up roses

THANKS to an interesting Facebook post http://www.dictionaryofobscuresorrows.com/ – relating to emotions people feel but can’t explain – I realised there were a couple among the list of 23 words that went some way to describing the aftermath of my last big fall. No, not the shopping centre slip up of recent days, but the shit-scary bike stack I managed to walk away from in 2006. I put together a descriptive piece about six months after the ordeal, and I‘ve included it below, for your cringe-worthy enjoyment.

I fell off my bike. Aged 37.

It wasn’t just a little bingle, like those giggly stacks you have at Rotto http://www.rottnestisland.com/, it was a nasty, head-over-handlebars-while-speeding-down-a-big-hill style stack that would have appeared painfully spectacular to onlookers.

Perfect fodder for funniest home videos; ugly but hilarious all at the same time, with the rider “no outdoorsy mothers were injured during the filming of this video.”

I can still feel the massive blow to my chin as I ploughed into the concrete path, and that was more than six months ago.

The flashbacks only hit me occasionally now. For a while there everything I thought about doing, driving the car, riding ‘the’ bike, even going for a walk, would end in an eye-scrunching memory of that “bang”. It made me much more paranoid about the possible negative outcomes of doing everyday things, too. I’ve since progressed to riding my bike again, even down that big hill, although I avoid that part of the path if I can. And I am very conscious of never, ever again applying the front brakes without first engaging the rear ones. Doh!

I ended up with a deep gash under my chin that needed six stitches, various superficial facial and limb grazes, two breaks to my left wrist, a broken bone in my right hand and a fracture to my left elbow.

It could have been so much worse – not long after my accident a front-page story on a weekend city paper detailed the story of a cyclist who wound up a quadriplegic after crashing into other bike riders on a Perth cycle path.

For a week I had both arms in plaster. I was unable to drive for six weeks because of the (fluoro pink – so me) fibreglass plaster that remained on my left arm, this initially scared the hell out of me – the loss of control and freedom was claustrophobic. I was unable to work for nearly four months as my wrists strengthened and eventually realigned thanks to lots and lots of physiotherapy (and patience), and as a casual journo, the loss of wages was another hurdle to overcome.

Why did I put my front brake on anyway, I hear you ask? Well, as my two daughters and I coasted down the hill that afternoon, I became aware of walkers chatting on the pathway up ahead and called out for the girls to ring their bells.

I also began ringing my bell, then put a hand to my head to stop my hat from blowing off (no, I was very stupidly not wearing a helmet) and swiftly realised I was about to crash into the rear of my seven-year-old. I immediately applied my right hand brake, it seemed instinctive at the time, being right-handed and already using my left hand to keep my hat on.

The rest is family history. I came to a very sudden, crumpled stop. My children stopped when they heard my squeal, which was all I could manage, and the walkers ran over to help. My 12-year-old called my partner on my mobile, and my father arrived, along with the ambulance.

So what did I learn from this experience? Heaps. It challenged my need to always be in control and to constantly do things for myself without asking for help. It made me realise how we coast through life never realising how lucky we really are and what dangers potentially lurk in even the most innocuous activities. It made me realise I had to slow down and stop trying to do a million things at once.

Being a working and studying mother of two busy children meant it was commonplace to do several things at once to capitalise on my time – when I look back now, my frenetic lifestyle was always going to come crashing down around my well-organised ears. I am just so thankful I didn’t have a car accident, or hurt other people during the “crash I had to have”. Even my bike escaped unscathed. Now, when I feel my life speeding up, I take steps to slow down and yes, the roses do smell great.

PS: The obscure words that related but not necessarily resonated were Lachesism: The desire to be struck by disaster – to survive a plane crash, or to lose everything in a fire. Are you kidding!!!; and, Exulansis: The tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it. Except that they do…everyone’s taken the bark off or smashed their ego when gravity separates bike and rider.

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