This saying can apply to good things happening... or bad. Unfortunately, it's lately been the latter.
I returned to Seattle from Hawaii early on a Monday morning. By Monday night, I was exhausted from the previous night of flying and eager to flop into bed. But before I could do any flopping, I got a phone call from my brother, who never calls me.
I knew it had to be bad.
My dad had collapsed at work that day and had gone to the hospital in an ambulance. The reason? Excruciating, uncontrollable, crippling back spasms. Hospital staff had given him pain medication, but could do nothing else, and so released him into the care of my brother. My brother drove him home, and now needed me — the jobless child — to stay with him.
For the rest of the week, I helped my dad in and out of bed, cringing as he seized up in pain and feeling crushed because I could do absolutely nothing to help ease it. I bought groceries and collected his mail. I cooked his meals and kept careful track of his schedule of painkillers.
Progress was slow, but after a few days I could see that my dad was in less pain, or had at least learned how to avoid it. My brother agreed to take over his care for the weekend, and I looked forward to spending time with Aaron and relaxing.
But before I could do any relaxing, I got a phone call from Aaron, who never calls me.
I knew it had to be bad.
Aaron had crashed his mountain bike that Saturday morning while swerving to avoid a group of kids on the trail. He had flown over the handlebars and landed on his left shoulder, hard.
He's had enough injuries in his life to know that this one was no joke. He knew he'd probably need surgery to repair his shoulder. And he knew it would force him to cancel his upcoming cycling tour of Iceland.
We both cried a little on the phone — it broke my heart to think of how much that trip meant to him — and I steeled myself to spend time consoling another man in terrible pain.
Getting hurt really sucks. There's the physical pain, and the emotional pain — the pain that makes you feel so unlike yourself. It makes you forget what it felt like to be healthy. It makes it hard to imagine what it'll feel like again someday. It makes you long for all the things you used to be able to do, and angry to think of the limited number of things you now can.
It can be some dark shit.
I don't presume to know what it feels like to be permanently injured, or even to have any injury worse than an ankle sprain. I've only had a small glimpse into those feelings I've described, and I am thankful every day for that.
I've learned, though, that these things are important to get through the kinds of bad times I've described:
- PEOPLE. You need someone to lean on, literally and figuratively — someone to help you put on a clean shirt and to tell you that everything is going to be OK. I can be a bit of a loner, but I've recently realized how important it is to surround yourself with good, caring people who'll really be there for you when you need it most.
- PERSEVERANCE. "If you're going through hell, keep going." Winston Churchill said it best.
- PERSPECTIVE. Most of the time, it could be worse. You are already well aware of all the shitty aspects of your situation. What are you thankful for?
- POSITIVE OUTLOOK. Most of the time, it will get better. It was so easy to dwell on all the things I couldn't do with my sprained ankle, but it really lifted me up to think about eventually getting back to walking, running and racing. I celebrated each bit of progress — getting rid of my crutches, being able to stand equally on both feet, etc. — with ridiculous fanfare. Try to look ahead to the good stuff. Plan a killer comeback.
Here's the good news: My dad is doing much better. He's back to semi-normal life again and no longer needs one of us kids to help out, but is still working with doctors to determine the root cause of the pain.
Aaron had shoulder surgery on Monday and is recovering well.
I'm still helping this one put on shirts and remember to take his painkillers, but I'm a pro by now. : )
He should be touring beautiful Iceland right now while doing the one thing he loves most — cycling — and he is obviously still crushed about missing the trip.
A bright spot, however, is that Aaron is a top-three finalist in a contest he entered long before he injured his shoulder. He stands to win a trip to the UK for a professional bike fitting in a high-tech wind tunnel if he can get the most Facebook "likes" on his inspiring story about... well... overcoming a devastating injury.
I made a little video about his story to help out.
For Aaron from Devon Mills on Vimeo.
My small request is this: If his story touches you, and you can spare a few seconds to hit "like" on his contest entry here (edited to remove link; contest is now closed), please do so.
I can tell you it'd mean the world to him to win.
I can also tell you that I promised I'd help him win, and I might have even set a goal of getting 1,000 "likes" on his entry. Whoa. (Only "likes" clicked through the end of Sunday, August 19, will count.)
That may be impossible, but I'll never know if I don't try.
It all comes down to the most important thing one hopes to have when he's down and out.