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One month ago I was hit by a car while riding my bike, which unfortunately is all too common here in Washington, DC. I walked away with a few minor scratches and bruises, and one badly busted wrist. Considering some of the horror stories I’ve heard since my accident I’m grateful to have escaped without more bodily damage.
Did you know that according to The Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Amendment Act of 2014 (bill and legislative history) bicyclists, pedestrians, and wheelchair users are exempt from the doctrine of contributory negligence? This basically means that if a cyclist was at fault to any degree, or if the insurer or a police officer believes the cyclist was at fault, the cyclist will not be able to recover compensation for injuries suffered in the crash. This is true even if the cyclist was only minimally at fault (i.e. they didn't have their lights on, or some such thing) and all of the injuries were suffered by the cyclist. Back in January, DC Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3) introduced a bill to improve access to compensation for crash victims, which has yet to pass. I’m truly one of the lucky ones.
As it turns out, with this collision I officially entered a growing club which prior to March 26th I knew nothing about–the Cyclist Struck by Car Club. Catchy ain’t it? Fortunately, once you’re in it’s a lifetime membership. No annual renewal fee please! Once you’ve been hit, others open up to you about their stories too. One guy, my Uber driver one rainy morning on my way to teach bootcamp, told me he only realized he’d been hit when he woke up in the hospital the next day. A hit-and-run drunk driver sent him sailing over his bike and he landed face down on pavement. Lights out.
When I got hit I was mad. I instantly knew my wrist was broken badly–a wrist shouldn’t bend that way no matter how flexible you are! The second string of words out my mouth (after a few profanities which I’ll spare you from) was, “I’m a yoga teacher, my body’s my livelihood.” And then it sunk in, I’m a yoga teacher, my body’s my livelihood.
Over the course of the next few days the reality hit me like a slow rising wave: surgery, a titanium plate, 9 screws and a pin, physical therapy, two months until I could run again, three months until I could ride again, four months until I could attempt a handstand again, and the list goes on. That first week post-surgery was rough with a capital R. My glass was more than half empty and I was putting kleenex out of business. As I broke down, there was a little voice inside my head that kept whispering words from one of my favorite Rumi poems:
“Very little grows on jagged rock. Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are.”
Thanks to that persistent, nagging optimism that’s buried deep inside my soul and the INCREDIBLE kindness, love, and support of my family and friends I started to bloom again before I knew it. As the light came back on and my outlook brightened, I started to see so much goodness in this unforeseen life hiccup. Here are five of many lessons, small and large, I’ve learned from the first few weeks of my healing process…
The Injured Yogi’s 5 Accidental Life Lessons:
1. Control is overrated and leaving the house without making the bed is not the end of the world. Anyone who knows me knows I like to make my bed just so each and every day. It involves tightly tucked sheets, a crisp and smooth comforter, 9 (yes, 9) pillows, and a throw blanket delicately draped over the foot of the bed. Bed made = I’m on top of my game, aka I’m in control. Much to my initial chagrin, this ritual is impossible with one hand–certainly not to my typical standards. After about a week (when the clouds didn’t fall from the sky), I realized it’s kind of nice to let a hanging sheet slide, or even leave my bed unmade all day. I feel a bit like a rebel, liberated even! For me, it’s the ultimate act of letting go and it feels so good.
2. Self-care should not be taken for granted–and nothing’s better than a blow out. Who knew you needed two hands to blow dry your own hair, cut your nails, shave your armpits, or tie your shoes? I certainly never thought about these seemingly ordinary things being such a gift prior to this accident. I now relish the self-care I can provide for myself and accept with enthusiasm and gratitude when friends offer to go above and beyond to pamper me a little. I am forever indebted to my friend Jeanine who gave me daily blow-outs while she took care of me the week after surgery (love you boo!). It can be hard to say yes to all the help people offer, but one of the greatest gifts you can give to those who care about you is to let them take care of you joyfully–and to pay it forward whenever and however you can.
3. It’s kind of fun finding new ways to ground yourself–and it’s okay to cry when you can’t run or ride. Yoga, running, and riding my bike were what I used to use to keep me grounded. As it turns out, these are all off limits while a bad break heals. At first I thought I’d go nuts, but it’s been fun rediscovering my love for long walks like today’s through Rock Creek and around the Lincoln Memorial; exploring a new bus line–DC public transport is pretty phenomenal y’all; and camping out in a coffee shop for hours on end with a book or blog post. Of course I miss moving my body–I’ve cried several times at the mere sight of others out and about exercising on a sunny day–but that’s okay. I’ve given myself whole-hearted permission to be sad and as a result I’ve got more space in my heart to embrace these new ways to ground myself. Life’s too short to wallow in what we can’t do. Take joy in what you can!
4. It’s the cracks that make you interesting when you put yourself back together. I don’t yet know what my life is going to look like once I fully recover from this injury. Who knows? I may never do a handstand or burpee again. What I do know is that I’ve already gained a profound appreciation for the genius and adaptability of the human body and a deep respect for anyone rocking a permanent disability who won’t let it slow them down. We’ve all got cracks, some more visible than others, but it’s how we learn from, integrate, and spin them that make us who we are. Life gets a whole lot easier when you view your cracks as what makes you beautiful, not broken.
5. Watches are overrated and timelines are stressful. I’m a rightie but I’ve always worn my watch on my left wrist. When my wrist broke, with it went my ability and habit to wear a watch. I basically slept for the first 10 days following the incident as my body and heart healed from the deepest damage. Upon awakening, I had all but forgotten that I owned a watch. As someone who struggles with anticipatory anxiety, I feel kind of silly for just now realizing how much more at ease I am when I’m not constantly looking at my watch, counting down the minutes until I have to be somewhere. I still glance at my phone or a wall clock when I’ve got to be somewhere for a business meeting or need to know how much longer until my students get their savasana, but it’s limited and only when truly necessary. It may seem small but for me it’s huge. It allowed me to be fully present and completely enjoy an 8+ mile walk with my friend on this gorgeous spring afternoon. No rushing. No monkey mind. No worries. Glorious.
To help make DC a safer place for bikers, please consider becoming a member of WABA. If you've been involved in a crash or witnessed biker harassment, please report it! If you'd like to stay in the know, sign up for updates on the Washington Area Bicyclist Association's (WABA) "Fairness for Crash Victims Campaign."