If you’ve ever been injured, you’ve probably shared the following thought:
I had no idea how much I actually needed and used that [toe/pinky/rib/tendon] until it hurt!
It’s a fascinating and wonderful testament to the efficiency of the human body. No part is not essential, yet the loss of function of any of those parts (well, almost any) can be managed by the body’s miraculous ability to compensate and to heal.
About three weeks ago at US Pro Crit National Championships, I took a tumble off the bike. As crashes go, it was a weird one. I flipped over the handlebar and landed curled on my side. I had broken my pelvis, though I wouldn’t know that for certain until much later, after x-rays in the ER. Laying there on the pavement, all I knew was something was very, very wrong.
I tried to keep my cool on the outside, despite panic and fear having hijacked my insides.
Just how bad IS this?
And then, out of that abyss of emotional chaos, a single thought crystallized:
Whatever it is, my body already knows and is already healing it.
It would be another eight hours before I would get the official diagnosis, but from that moment of realization, peace replaced fear. As EMTs and hospital staff moved me from pavement to stretcher to gurney to hospital bed, the cells at the fracture site initiated a complex cascade of signaling that would clot blood around the injury and lay down a network of tissue across the fracture. I did not need to know what a fibroblast was, or even that such a thing existed, for those little cells to get to work, healing me.
It is — literally — awesome.
Thank heavens my body is smarter than me and knows what it is doing, because when injured, I have no idea what to do with myself. If you’ve ever been injured, you’ve probably also shared the realization that healing the physical injury is much easier than healing the emotional fallout.
That part is hard.
Aside from the bummer reality that I am injured, I have much for which to be grateful: this is temporary, I did not need surgery, the prognosis for this type of fracture is excellent, I’ve had access to great healthcare, and I have unbelievable support from family, friends, coaches, team and doctors. But it still sucks. Even if temporary, the losses of mobility, of form, of independence demand a lonely kind of grieving.
A very wise, very wonderful friend reminded me: you have to reset your starting point. From now on, you’re comparing where you are to where you were on that pavement, not to anything before then.
Setting my zero point to that moment, I see no loss, only gains and little miracles: from scared and broken on the ground to wheelchair to crutches to one crutch to the thrill of taking unassisted steps. I see my body mobilizing to heal through its own wisdom. I see my heart a little bit broken by the setback, but healed with gratitude for the overwhelm of love and support.
Objectively, none of this is terribly impressive. But I’m not aiming to impress. Just progress. And where I am now is worlds away from my zero point, from scared, broken, unable to move. Compared to that, every step is a celebration. And why not? Why not remove the unnecessary hardship of comparing myself to where I was before the injury? Why not let my heart be glad for small triumphs?
The human body is awesome. I just need to get out of its way and let it heal. And so it is with the spirit. By resetting my zero point, I can get out of my own way, because amazingly, my spirit knows how to heal too.