I've been thinking about this day a lot as it crept closer and closer, and now I'm stress-eating maple leaf cream cookies while thinking how to make this post Significant. Today marks ten years since I got hit by an SUV while walking down a sidewalk near Washington Square Park, not long after moving to New York. I fondly refer to it as my Alive Day, since somehow, despite landing on a concrete sidewalk, I rolled out of there alive. And now, ten years later, I feel the need to reflect in a way that's extra-profound. But I can't seem to find the right words, other than the usual, "Thanks, universe!"
Not finding the right words is a theme for me lately. I had high hopes for this day. At the beginning of the year, I decided that I wanted to have a solid first draft of my book ready to send around to... book people by this anniversary. I didn't do that. In fact, I stepped away from working on the draft at all for a good four months. I'm back at it now, but I'm trying to be more patient with myself. I don't think I should be worrying about "book people" while I'm writing; I should just worry about what I want to say. (But also: I probably should figure out who these "book people" are at some point. Are they agents? Publishers? People with normal heads and limbs but bodies made of books? Oooh.)
In returning to my memories of being in the hospital and going through physical therapy, I remember how everything felt so slow then, too. I wanted to DO, but do what? My limbs felt useless while my brain was always restless.
And yet, whenever it was time for me to take another big step in recovery, it often felt impossible. I remember being at Healthsouth rehab (holla!) in Concord, NH, staring at a set of stairs like it was an icy mountainside. I was planning to move out of the rehab center within a week to move back in with my parents, but I had some work to do. My physical therapist had learned that my bedroom at home was upstairs, and even though my parents were willing to surrender their first-floor bedroom to me, she wouldn't hear of it. I would learn to go up and down stairs so I could get to my own room.
I feel terrible that I can't remember my physical therapist's name, because she was the best. I'll blame the fact that I was still on morphine at the time. For the purposes of this post I'll call her Barb II, since was practically a clone of my high school track coach named Barb (hi Barb!).
On this day facing the stairs, I'd recently graduated from a wheelchair to a specially-adapted pair of crutches. In fact, I'd recently fallen down using said crutches. So I looked at Barb II like she was insane. Stairs? For real?? Barb II, totally unfazed, shrugged and said "Yep." She took away my right crutch so I could use that arm to grip the railing, leaving me my left crutch for balance. I clung hard to that railing, even though my right arm wasn't in its best shape.
Already sweating from my lack of core strength, I lifted my right leg onto the step.
And then my left crutch.
And then my left leg.
And then I was like "Holy shit I just walked up a step!" And Barb II was like, "Cool! Do it again."
And I DID. And I did it all the way to the top of the stairs. And then I came back down again!
A month earlier I'd been on bed rest, mostly immobile while waiting for my broken pelvis and skin graft to heal. Four months later, I was back in New York, walking normally with my battered-but-strong legs. Today, I live in a fourth floor walk-up apartment and walk up and down those stairs every day, sometimes even with a bike (and yes, my calves do look amazing, thank you).
Why did I share all this? Well, because I like rambling stories. But also, because I like to remember how far I've come and remember that I have the tools to keep going.
I hope everyone takes time to reflect after getting through something terrible. Sure, not everyone has been hit by a car. But not everyone has been through a natural disaster or a war or abuse either. Hopefully you haven't been through any of those things. But we've all had shitty times that we had to push through when they felt impossible. Maybe you're in a tough time right now, pushing through, and it sucks. But once you get through it, you're going to look back and say "Holy shit, I DID THAT."
I'm hoping that's what this book-writing experience is for me right now. And sure, I don't want to say that writing a book is as difficult as that six months of healing was (although sometimes, emotionally, it comes close). And I really, really don't want to compare writing a book to living through a war or abuse. But your worst thing in this moment—or even the worst thing that's ever happened to you—is still your worst thing. Recognize that your situation could be a lot worse and be grateful, but don't dismiss all the anxiety that your "worst thing" generates. It's a real thing, and it's uncomfortable, but it's going to get better.
I'm going to take this book like those stairs, one step at a time. Whatever you're pushing through, you can do it too. And again, truly: thanks, universe.
And because I can't celebrate Alive Day without the help of Goldfrapp, here you go (and yes, this thumbnail is weirdly jarring after such serious motivational talk, but let's go with it and embrace ridiculousness and dance for three minutes and twelve seconds, because that's also nice way to shake out some anxiety):
Go be alive!