Ski season is upon us. And Considering my “education” on the slopes last season, I feel it could be helpful to share my story. The moral of which is clear: NOW is the time to get your bindings checked.
So there I am, Hot pink ski pants with all the attitude that goes with them. I am wearing my helmet with the pigtails sticking straight out from the goggle strap. So cool. So Suzy Chapstick. So Hannah Kearney.
My music is blasting and I am going so fast. Faster than usual. I am showing off. I am like “hey, I look good” and “boy, I can ski” I am soaring and it feels incredible. What a rush. I feel on the edge. Adrenaline junkie that I am, it feels like home.
Then as I near the bottom of the trail, it happens. Never in 40 years of loving this sport do I consider this possibility. An accident. How am I so foolish, so naïve to believe I am immune. Invincible.
The edge of my left ski catches. If only there is more snow. If only I had not come out here today. If only, if only, if only…
The fall is pure blinding pain from start to finish. The fall is endless. My knee is on fire. My bindings should release. Why are they not releasing? When? When? When? I keep skidding out of control and somewhere in all of that helplessness, pride slides away.
I am motionless at last. I cry for the left ski to come off. It is all I can focus on. I need the knee to stop being torn. It’s been through enough. I can’t stand up. I know that without even trying.
A few minutes later I am flying again. Only this time I am facing the sky. How are they keeping this thing from touching the ground? This is surprisingly comfortable and cozy. I think to myself that I would like to do this again under different circumstances. Wait, no I don’t. I never want this ever again. What is wrong with me?
I move to a bed. I cannot remember the transition from the sleigh, but it must happen because here I am. I feel guilty that so many people have to give their attention to me. I don’t want to be the center of attention. I usually want it, but not now. Not this way, in this place.
I’m shivering in the clinic. I can’t stop. The nurse brings me blankets. They are warm. They don’t help. Then the hot tea comes. But I can’t stop shaking so the tea is a bad idea. The X-ray procedure is hard because of the shivering. But somehow I will my body to be still just long enough for them to get a good picture.
The x-ray is over and now I’m back in the bed. The intern has finally said something solid and sensible. “The shivering is actually shock.” My body is in shock.
The shaking eventually does subside, sometime during the delivering of the news. It is news that I process as expected, with denial and disbelief.
He pulls alongside the bed and claims: “Your ACL is torn.” So naturally I think: “These people are complete fools and have no idea what they are talking about. I am fine. I will walk in a second,”
“Just give me a sec will you? I’m sure I can do this.” I want to say. Instead I just glare from my robot eyes. My spirit is still on up on that trail. I’m now at their mercy. I feel my will slipping out the back door.
I am back with the intern and it goes something like: “Can you stand on it?” “No!!!” The pain screams the answer for me. “Non weight bearing.” she mutters. Then “Here are your crutches.” And “Let me show you how to use them.” And “Here is a staircase.” And “Let me show you how to go up and down.” “Seriously????” goes my brain. And “This is how you strap your leg into this brace.” “What????” goes my heart.
My prison sentence had begun.
Then the real doozy: “Here is your seasonal pass refund.” Says the intern. I stare at this woman, “what is she, 20? what can she possibly know???” I am positive she is insane.
Well I show her! Within 48 hours, I climb (OK, it’s more of a
hop-hobble) into a tiny propeller plane and land in a remote part of Costa Rica coastline. Injury or not, the Christmas family vacation must go on.
But no, I don’t surf as planned, however I do zip-line through the jungle. Kids and husband think I’m insane. I sort of do too. My new reality of immobility has me upside down, literally.
I even spearfish. I catch one on the second try and feel pretty cool. That is until our fishing guides have to haul me back up into the boat as if I were the fish.
In water I find freedom. It is a temporary reprieve from the enemy that land has become. Those crutches are my only weapon in this new war I didn’t ask for.
So I cry on the bathroom floor. It is an outdoor shower with iguanas roaming thru it. I wail and wallow and feel sorry for myself. I can’t walk without the crutches. I despise the brace. My arms are so tired of transporting me. It’s not their job to do this and they are rebelling.
I’m not going to let this get me down. I will survive. I will. I will.
So what do I do? I pimp out those crutches in hot pink fur and storm around the jungle until my palms callus and bleed. I bleed my way through Costa Rica.
Returning home, surgeries ensue and my “showing them all” attitude continues to wane. Survival mode kicks into high gear.
I’m couch bound post surgery. Claustrophobia hits. It feels like paralysis, or at least how I imagine paralysis would feel. I now have a glimpse into that world and I don’t like what I see. Not one little bit. I’m defeated and forced to sit still. This is not me! Who am I anymore?
But wait. I should be grateful at this point for the fact that my spine and my head are not damaged from the fall. This thought mitigates my pity party, but only mildly. Only briefly.
The coffin feeling is still present.
I am maxed out on painkillers, but as I try to stand up to make it to the bathroom the pain feels like a knife entering and twisting into my shinbone. The pain silences me and I begin to fall….
and as I fall my 10th grade English class comes flooding back to me full force: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning ——
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
And there I am….15 again, afraid, existential….
and benched….hot pink and all.