It’s been a pretty terrible week, you won’t often hear me whining publically but the last few days have seen such a perfect storm of awful luck and unpardonable actions that I feel pretty justified in having a good old moan. I think the important thing in situations like the one I’ve currently got myself in is to acknowledge the bad things which have happened and try to look at how you can learn from them and move on, there’s no point wallowing in your own misery but equally simply ignoring things is neither sensible nor sustainable.
Last Saturday, I got up, spread nutella on toast and made coffee in my Vietnamese coffee maker. I was pretty excited about getting in 90 miles and meeting a group before dropping in atvelohangar for more coffee and a catch up with Laurel and Gordon. I never made it to Velohangar, or to the group ride. Before I’d even ridden an hour someone drove their car into me, knocked me unconscious, broke my back and left me on the road. Fortunately I didn’t know much about it as I was busy in the little world inside my head which I disappeared to. The ambulance crew tell me we talked on the ride to the hospital and the Trauma doc says we conversed in French (he was quebecois) but I don’t recall any of it.
I’d planned to spend the evening with lots of my friends at Conrad’s birthday drinking good beer, eating burgers and then driving tpgether to Sunday’s ladera GP. Instead I spent it on my own. Injecting morphine, eating sugar free pudding (cos I’ve got diabetes) and falling asleep face first in my “dinner” thanks to my first experiment with ambien.
I’m lucky to have wonderful friends, within hours of my check in Behren’s had arrived with speculoos (medicinal of course), Jesse had bought me insulin (so the nurses could stop dosing me based only on my HEIGHT), Conrad offered to cancel his party and come and get me, Brennan bought me brainteasers and deodorant, Nate came directly from his graduation still wearing his mortar board and Elaine and Shaun picked me up and tried not to laugh at the fact that, thanks to me being admitted in shredded spandex I was discharged 36 hours later in what amounted to a corset and a robe.
I’m lucky to have so many friends who are so willing to help. I’ve received beer, coffee, cookies and carne asada as well as lifts around and kind words from more people than I can list. I was looking forward to going to share some of the beer and eat some of the cookies at the velodrome on Tuesday night. It’s the gathering place for the cycling community and I’ve sat on that infield in lycra, in plaster and on crutches hundreds of times andwether I’m racing or breaking myself I always feel happy and comfortable and safe, surrounded by good beer, good friends and 333.3 m of ad pavement.
My little comfort bubble shattered on Tuesday, hanging on the rail before the scratch race I exchanged tips with a friend. Myassanine tactical advice amounted to “get to the finish before the other guys, don’t fall over”. She quipped that I sounded like I’d done this before and I joked about being a Sunday morning cyclist. The race took off and I went to rest my back, I opened a beer with my shoe and wasn’t even looking at the track when I heard the PA system call out for someone who was first aid trained, I ran down the track (don’t tell my ortho) and tried my best to help. What happened in the next few hours isn’t for sharing, or for going over in my mind again, so I won’t. Suffice to say my pathetic advice was the last Jackie ever received.
Just as I fell down and got back up again I was once again down, as low as I can remember being. I came back from the hospital at 1am and couldn’t sleep. I sat on a swing in the park by my house and cried for a friend, for a person who could leave me on the road presuming I was dead, for the man in the hospital with me coming cold turkey off narcotics, for my family, and for the sake of crying.
The crying did me good, I’ve lost more fellow bike racers than I care to think about this year. None of them as close physically or emotionally as last week. Jackie wasn’t my best friend by any means but her energy and enthusiasm for the sport reminded me of my own in my first few seaons. She also liked pink stuff, not something I have ever been averse to. I’ve had time to think now, about how I feel about the loss, about how I feel about bike racing and bike riding. I still love riding my bike, I’ve been off it for 4 days and I’m already yearning for the summer evening rides where I cut my teeth as a junior and for the thrill of bumping shoulders in a fast corner. But I’ve been thinking about life as well. Of the two of us, myself and Jackie, I got hit by a car, shattered my helmet and left for dead, she had a minor crash at the track. I should be the one who didn’t survive and somehow, I did.
As I wrote a few months ago when I lost friends in two separate incidents in a week, I don’t go by the “live as if you’ll die tomorrow” idea, you should live as if you’re living today. I wouldn’t change my life if I found out I was going tomorrow, every day I’m happy to go to sleep and can’t wait to wake up, even if I wake up and put on a back brace over the flayed skin on my back. I don’t think we go anywhere after we die, the only way you ever live forever is by the deeds you leave behind. I don’t know how long it’ll be before the crash I can’t walk away from or whatever else it is that bumps me off the plank but in the meantime I want to do as much good, have as much fun and touch as many people as I can. Putting things off until later has never been my style anyway and I’m very happy with my life. I’d hate to have been in the back of that Ambulance thinking of all the things I had planned to do. Sure there’s lots I still want to get done but I’m also very happy with what I’m doing right now.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote an entry called “do what you love and love what you do” and I keep coming back to that. I love educating people, I love working with people living with diabetes, I love racing my bike, I love sharing it all through writing and I love the chances I get to see the world from so many different perspectives. I’m exceptionally lucky to have so many surrogate families and such strong friends all around the world. If you take anything from reading this (and thank you for bothering) It’s that every day we’re alive we create our own heaven, don’t wait to do things or expect any reward in extra time, do the good you’ve always wanted to do now and make the world around you a little more special each day. Then you can go out with a smile, whenever they call your number.