Post recovery time.
This write up loosely follows my previous post. And some real events…
June 2018 I returned to Chamonix. I spiral fractured tib/fib while speed riding with some friends in March. As my work and my passions are very much related to me being healthy I had to change all my plans. Reschedule guiding jobs, allowing time to recover, paying for the treatment. My life was to take a dramatic turn – frustration surged through my whole body as I heard my bones cracking inside the ski boot. I was so sharply aware of everything I was going to have to give up over the next few months. I screamed lying down in the snow, hurting more mentally than physically. Then, in an instant, the tearing frustration abated. I lay where I landed, tired and calm. The next two months felt easy, being with what was around – the healing experience of family, friends, books, podcasts, rest, reflections.
The end of May brought strength and with this, I felt fit enough to move back to Chamonix. Yet my enthusiasm was to outweigh the reality. Surrounded by the epic playground, people raging on and above the mountains, the incapacity to join in the great game was a load I struggled to bear. I had a few days feeling like a train was running over me again and again. I wanted to run, yet I could only crawl. Luckily this darkness began to lift after two or three days and my mind, tired of its own circus, switched to something new again. Homies took me out to climb, top-rope first, then I jumped on my first lead. I mean, top-roping sucks!
The encouraging feeling of my leg getting better and better led me to “Take Air”. Oh, all those butterflies I felt in my stomach as I approached the take off site! I went through my 5 points pre-flight checklist and then, with some trepidation and much excitement, took off. Once in the air, in that familiar setting, I relaxed immediately. I did a left turn and in that moment, the corner of my eye caught something that instantly got my heart racing. The left mallion connecting the wing to the harness was completely open. I guessed it had become unscrewed during the take off; perhaps with the vibration, and possibly with the raisers rubbing on it. I tried to screw it back, yet with the mallion now loaded by my weight, this proved impossible. I grabbed the mallion, and squeezing it as hard as possible I managed to screw it back half a turn. Better, but far from ideal. Oh the stress levels! Using the big ears technique, I went down as fast as I could trying not to put additional pressure on the wing.
Approaching the landing zone, coming against good wind, there was promise for a gentle touch down. However, the wind dropped to zero above the ground and I was now charging at the trees at the end of the field. “WTF, what is happening TODAY!” was the only thought ricocheting in my head. I had two stark choices: embrace the trees, literally, or attempt some low altitude turns. Decisions made in split seconds. Turn one, turn two and finally, mercifully, touch down, as softly as I would always wish for. I silently gave thanks, my heart pounding in my throat. Yet I told myself with inner fake joyfulness – “Perfect man! Good flight, good landing, practiced loads today!” The charade of calm – this forced inner joy – somehow erased the panic and fear and I was able to reflect, assess and gather the lessons necessary to do better next time.
I continued paragliding without a break, realigned myself with lead climbing and returned to altitude. Experiencing joy of being back to active life with my body and mind, joyful exhaustion through physical endeavor, the healing sensation of breathing fresh air. I was filled with so much joy; grateful for gaining what I had lost. My profession, guiding, came back on track, with the resulting benefit to my financial health as well. The Alps were followed by Yosemite, Nepal then New Zealand. Climbing, paragliding, guiding and raging with homies all over the world again.
The aftermath of the accident brought deep points of objectivity for me. The shock and dramatic change in my life all those months ago on that mountain, lying in the snow, had forced me to look again at the choices I had been making:
I figured I could work even less. It was not that guiding had consumed my life, far from it. I simply felt I could reduce that time even more. Use it differently. Having time gives me such a buzz; the possibilities and goodness it can bring. I could sleep long and well, visit friends, do or be. This simple truth – that these choices, and others, were mine to make – brought me great joy and opened new opportunities.
Another point that marked me was the frustration release. I let it out, when it manifested. Being so upset when I heard my bones cracking made space for enjoying what I had at hand while immobile. Among other things, the gift of time with Jana, my sister. Priceless.
2018 was very rich year. 2019 is giving even more. The next post will cover physical and mental highs in post New Zealand season. And the lows? They are out there. They are real. But I remain positive; grateful for the opportunities I have been given, for the great people the universe has put in my path. Striving to learn with love and joy, raging for the adventure, for the time I have and for the journey ahead.