Notes on an anniversary
Five years ago today, on January 23 2009, I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle. I was lucky. In the instant when impact seemed inevitable, I turned the front wheel of my bicycle some crucial fraction, and I survived with nothing more complicated than a fractured pelvis. Still, my injuries changed the scale by which I measured physical fitness. Fitness became getting out of bed, then walking with crutches, then walking with a cane, then hopping and squatting, then gradually forgetting that anything had ever happened.
The accident receded into my past, joining other hazy catastrophes that live there. In context, forgetting was sweet. Some things have stayed with me. For example, I find I rarely complain now about walking anywhere, because I learned that walking is not to be taken for granted. But in the first difficult and euphoric days after the accident, when I was still vibrating with the surprise of being alive, I vowed I would keep my body in good running order. I have to admit; I’ve let this slide. I’ve always been one to prefer the exceptional effort to the ordinary one, and there were always exceptional efforts to claim my attentions.
I signed up for a half marathon yesterday. At the time, I was aware that it was the same old impulse against ennui, toward the extreme event. So I was questioning my motivations, and the memory of my accident returned to me. I looked up the date and learned that it was five years ago today. I’m considering the coincidence carefully.
If there’s meaning in it, perhaps it’s to show me that there’s a fine balance between getting on with life and keeping oneself in a state of exception. Somewhere in the middle is an ordinary challenge: to keep moving forward, to raise the bar against injury and age and all the other insults of staying alive. Not to relax into our infirmities, and not to recline into what is, after all, only good luck.
To remain alive, truly, is to be taut, awake, unfinished, and complete. It is necessary to prune even the best, most luscious, excuses from one’s personal storyline.
I’ll post a photo from the finish line on May 17.