Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I'm Gonna Be

Mile Marker 500:

I reach Mile 500 on the last day of school and the first day of summer -- two days that hold so much PROMISE they radiate with heat.

This year they overlap.  And the temperature soars to 100.

I wait until early evening when the sun sinks below the tallest city buildings.  When the humidity breaks.

Then I go out for a walk.

The neighborhood unmasks itself in honor of this special day.  Butterfly bushes smell sweet.  Birds chirp from telephone wires.  At the corner bar, the man on the steps nods at me with a smile.  I smile back.  

He doesn’t know this is Mile 500.  But I do.

At the park, the construction fences have been removed to reveal sparkling swings, sculptures, and climbing gyms.  The playground is filled with warm air and families -- bikes, wagons, kids of all colors.   Moms and dads covered in tattoos, beer bellies, and short shorts.

I spy a boy with a seventies-style bowl haircut.  He drops his dirt bike sideways in the grass.  In one smooth motion, he darts across the yard, climbs a copper dome sculpture, and then kicks an older kid’s soccer ball. 

With each zip, his mother shouts after him, “Too fast!”  “Get off that!”  “Come back here!”

But he doesn’t.  Instead, a soccer game forms gracefully around him, as if that’s exactly where he's meant to be.

I used to be like that.  Or at least, I used to feel like that.

Go fast!  I want to yell back.  Climb!  Keep running!


It’s taken a YEAR to get to this point.  And the miles have been stacked with peaks and valleys.  Clogged with socket rubs and pain.  I've spent many miles running on empty. 

But as a goal-setter, I'm already wondering.... What will the next 500 be like?

They stretch out before me, reflecting brightly like a new morning.  They're lit with hope and determination.  On that road, I can do anything.  BE ANYTHING.

I’m gonna be faster.  Braver.  More agile.
I’m gonna run.   Skate.   Travel. 
I’m gonna recover the life I had.  The one that’s not just about ME.

That's the hardest.  In my mind, I yearn to put this year behind me.  To take long walks, hang out with friends, visit family, go on trips, teach students, help people….

The list is as endless as that little boy’s energy.  Yet partway through each day – before I’ve reached even the first mile -- I just fizzle out.

And then the journey shifts gears.  It becomes about me and me alone.  About conserving energy, making choices, and facing this new life.

I wish the answer were simple.
500 miles = 5000 trips to the mailbox.
(Remember Mile 7?)
  
It's not far enough.

I rest on a bench at the park.  Its surface is so freshly sanded it reminds me of woodshop class.

Finally, I get up to walk home.  I circle back across the widest street in the neighborhood, waiting patiently at the edge of the curb for the light to change to green. Carefully I step into the crosswalk's clear white lines.

As I reach my own block, there’s group of neighbors sitting in lawn chairs on the sidewalk.  They’re laughing at one of their own -- a twentysomething guy in a muscle shirt -- pedaling awkwardly on a toddler’s tricycle.  It looks like a circus act.  I smile at him.

His middle-aged mother rolls her eyes. “How old can you be and still ride a trike?!” she asks as I pass by.  The guy is laughing, too.

“I’m 42, and I would!” I call back quickly.  It pleases both of them.

But then I feel a pang.  I'm suddenly worried they’ll ask me to TRY. 

I’m half that guy’s size, yet I know with my prosthesis I could never squeeze onto that kiddie bike.  I could not get my knees into that position.  I could not rotate my hips outward or balance on that tiny seat.  I could not keep my foot on the pedal. 

The old me would have challenged him to a race.   The new me just keeps putting one foot in front of the other.

But a surprising thought pops into my head:
I WOULD IF I COULD.  

In that moment – at Mile Marker 500 – I realize there is a certain part of me that’s still alive and kicking.  Even if it’s been hidden for most of this journey.

All those things I tell myself I'm gonna be in the next 500 miles... I would do each and every one of them!

I climb my front step and unlock the door.  I am exhausted, sweaty, and achy.  But basking in the heat of my discovery -- this newest ray of PROMISE.

So, back to the question.  What's it gonna be...
500 miles in the next 4 months??

Could I do it?
That still remains to be seen.

But would I?
YES!

I'm gonna be....


Vital stats for Miles 0-500:
7 states
6 weeks on crutches
5 sports (or attempts at sports, anyway!)
4 prosthetic sockets
3 pairs of new shoes
2 prosthetic knees
and...
1 new nephew -- though I can't exactly take credit for that one :)

Click here for a video look at the past 500 miles!
And thanks for walking with me!!!

8 comments:

  1. Nobody can go back and start a new begining, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. Portugal Euro 2012 Jersey

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  2. New beginnings hold the magic of possibility. We loved watching the memories of the last 500, and we'll be walking right beside you for the next 500, cheering you on, no matter where they lead or how long they take!
    Our love always... Mom, Dad and Mark

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  3. I'm not sure how many photos altogether are in your montage, but I am pretty sure I saw your smiling face 500 times as you recapped the past year! The line in your post "But would I? Yes" speaks volumes. At your core, you are that glass-half-full and approach-life-with-arms-wide-open kind of person. Regarding "I'm gunna be", in so many ways you already ARE, though I know there is still more great accomplishments ahead.

    In my work, I always remind people that we're not going for perfection, we're just trying to set little goals and step by step feel better and better. I remind them that the goals we set should be challenging, but also realistic. And if we need to, if our journey goes in unexpected directions or if we're delayed (as always happens), we just need to tune into our internal GPS voice...think of the friendly GPS voice that says "recalculating" as it generates a revised path. Will you walk 500 miles in 4 months? Sounds like a challenging goal, (and I know you most certainly *would*), but as you've been doing all along, just keep on keepin' on, and recalculate as needed. And know that all of us are here to adjust our own GPSs to support your every step.

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  4. Words just can't describe the Awesome video. I'll gladly be one of your supporters for the next 500!

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  5. Love the video and the 500 miles. Here's to the next 500 - may they be just as interesting and maybe a bit less challenging. But I definitely want to be part of it!

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  6. Thank you for the memories of the first 500 miles. I will walk / skate / or bike beside you to complete the next 500. With every step, I hope your challenges will be less and less. Every mile will be a new beginning that gets you closer to your goal of 1000 miles. Keep walking and smiling!!

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  7. That is one inspiring video, my friend. Congratulations on such an amazing achievement! I am so proud to call you my friend. Keep up the good work, and I hope to be privileged enough to join you during the next 500.

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