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, July 1, 2012

Dare To Dream

Mile Marker 511:

“You’re going to be bionic.”

These are the first words I remember hearing when I woke up in the ICU.
 
At that moment I believed anything was possible.

I grew up watching episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man.  My brother Mark had a Steve Austin action figure complete with surgical bay and bionic parts.  We recreated the TV show in our backyard.  Our next-door neighbor Josh jogged in slow motion, making that bionic “dih-nih-nih-nih” sound.  We were all convinced it made him FASTER!

Gentlemen, we can rebuild her.  We have the technology.  
My body was wrecked.  So I would be bionic.  In my semi-conscious state, it seemed a simple solution.

But on this journey, nothing is simple. 

As you know, I’ve even been wavering on my goal -- to finish a thousand miles by November 9, 2012.   It took me a YEAR to do the first 500.   Bionic or not, it's a long shot.

“It’s ok,” people tell me.  “It doesn’t matter when you finish.”

And it’s true in my head, but not in my heart.  I don’t like to FAIL.

When I think about other goals I've set – projects at work, volunteer opportunities, solo travel – I realize that they were pretty much attainable from the start.  Sure, they shoved me out of my comfort zone.  But they were doable.  Even before I began, there were plans forming in my head.  I could already picture the finish line.

Last July, I figured this journey would be similar.  Walking and writing.  Writing and walking.  Challenging, but fun.

You're probably laughing or shaking your head.  You've seen many events push me off course this year.  In fact, most of the time, I haven’t even been able to SEE the course!

So Mile Marker 511 appeared like a signpost -- or a possibly a GPS -- in the midst of all the ambivalence and doubt.

I met Matt Miller.

Matt is a triathlete who – against horrific odds – survived and thrived after a terrible bike accident in November 2008.   He is the subject of a new book, The Road Back: A Journey of Grace and Grit, by Michael Vitez, the journalist who, coincidentally, also wrote the Inquirer story about me last year.

Michael Vitez is a vivid storyteller.  But as I listened to their book discussion at the rehab hospital, Matt’s words pointed me in the direction I needed.

“DARE TO DREAM,” he started out.

(I guess you could say he had me at hello.)  

If I try to quote the rest, it won’t sound like him, but the message I received was this:   Reaching a goal is not as important as trying for it.  Don’t let your fear of failure -- or the strength it will take to succeed -- get in the way of moving forward.  It is always better to TRY.

Like I said, exactly the signpost I needed.

His words were more than encouraging.  They granted permission.  To hold my goal steady, despite unlikely odds.  To continue to walk forward into a future that’s already more difficult than I imagined.  To go after what I want -- even if it might not happen the way I plan.

I finished reading The Road Back this morning.  It was all at once gripping, fascinating, inspiring, and FAMILIAR.  I’ve dog-eared pages and underlined sentences to read again.  Even the fallen bicycle on the cover – the actual photo from Matt’s accident -- stops me in my tracks.

But it was early in the book that I found the rest of the signpost from Mile 511.  A lesson Matt learned long before his accident, during months of triathlon training.

"…the mind gives out long before the body, and the challenge, the essential element of endurance training, is to convince the mind not to quit, to continue, that the body can persist and must be pushed along."

With each step in this journey, I’m testing my own limits.  I AM bionic, but not in the easy way that transformed Steve Austin into a superhero.

I am still myself.  And if I'd known how hard and sweaty, how confusing and painful -- how UPHILL this journey would be -- I might never have begun.

But at Mile Marker 511, Matt's words urge me onward.  Life is endurance.  It’s not an all or nothing sport.  It is about TRYING. 

Maybe there’s a downhill around the next bend.  Maybe not.

Thanks, Matt.  For now, I'll dare to dream.

4 comments:

  1. Oh, Ricki, you and Matt are so right! It's a lesson I'm still trying to learn. Thank you for reminding me yet again. Love you!

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    1. Visualizing a goal is a lot like dreaming it. It makes it more real. I visualize the day when you, your family, and your friends will celebrate your 1000th mile - whenever it occurs. For now, I'm visualizing an ice cream cone from George's in Ocean City. They have a new flavor called Sea Gull Droppings. Its yummy.

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  2. I've never personally met Matt Miller or Matt Long, but I love them both. Their experiences mirror and reflect back all that we, too, have experienced in the past 19 months, and they inspire me to dare to dream along with you. Whether it's "The Long Run," which spoke directly to my heart, or "The Road Back," which will, without a doubt, touch me as it touched you, or "A Thousand Miles," your beautifully written blog, the courage, spirit, determination and grace underlying all of these stories continue to encourage and inspire me every single day. I wish those who struggle with the ordinary challenges of everyday life could meet the three of you! I hope that one day I'll have the privilege of meeting both Matts who, together with you, have officially become my "Dare to Dream Team," and that each of you will gain strength and support from learning of the others' efforts as you journey onward.

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    1. I love this one. Sent it to Josh...He will love it too!

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