16 September 2010

Wham! Bam! No thanks, man.

I took a spill on my mountain bike yesterday. My buddy Brian and I were on the Hawkinsville Ditch, riding home from Long Gulch. It's a place I've been many times--it's a great ride in the woods just on the edge of town. The fall gave me some raspberries and bruises the size of small nations and they hurt like hell. I also hit my head, cracking my helmet at the left temple and sustaining a concussion. Brian had to walk me and my bike out--I don't remember any of it. Did I mention Brian is an all-around great guy and a real mensch? Anyway, Sue and I spent a long evening at the ER. I was examined and given a CT scan. The good news is they found nothing. The brain did not show up on the pictures, meaning I'm going to be OK! Seriously, I have to consider that I'm lacking a brain. I pursue two sports--alpine skiing and mountain biking--which routinely cause me to injure myself. I do these things with other fellows who are natural athletes. They carry themselves with an enviable, relaxed grace that I strive to imitate. They are sure-footed, nimble, and unselfconscious. I am none of those things. I have two left feet on some days and two right feet on others. I huff, puff, grunt, groan, grimace, and sweat in equal measures while these guys cruise around effortlessly. I'm fifty years old and I'm still pursuing a chimerical childhood playground dream. Alas, I do manage to have quite a bit of fun in between the stints on the DL. I suppose that's what keeps me going. Plus all the other ways that people stay in shape are, to my mind, wretchedly dull. Jogging? Lap swimming? Elliptical machines? Good god, I'd be crazy with boredom! After this latest episode, though, I'm beginning to see why these other pursuits are so appealing. They are safe! You aren't going to hurt yourself. Not much in the adventure/adrenaline department, but no trips to the hospital, either.

This "brain bruise" has been a sobering experience, and not just because the doctor told me to lay off the sauce for the next few days. When I torqued my rotator cuff skiing several years ago, I told myself I would learn to be a better, smarter, safer skier. For the most part, I have been. I've torn skin off my hide many times on my bike, but I've never had a serious injury. Nothing, at least, that ice packs and TLC couldn't cure. This time, though, I gave myself a serious whack on the noggin. The ER doc told me I must "absolutely not sustain another concussion for at least three months." The first thing I did was count the months on my fingers: October, November, December . . . and then asked him "you mean I can go skiing in January?" What the hell is wrong with me? I sat there on the table, not remembering how the hell I got there (I still don't), and the only thing I was concerned about was using my ski pass!

I make a living with my brain. Not only that, my mind is where I keep all those things that mean the most to me. The people I love and have loved. Memories, feelings, hopes, and dreams. Forgetting most of an afternoon in which I was pedaling through a forest over a rock-strewn trail on my beloved Specialized Stumpjumper is, frankly, a scary experience. I don't forget anything. I've got a mind like flypaper--crap sticks to it without me hardly trying. Yet much of yesterday is gone. The doctor said my injury "erased the tape." Tape--what an anachronism! C'mon doc, you meant to say "deleted the file." Either way, I don't like it. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful it was a relatively minor thing. People get concussions and they get over them. I didn't do anything that can't be undone with time and care. But I still don't like it. And I particularly don't like the bruise to my ego. I feel like a klutz. I mean, I chose this activity and inflicted this damage to myself entirely of my own volition. I don't have to risk life and limb in order to have fun and stay fit. I could take up square-dancing or something. On second thought, that involves rhythm and timing and coordination and even grace, so forget it. Maybe one of those Richard Simmons workout videos would be more my speed. There's always the stationary bike. I could ingest hallucinogens and watch Pink Floyd videos or something to fight off the tedium. Or maybe the NordicTrack. I'd be in better shape and it's about the same price as my Rossignol Phantoms.

Forget that. "I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam." I'm going to have to take it easy, though, I know that. And I'm going to have to be more attentive and more measured when I head for the mountains. If I want to be an athlete, I'm going to have to know my limits, and to play my game and not chase after someone else's. I'm going to be good. I promise. I'm going to follow doctor's orders and I'm going to take care of my head.

See you on the slopes.


Anonymous said...

Mark, really sorry to hear you bunged your head, which contains that brain we all like so much. Hope the healing flies by and you remember to, as the old saw goes, be gentle with yourself. Nancy

M.C. O'Connor said...

Thanks, Nancy. I'll be OK!