I’ve been an avid bicycler for several decades, finding that this form of exercise helps me reduce stress, improve my health while also providing friendships and camaraderie with a group of fellow riders.
Riding has been an important part of my daily wellbeing, until a fateful day this summer. A gravel road got the best of me during a race in July, with the crash leading to hospitalization and major surgery. The timing was awful, right in the middle of our busy season at work. Many weeks of no weight bearing on one side of my body has meant a long road to recovery which continues as we end the year. My physical ability is currently starkly different than before.
My changes have not only been physical. I’ve had to adopt a mindset of patience, knowing that every day will bring a little bit more strength. I’ve developed a keen sense of empathy for those with chronic physical challenges. Why are the handicap spots sometimes the farthest from the door? It is humbling to not be able to take out the trash or walk the dog.
Yet there are lessons to be learned from this adversity. I’ve come to realize that some of the experiences of my recovery can also be valuable in the face of change, whether expected or unexpected.
Because this year’s holiday blog series is focused on different aspects of change, let me share a few things I’ve discovered.
First and foremost, I’ve learned that listening is crucial. I’m listening to my body—even when I don’t necessarily like what it’s saying. The same has been true when my surgeon has told me what I need to do for recovery. Sometimes you just must let others take the lead and really hear what they’re saying. That means your perspective isn’t always the one to follow.
Another hard-earned lesson has been that it’s not only okay, but absolutely necessary, to rely on those around you. Asking for help can be difficult, but the truth is, reaching out does require strength. My brother put together a downstairs bed and installed grab bars in the bathroom. My wife has been amazing on this journey, being by my side to carry my coffee cup to the table to helping me navigate stairs. I needed to depend entirely on my team at MJ to keep things moving forward at work too—and they did an amazing job.
Of course, asking for help also requires trust. The only way I could focus on recovery was to let go. My accident really did come at a tough time professionally. It was budget season and the end of the fiscal year, but the finance team at MJ stepped up in a significant way. I’m not only grateful but know beyond a doubt that I can trust them with anything in the future. Change? No problem for them.
You also must celebrate every step forward when you’re moving through a challenge. For me, that included my first solo walk from the bed to the kitchen. When something like that becomes such a big deal, you truly learn to appreciate the small stuff. I missed moving my kids into a Purdue dorm and Ohio State sorority house, but I focused on connecting to them in a different way, and our time spent together just talking is probably a lot more meaningful in the long run.
I’ve also realized that change requires flexibility. The exact date I get back on a bike outside isn’t something I can set in concrete. I will have to listen to my body and go with the flow. In some ways, my superpowers are now listening, asking, trusting and being flexible. Those might work for you too, or you might have some others to share.
What change did you face in 2022 and how did it make you stronger? I’d love to know, so please leave a comment, and share more about your hard-earned insight. It might help all of us prepare for that next round of inevitable change.