Picture of snowy landscape with trees and mountains

You can learn a lot from breaking your hip

It was late morning on day two of a three day snowboard πŸ‚ trip with a group of friends in Crested Butte Colorado. It's a bumpy and steep mountain, which I could do without on my snowboard, but I was still happy to be there and enjoying the great snow.

Now, I should preface this with calling out that I'm a very cautious snowboarder these days. I'm 42 years old, and I know falling hurts a lot more than it used to. I had my fun in the parks when I was younger, so I ride pretty easy and just cruise for the most part. That being said, I'll grab a little speed for a flat trail to avoid having to walk or unstrap, which was my plan as we were making our way to another side of the mountain. Unfortunately, I didn't realize there were quite a few big rollers right at the bottom of the hill, before the flat cat track started. I had too much speed and couldn't suck the rollers up quick enough, which threw me off balance. If I had to guess, I was probably going around 20-25 miles per hour. That's not slow, but it's definitely not crazy-fast on a snowboard either (humor me while I justify my actions a little ☺️). Losing my balance sent me sailing off the edge of the trail, smack into a very solid pine tree. Luckily I was positioned so my head was safe, and it was my left hip that took the brunt of the impact. I literally hit the tree, then fell straight down, no glancing blows here. It left quite a mark. I didn't notice any marks on the tree though.

After a couple ambulance rides, x-rays, and countless other tests, I found out I broke my hip in 2 places. Fortunately the breaks didn't require any pins, and I was able to let them heal on their own. It just meant a lot of laying still while getting through the initial pain as the bones, nerves and other soft tissue healed.

Two months later and I'm doing much better. There's still a lot of healing and rehabilitation left, but life is slowly feeling more normal. With all the time I've had to sit and lay around, it's given me the chance to think and reflect (and watch a lot of shows). I don't know that I've grown much as a human being from this experience, but I have contemplated a few lessons that I've noticed along the way.

Learning to ask for help

I'm pretty averse to asking for help in my day to day life. I tend to respond with the classic "I'll let you know, thanks so much!" when someone does offer help. I'm extremely lucky to have an amazing partner, Mckay, and 3 incredible kids at home, along with another very supportive son living in Japan, serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. When every movement you make becomes a tax on your recovery, and you know you only have so much currency to get through the day before it becomes detrimental, it's a bit of a forcing factor to asking for help. I learned to ask for help.

From getting a refill on my water, to help with medicine (Mckay might have enjoyed giving me shots every morning and evening a bit too much πŸ˜‘), and the countless other things I couldn't get or do for myself, I had to ask those around me for help. The benefit to me is obvious, but seeing the benefit to those offering the help isn't as obvious. It's given me a literal front-row seat to see how the opportunity to help someone you care for can effect you. My kids now ask how they can help me without being prompted. It feels great to help someone, and it's become a daily part my our lives. There's something to be said for the opportunities you can provide to others when you let them help you.

Zooming out for optimism

Staying optimistic can be really hard after you've had a traumatic event. Some days it feels like my recovery is accelerating, and that's exciting! Then I'll have a bad day (or week), and it feels like progress has reversed. That's super not exciting. Mckay is quick to remind me that it's temporary and that I'll feel better soon. Not getting stuck in the immediacy of the situation helps her point out the bigger picture. A wonderful co-worker, Fil Maj, gave me some great advice one day. He said focus on the progress made week to week, not day to day. Stay encouraged by that longer term progress. I can't count how many times that frame of mind has pulled me out of feeling down, and increased my optimism. It can be an almost immediate feeling when I change my frame of mind from what's going on today, to what the progress over the past week or two have looked like. You can tie your shoes now! That's amazing! πŸ‘Ÿ

Constraints can create focus

My leadership and team at Slack have been amazing at supporting me while I recover. I couldn't ask for a more understanding group of people. πŸ€— As I've been easing back into work, I've had a lot of pretty hard constraints that put a limit on how much time I can spend each day. Limitations like only being able to sit in a chair for so long before my muscles start screaming, or needing to stop to stretch and move around, or lay down, have meant I've needed to be very selective with what I wanted to spend those limited hours doing each day. Having to try pick the most valuable way to spend that time has given me a lot of focus. It makes it easier to shut out anything that isn't related to what I've picked. It's meant being selective about meetings. Attending a meeting might mean I don't have any focus time that day for another task. Basecamp has a great chapter about embracing constraints in their book Getting Real. Once I'm back to 100% I hope I can find less-painful ways of creating constraints for myself to maintain focus 🀞.

There's a handful of other lessons I'm in the middle of learning. Like how to trust my body again after muscles have atrophied and joints have stiffened up. Or how to find satisfaction from rehabilitation instead of weight lifting and exercising. I'm still learning those ones, and to be honest, I'm still learning a lot about the 3 lessons shared in this article. I'm not a huge believer of the everything-happens-for-a-reason mentality (and if you are, that's great, you're probably more in touch with yourself than me tbh), and that we have to find meaning in every event. Sometimes unfortunate accidents happen, and we might learn something from them, or we might not. I didn't intend to learn anything from breaking my hip, but turns out I did. Hopefully you don't have to have an injury to internalize some of these lessons ❀️.

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