Over the years, I’ve been involved in a couple of car accidents and several cycling accidents. From the time I wrecked a friend’s car in high school because I wasn’t wearing corrective lenses because it was before I was diagnosed with needing them, to the several fender benders I’ve had in my own vehicles over the years to the bicycle accidents I’ve lived to tell about, each accident has its own story; its own specifics. While the circumstances surrounding each crash differ, there are some similarities with each incident. I think there are some lessons I can learn about each of these crashes in my life.
Lesson 1: Crashing is mostly unforeseen. If you are living, crashing happens, don’t waste negative emotion on the fact that you crashed. In every accident I had, I couldn’t see it coming until it was too late to do anything but crash. In every instance, I was having a great time, enjoying the company I was with, and basically doing what I always do when driving or riding. I could simply not have foreseen the trouble up ahead, because at the beginning of every ride, outing, or situation, you just don’t see the obstacles until they present themselves. Or, is it that you don’t see the obstacle because you’re focus is on just enjoying the ride? The lesson here, I think, is that you can’t beat yourself up because the crash happened. The fact that the crash happened isn’t good, it isn’t bad, it just is. Don’t waste energy bemoaning the fact that you crashed.
Lesson 2: Once the obstacle becomes apparent, if you have enough time you can react and possibly avoid a crash. The similarity in each of my crashes is that I didn’t have that time to react and thus avoid a crash. That’s the next commonality. This lesson is similar to the first lesson. You can’t avoid what you don’t have time to deal with or react to. Surprises happen in life. You can’t possibly prepare for them all. Crashing will occur if you are actually living.
Lesson 3: The third lesson is merely the first two restated differently: When you crash, review what happened, learn what you can and move on. Often, the obstacle presents itself and I often am not sure how to react. That’s why I crash; if I knew how to hurdle the obstacle, I’d have avoided the crash. One of my older sisters tells me this on occasion, “If you’d have known better you’d have done better.” I think she’s right. No one intentionally seeks out a wreck, unless they are a stunt double and paid to do so. We tend to like to avoid pain. In each of my crashes, if I’d have known better how to react in the circumstances, I’d have avoided the accident. It does no one, least of all you, any good to moan about the crash or how you could have dealt with it. Assess what you could have done differently, then move on. You’ve already prepared yourself to avoid the next crash.
Lesson 4: Each crash is painful..or stated differently…pain is unavoidable. Whether it is due to merely the emotional impact of having minor damage to a vehicle or whether it is due to suffering bodily injury. A crash hurts. I am one of those who can crash and get up and walk away. Last week when I wrecked on my bike due to a combination of faulty brakes, my son short-stopping on me, and me multi-tasking on the bike, I took a serious amount of flesh off my knee. I was, for a moment seriously worried that I’d broken something and I have enough basic emergency first aid and trauma training to know that the nausea my body was experiencing was my body going into minor shock. I had people around and I got up and said, “I’m fine. I’ll be okay.” I said this even though I had no idea if I could pedal the 11 miles back home. I pedaled home anyway. I did this through all of my pregnancies where I could be nearly dilated to ten and the attending nurses would take one look at me and wonder why I was in the labor room. I hide my pain. I know others don’t, that’s okay, everyone deals with pain differently. The point is, don’t expect to escape pain completely. Hidden pain or not, crashes hurt. Expressed or not, the pain still exists.
Lesson 5: Help is there when you need it and sometimes it is there when you don’t think you need it. I guess I’ve been fortunate. Every mishap I’ve been involved in happened when someone was there to assist me. I didn’t always use or need the assistance. At other times, I was so grateful for the stranger who happened upon me or the friend that was there when I wrecked. When I was commuting from Walnut Creek, CA to Lafayette, CA every day hitting about 25 miles or more around some of those winding roads up in the LaFayette Hills, I tucked into a curve and the next thing I knew I was spinning all over the road without my bike. Mind you, these were back in the days before cycling gloves and helmets. I simply didn’t even see the ever-so-slight bit of gravel that was in my path until after I went down. That one came out of left field for me. I didn’t see it and didn’t know how to catch myself once I was already sliding along the pavement. It all happened so fast. (I do still have the scars on my hands and knees to show for this one. I also know that road rash is not fun to clean out.) I was in a place as a young woman away from home for the first time, no family nearby, and no way to help myself get to where I needed to go. I couldn’t ride and I couldn’t walk. A stranger saw me wipe out and offered me help to my destination. I don’t even remember how the bike got loaded in the car, but I’ve always been grateful for that help. (I’ve also been grateful that I only ended up with scarring on my legs and hands instead of the many other possible injuries I could have sustained.)
Lesson 6: When you wipe out, as soon as you are able, get back on the bike and ride. I wish I’d done this when I was younger after that California wipeout. As it turned out. I did ride, but I wasn’t the same because I never really got up and tackled the turn at high speed again. As life became more complex, it was easier and easier to just let cycling go, until 25 years passed by and I can no longer remember what happened to that bike or at which juncture we parted ways. Now, so many years later, it is difficult to get back on the bike and be as courageous as I once was. I’m simply out of practice and overly cautious. Had I gotten on the bike and stayed on after that fall, I’d be a better cyclist now. I wouldn’t be experiencing the frustration of re-learning everything. Bicycling Magazine published a book titled, “The Big Book of Bicycling”. In this book, there is a section that specifically deals with how to get back on the bike after a crash. They address all the potential ways a cyclist can crash and then they provide very specific remedies for how to ride so that you can overcome the fear or anxiety that often follows a big crash.
So, now, after all that has been said about cycling and crashing…my question is this…do these lessons apply and, if so, how do they apply when a relationship crashes?