Beauty in the Breakdown: How a Bike Accident Cracked Open my Heart

February 14 2016

Beauty in the Breakdown: How a Bike Accident Cracked Open my Heart

A Single Fateful Moment

6:44am – Jan 21st, 2015:

Bicycle wheels slice through humid air in the quiet pre-dawn darkness, as I glide down the winding pavement road. Car lights illuminate the faintly falling rain, as the drivers rush past. Loud waves of speeding light dissipate into darkness, as my tired eyes strain to re-focus on the road ahead. I’m running late to catch the ferry from Whidbey Island toward Seattle. I feel anxious and annoyed, but I’m almost there.

Just as another whirlwind of metal and light approaches from behind me, I see my turn and start pulling hard to the right. As my faint bike light reveals my approach, I realize that I’ve taken a wrong turn. In a split-second decision, I have to choose between squeezing the brakes or flying into the curb and off the road into an unknown abyss. I instinctively hit the brakes.

Both wheels skid out from under me in a single fateful moment, as my body crushes into the unforgiving concrete. Teeth grind into the bitter black asphalt as bones in my right hand break under the weight of my collapse. I lay for a moment on the road in utter shock, red bike light flashing through the darkness like my hurried heart rate. I never thought this would happen to me.

Spitting out pieces of my chipped teeth, I get back on my bike and ride down to the ferry – left hand clutching the handlebar, the other helpless by my side. The fear of being late still running through my adrenaline-laced mind, as the magnitude of what just happened slowly begins to creep into my consciousness.

At the ferry dock, I stagger off of my bike and onto a bench. My entire body is tense with trauma, shaking, as the world around me begins to fade into a blur. Voices start to gather around me, “Are you ok?” “What happened?”…

Transforming my Trauma

Some time later, I was awake enough to recite my name and age, so the first responders told me that I was ready to go to the ER to get checked out. As I stood up, supported by a small gathering of friends and strangers, I suddenly felt overwhelmed with emotion.

One of my friends had missed the ferry and called in late to work, just to stay with me. The team of first responders that had gathered around spend every single day showing up for people like me, in their most challenging moments. These simple acts of kindness overwhelmed me.

Hobbling out into the damp morning light I made it to another friend’s car, got in, and closed the door. Tears rushing down my face as I sobbed uncontrollably. Body rolling through waves of utter helplessness, gratitude, and release. I had never felt anything like this before.

Though we hadn’t even left for the ER yet, I realized that my healing had already begun. I was transforming my trauma, through emotional release. My fearful numbness melted into raw sensation, unlocking depths of power and love that I never knew existed in me.   

In that moment of utter collapse, I stared into the fiery fragile eyes of my own mortality. Awakened to the raw, vulnerable, sacred gift of my human body. Heart pulsing with a new life.

Embracing my Humanity

In the end, I had chipped 3 teeth, broken 2 bones in my hand, and ended up needing to get surgery to repair one of the breaks. It took 7 months to heal, I have 4 titanium screws in my hand for life, and I still feel one of my teeth aching almost every day.

But this accident was not a mistake; in fact, it has become a profound teacher. I learned that I can survive through incredible vulnerability & pain, I learned how to ask for help, I re-connected deeply with the sacredness of my body, and I found a new sense of power through a total surrender to my tears. 

I discovered beauty in the breakdown; joy through the pain. I no longer feel so isolated or alone.

My accident was a sort of ‘right of passage’ for me – a coming-of-age; an opportunity to feel the connection and support that could only come through an acceptance of my vulnerability and my imperfections. Now, I am simply and wonderfully human.

I only have this one body, this one heart, this one lifetime. And I intend to love as big as I can before the fragile flame of my breath flickers out and a spiral of smoke returns my soul to the cosmos.

With fierce loving compassion,

Dan

Hear more of my journey re-connecting to my tears in this two-part article:

In the first post, Why Don’t You Cry About It? Part 1: The Fear of Letting Go, I talk about how I took on the belief that men aren’t supposed to cry, I outline the many ways that my defense mechanisms have kept me numb, and I share a call to action for men all over the world to wake up and re-learn how to express and release our feelings.
In the follow-up post, Why Don’t You Cry About It? Part 2: Unlocking the Power of Tears, I share the intimate story of my first solo experience re-connecting to tears, after a decade of emotional disconnection and numbness. Observing that, “as we begin the long journey of returning to our senses – of feeling the world again – we must also learn to move our feelings in healthy ways. Otherwise, the tension that builds within can throw us right back into numbness.”

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