My neighbors recently returned my bicycle which they had stored for me over the better part of a year. When I recharged my cycling computer – still on the bike – it came on like a ghost from the past, glowing – 11:15 a.m, 29.6 miles, “press > to resume ride.”
It was July 29, 2018. I was reaching behind to my jersey pocket, something I had done thousands of times in my cycling career, but this time, in a split second, I was on the ground. And I knew it was bad. I’ve never known exactly how it happened – but my Garmin stopped time at that moment.
If I could do it over, would I change that scene? Would I change the hospital stay on the trauma floor, the two months in a rehab facility, the multiple surgeries?
My body was broken. I was vulnerable and dependent on others. In that state I realized that if I were to heal fully, that healing would necessarily involve not just my body, but my whole being, my essence, my soul.
My “soul therapy” centered on compassion. I’ve always said, somewhat jokingly, that I have to work at being compassionate, that it is a conscious, practiced mode for me. And, suddenly, all around me, I found people whose job descriptions included being compassionate. I experienced compassion in the patience and calm of the many CNAs who helped me day and night, even when I got testy with the frustration of my limited abilities and the loss of control over essential elements of my life. I experienced it in the tenderness the rehab staff showed the long term care residents who became my buddies during my stay; spending time with “my ladies” was a gift that let me pay that compassion forward. And, compassion came from the steady stream of friends and colleagues who called and visited, and from my sister who traveled back and forth from Chapel Hill to be with me.
I can’t change that the accident happened. And now that I’m (mostly) healed, it’s easier for me to say that I wouldn’t. In Deuteronomy 30:19-20 we read “I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life – if you and your offspring would live – by loving the Lord your God, heeding his commands, and holding fast to him.” My experience over the past year has led me to add “choose kindness” as a touchstone for choosing life. I know I’ll need to forgive myself when I’m not as compassionate as I’d like to be, but this past year was a tutorial that enriched my life in a way I could not have imagined.
Robin is a native of Great Neck, NY, and has been a member of Temple Beth El since moving to Charlotte in 2005 from Philadelphia. Robin has spent the bulk of her career in the institutional retirement business, currently leading a product team at Wells Fargo. Outside of work, she is an avid follower of World Tour cycling, values her book club, Actor’s Theatre, and her growing collection of North Carolina pottery, and has recently been consumed by the renovation of her house in Dilworth. Robin has attended several Jewish study programs and enjoys the process of engaging with others to gain insight from our texts and traditions.