And so a year has rolled around. It’s Tuesday, 19 January 2016. A year ago I was lying flat on my back in the snow at Revelstoke in Canada, in the first half hour of a dream heli-skiing holiday that had suddenly gone pear-shaped. I had skied off a small cliff in low visibility and fractured my tibial plateau – in layman’s terms I’d broken my leg.
How do you celebrate 12 months of surgery and rehab? Well, I guess you go to the gym. Tomorrow, Wednesday would be my normal appointment with Belinda – she who must be obeyed – but she is leaving tomorrow to get married. We decided to do a session today which developed into long, involved, gym purgatory. She had me doing more of the extraordinarily peculiar exercises of late. I don’t know how many times I climbed up on the box and jumped off it but it was a lot. I was also doing a lot of sideways sprints, walking lunges – which seems to be a favourite of hers – and Kettlebell lifts. This was done with a 20 kg bell which I think was a bad idea. My back was very stiff and sore by the end. I don’t think I’ll do any more Kettlebell lifts. It’s a bridge too far. Luckily, we also did a lot of stretches.
Anyway, I now have only two more sessions of gym work before I go skiing. For the first time in my life I’m not really excited about going to the mountains. I first saw snow a Perisher Valley as a 21-year-old on my first ever holiday. Was I excited? You bet. And I’ve been excited ever since. Until now. Now I’m just apprehensive.
I know what the problem is – I’m frightened of getting hurt again and having to go through surgery and doctors and physios and personal trainers and gym work and on and on. It’s such a lonely endeavour. The last year has drained all the stamina out of me. The self-confidence went out the door with it. I couldn’t do this again. I’ve spent part of this rehabilitation year reading the Greek philosophers, Epicurus in particular. He was a ruthless dude. Epicurus believed that we live in an indifferent, materialistic universe, one that has natural laws, but no divine plan. Whether God exists or not – and Epicurus believed he didn’t – God can’t change these natural laws. Human beings are but tiny specks in an impossibly vast universe and are of little significance. Neither do they have any meaning.
There is no essential justice to the universe. That’s what frightens me. I could easily go away skiing this year and break my leg in the first hour just as I did last year. God and the universe would be indifferent to my plight. We are always confounded how the innocent suffer and the wicked often prosper in life. Epicurus thought these were irrelevant, human, value judgements and human concerns with no universal application. It would cause me great suffering and would be an injustice if I got injured again but Epicurus would say that suffering and injustice are unavoidable and have no essential meaning.
He was a really miserable sod in some ways and in others he was a great optimist who has shaped our Western way of life. Epicurus believes that we should cultivate material pleasures, be moderate in doing so, try to enjoy life while it lasts and not fear death or suffering. That’s pretty positive and a large part of Western society lives that way but I have grown to fear suffering because, unlike Epicurus, I just don’t understand why it is necessary or even why it exists. I wouldn’t have made a very good Greek philosopher.
Tonight I celebrate the passing of a year I would rather forget. I pulled out my metal leg brace and tried it on. It took me 15 to 20 minutes to figure it out which is amazing. At one point I used to sleep with it next to me and could get up at night and put it on, entirely by feel. I was amazed how hot it is. It has neoprene rubber straps wrapping horizontally around the leg in four different places. They are hot and sweaty. I had forgotten this aspect or maybe the pain was so great I didn’t even notice it before. I decided I’d get the crutches and go for a burn around my apartment. While it was a trip down memory lane there is nothing much to recommend leg braces or crutches and even less to recommend wheelchairs. I feel for all the people out there who have to endure them as a permanent part of their lives. They were my lot for only a short period. The courage of people who are permanently injured, is one of the great revelations to me over the last year. At least, in that, it has been a positive experience.