I am at the annual South Carolina Council Teachers of English conference in Kiawah, SC.
This has become the “Glad You’re Alive Tour” since this conference is composed of dozens of my friends and colleagues, most of whom know about my recent car/bicycle accident but haven’t seen me in person since then.
Today is also day 2, year 56.
As I challenged myself in my most recent poem: “who writes about turning 56?”
I am not entirely sure what has spurred this burst of narcissism, this navel-gazing—aging or the accident, or some combination.
Both, I am sure, have flashed mortality before me more brilliantly than ever. The consequences of that are paradoxical, an urgency to notice every moment and a dull realization I am now confronted with way too much time far too often.
The persistent back-handed compliments of my adult life have revolved around how much I accomplish, the praise a thin veil for the nudges that something must be sacrificed to write and publish so much.
But few people ever saw the full experience of me who writes every day and then also cycles 10-15 hours a week, all year, for about 30 years.
The very perverse secret to my productivity has always been that I cram so much into every day that it forces me to be efficient and productive. My motor runs far too high, and I suffer for that with trouble sleeping and pervasive anxiety.
Day 2, year 56 also marks a little over a month with a fractured pelvis, a mostly stationary life that now has huge chunks of time that once was devoted to my bicycle.
I am not a stationary person. I am not one who enjoys free time.
This has been the sort of hell on earth that my existential leanings recognized was the human condition, but this experience has kicked my ass with a vengeance.
The greatest insult added to injury has been that my only refuge for exercise has been riding the recumbent stationary exercise bicycle in the past few days.
I detest exercise bicycles. I loathe exercising inside.
My life as a cyclist has had life-giving qualities I have recognized only in hindsight.
The constant motion of cycling and the hours cycling requires are irreplaceable balms for my OCD and ADHD.
And cycling outside, in the most glorious thing of this world, the sun, is my only real defense against depression. I probably have seasonal affective disorder, and nothing keeps me closer to the boundaries of happiness as sunshine does.
As awful as the exercise bicycle is, this has relieved the pain that has plagued me since being hit by the car, and I also have begun to sleep better (although I have never slept well).
Here at the conference, my return to exercise has been interrupted again, although only for a couple days, but I feel the same creeping anxiety that has defined my life for 30 years when I fear I cannot ride my bicycle as planned.
So I am here on my “Glad You’re Alive Tour,” and the thing that I know has changed in my life is I notice people looking at me as I never have before.
It began in the ER when family arrived.
Maybe it was the accident, or growing older, or a combination of both—but I see other people and myself now in ways that are more distinct.
Anxiety, you see, is being always prisoner to what may come next, to be alienated from the moment.
Day 2, year 56, and I am now being newly introduced to the moment.
The moment yesterday morning when I found on Facebook the video of my granddaughter posted by my daughter in which Skylar is telling me happy birthday, that she loves me.
After a horrifying nose bleed on the morning of my birthday, I sat on the couch and cried hard.
I am not sure I know what to do with that, but I am more eager than ever to try.
The accident has lowered the bar, people are glad I am alive, and I am filled nearly to bursting that they are glad and that I too am glad to be here.