Eleven days shy of one year later - one year since tearing my achilles tendon - I jump on my bicycle and ride shaky and giddy all around Mercer Island. In the grand scheme of dreams, this is but a drop in the bucket, but it feels like no small feat this afternoon. It is, in fact, a dream realized, and so I savor it for one nerve-wracking, liberating hour in the April sun.
I pull Uni, my 90s Univega road bike with the red tape wrapped around her handle bars, out of the storage garage, grateful to remember the combination on my lock. Her deflated wheels house cobwebs and dead insects, and upon close inspection, the thick wire lock is nearly severed through in one section, so I'm glad to see her there at all. The number 162 still hangs wrapped around the upper cross bar, a relic from our triathlon nearly two years ago. Ricardo helps pump life into her tires once more with the pump I finally recovered, ironically, days away from our move from the island, and carry her outside like a child at Christmas.
We've had several crashes, Uni and me, and so I wobble a bit on her ten pound frame and skinny minny tires, trying to remember how to adjust the old gears and feel confident riding on something not stationary. When you've left swaths of skin on concrete, it doesn't leave you, this feeling of utter vulnerability on top of a bike.
Nor the sense of exhilaration, the speed, the air stinging the corner of my eyes and tears trickling down.
Days after my surgery, I needed to get out of the apartment for brief outings, and so Ricardo would drive us around the island with my leg in a cast propped up on the dashboard. We'd pass by bicyclists hugging the curves of the road winding all around the island, with peeks of Lake Washington below, and I envied them their freedom to roam this outdoor playground. Their two strong legs and body in fluid motion. I had no idea it would take so long, to get from there to here.
I ride around the island, up and down hills, hugging those windy roads, alternating prayers of "Thank you, Lord" and "Oh God, please keep me from wiping out." It's utterly terrifying, the thought of another injury, and yet these tastes of normalcy, of things I once enjoyed, fill me up with wonder and gratitude.
I'm not where I thought I would be, nearly one year later. I never imagined it would take me four months from my injury to walk well enough to return to work; six months after injury to work without my leg swelling and painful at the end of my shift. I'm still not close to running again and my calf is smaller than the other, barely any muscle there. I have yet to do one heel raise on my injured leg.
I can ride this bike. I can swim. I can walk. And I can dance, somewhat awkwardly, but that doesn't stop me.
It's amazing, the things I once took for granted, and I wonder how hard it will be to hold onto that the further this injury is in my rearview mirror. It's still with me, a tiny limp at times and a scar down my ankle. And this, even this, is beauty all its own. Reminders of brokenness, of healing still in process, of gift and grace.