Today was a momentous day, for me at least. Not to bore those of you who have ever read any of my other recent posts, but I ruptured my cruciate ligament in early December, and then, four weeks later, I fell down the steps in my garden, doing further damage to my knee. I had no option but to have a major knee operation at the beginning of February and today marks the sixth week after the op. That’s almost four months ago.
Those past four months have been a series of dark moments, along with a few high ones, I’ll call them peak states, thrown in at key milestones. Today has offered up one of those key milestones, a particular high point, which I wanted to write about in order to mark the occasion and celebrate it with you.
Today I did my first walk. Unaided I mean, without crutches. It was a small walk, granted, and a very wobbly one, but a huge step for me (to part borrow a phrase from Neil Armstrong). It marked what Medium’s №1 writer, Benjamin Hardy, would call — a point of no return. Assuming I manage to stay out of trouble and don’t fall down a pothole over the coming weeks, these first steps will be taking me into a new future — one where I’m walking not only with a new physical make-up (I now have a few less hamstrings in my leg and a few more where my cruciate once was), but also a new mental one, too. Who knows, maybe it was the second fall that marked my point of no return, but either way, they have both been momentous occasions, and likely life changing in so many ways.
The point of no return is something that Benjamin Hardy talks much about. It’s about investing so heavily in something that you have no choice but to go with it — you are putting your head on the block, your skin in the game, so to speak. The Cambridge Dictionary describes it as “the stage at which it is no longer possible to stop what you are doing and when its effects cannot now be avoided or prevented”. Whether this is a choice, or enforced (if you believe the experiences you have in life are enforced, I don’t) it’s at these points when life really wakes you up. So many of us spend half, or all our lives asleep (I know, I did for many years), clumsily falling into this and that, rather than being the creator of our lives where we purposefully set the course and sail towards our ambitions, goals and dreams.
I have learned so much in these four months. I knew I would. I knew right from that first moment, in order to get through some of the hardest physical and mental challenges I’ve yet faced in my life, I’d need to embrace this as a learning exercise — one where I would understand a great deal more about myself. It sounds strange even to me, but it felt like it needed to happen. I can’t describe it fully, but even when I heard that first pop in my knee back on the ski slopes in early December, it felt, well, almost expected. That sounds ridiculous, I know. And in some ways I don’t want to emerge from this little cocoon I’ve been forced to create for myself, because this has been a period of inner sanctum, of learning, of getting to know myself better, observation, gratitude and embracing vulnerability in ways I could never have imagined.
A friend today commented she found me more humble. I thought it was so insightful of her. She caveated that, of course, I wasn’t egotistical, but we all have egos. And in so many ways, an experience like this throws ego entirely out the window. Without humbleness, this experience would have been altogether different, and as strange as it sounds, less rewarding. I’ve been humbled by the kindness and generosity of others, too. In being vulnerable, people have stepped up and into my life in ways I could never have imagined. And so often, in situations like these, it’s those you least expect, some you never even knew before. There is no doubt in my mind; experiences such as these are great opportunities to observe not only yourself and your own reactions to events, but also the great joy in the unexpectedness of those that step forward to help.
What this has offered me, too, as much as humbleness and vulnerability, is patience. Great patience. In dramatically slowing down and literally shrinking life, as something like this requires, it makes you patient in ways that enable you to see others better. To see those you missed before — those you passed by. In my earlier life, I was often drawn to the loud ones, the cool ones, the ones who made sure they stood out. I missed so much.
My last parting observation, is the great gift moments such as the one I experienced after my first walk today, offer up. These are what Benjamin Hardy calls peak states. When you experience a peak state such as this — it’s elation- capture the energy that lies within it because these are defining moments in life. When I took those first steps, after four months of utter upheaval and enforced incarceration, I found myself entering a peak state, of elation. A period of time not only where you feel elated, when you feel you can conquer the world, but also one that helps you focus on what’s really important to you — your goals and your dreams. These moments supercharge your creativity and your ambitions in life, bringing clarity and purpose. Benjamin Hardy talks about these in his Medium posts and up until now, I thought his claims on the power and potential of capturing and working with these peak state moments, were a little far-reached. Yet through my own experience I’ve come to experience they are, indeed, enlightening and are not to be wasted. When you experience them, write down your dreams, the ambitions you’d forgotten about or put to one side. Peak states, when captured, change you. Embrace them, take advantage of how you feel during these moments and use them to set and define your dreams in life. Harness them to work out in which direction you want to set sail, and I promise you, you’ll find ways to create a life you never considered, nor ever dreamed possible.
And so, writing this in the moments of exultation I feel after taking my first steps today, I celebrate with you the challenges we’ve all faced and all the difficulties we all will face. And within those, the treasures and great lessons they hold for us, if only we choose to listen.