Yesterday I rode for the first time in months. I ventured down south of the James and rode on the beautiful low traffic roads that I remember once believing were hilly. It was an amazing feeling to be mobile and fast again. Despite the occasional tweak in my ankle, the pain couldn’t compare to what I experience when running or swimming. And the pain from my lack of training was an adequate distraction. For the first time in many, many years, if not ever, I was passed on a solo ride by another cyclist. It was awkward as hell and I’ll admit my heart sank when I heard the whir of his spinning chain slip by. I felt broken but I remembered I had vowed to not let my insecurity be my motivation and I continued to enjoy my ride. With my hairy, skinny legs, I was determined to accept the state where I had arrived with acceptance and pride.
I had my MRI yesterday morning. Ever since learning about the basic of an MRI in my organic chemistry class, I have been fascinated with that form of medical imaging. For the twenty-five minutes I lay with the magnets clambering around my leg, all I could think about was the amazing feat of human knowledge and engineering to be able to create such a machine. The tech had told me as she walked out that all I had to do was keep still. She might as well have told me all I have to do is not think about elephants. I kept still though and the images came out beautifully. I asked for a copy of the pictures, acknowledging that I had no idea what an abnormality would look like, but admitting I just want a picture of what’s inside me. I immediately pulled up the pictures when I got home and was overwhelmed with the ability to look at pictures of the biological structures within me, the systems which had allowed for my mobility the last twenty two years. It added to my already overwhelming appreciation for the power of life and evolution. I was giddy as hell staring at pictures of my bones, ligaments, muscles, and nerves for over an hour. Later that day, after my ride, I pulled up the images again and scrolled through for another hour. I wondered, as I often do, how we humans could ever be unhappy with all that we know and all that we can do.
That’s my ankle! How cool is that? It’s awesome if you ask me. You can see my calcaneus (or heel). You can see my tibia, or shin bone, one of the two bones that the Louisville player, Kevin Ware, broke a few nights ago. You can clearly see the two muscles of my calf, the soleus and the gastrocnemius, and my Achilles tendon which connects them to the calcaneus. Then there is a little ligament between the talus (bone touching the shin bone) and the calcaneus which I imagine is the talocalcaneal ligament but I may be mistaken. All that dark, meaty looking stuff on the left of the picture is muscle. But seriously, this is a picture of my ankle, an image of something which I will hopefully never actually see. This is insane and makes me so happy.
Needless to say, there was little chance of me finding any noticeable deformity in my ankle which is why someone who gets paid a ridiculous amount of money to do this is doing it instead. Hidden somewhere in all these pictures is something that isn’t right, something that is making it near impossible for me to run and something that, whether fixed or not, is going to leave me with some really fun arthritis when I get older.
I am not unfortunate for my predicament though. I recognize that there is no need to mourn. I just had an amazing picture taken of my insides using some incredibly advanced technology. I had the ability and the privilege to be able to live in the mountains and run and cause this injury to begin with. I have a bicycle on which I can still ride. I have amazing healthcare and some diligent, compassionate, loving parents who are willing and capable to pay for it. There is no reason to feel plagued and not once with all this have I felt I was dealt a raw deal. I am alive and observing, an opportunity that resulted from over a dozen billion years of random occurrences. No matter what situation I face, as long as I can remember that, I believe it’ll be hard to ever be unhappy.
I understand though that I am naive and some people are without the privilege that I was given. I wonder maybe if they could see an MRI and they could learn about an MRI if they would experience the same kind of unfailing, indestructible excitement that I feel. I wonder too if my excitement is truly as persevering as I imagine it to be or if it is a mere illusion of the fortune I have had. I guess the only way to know is to keep exploring, keep asking, and keep learning.
I used to believe that without the ability to provide an endpoint, learning and education would never satisfy anyone. I thought the preponderance of questions would never provide for cosmological answers but I now believe I was mistaken. There seems to be a threshold at which I knew enough to acknowledge how little I really know. At that threshold rather than feeling anxiety at my ignorance, I felt content. I felt satisfied with my awareness that I never would know. So maybe this MRI, maybe, I hypothesize, these badass pictures, and other awe inspiring achievements of humanity and traits of the universe, are the key to sustained happiness.