Part 4: Broken smiles

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

I believe that deep inside of all of us there is a longing for adventure. There is a healing that takes place inside when we venture out of the norm, and something comes alive. This adventure can look different for every person. It can be a trek through the Himalayas, a simple hike through the woods, getting married, having kids, writing a song; pretty much anything in which we push ourselves and step out into the unknown.

I dove head first into our renno at our house shortly after my dad passed. We had a pretty steady flow of  demo, cleaning, planning, designing, demo, cleaning, repairing, installing, and did I mention cleaning? Home Depot became a daily spot for us. If I didn’t say this before, we were replacing our floors and kitchen while we were living in the house, so it was a little crazy to say the least.

We were still working full time, and trying to carry on a somewhat normal life; but I have tendency to obsess a bit when it comes to projects. Perhaps it was a way to deal with grief, perhaps it was just a lack of self control on my part; but I was feeling consumed by the house.

The feeling of duty and tasks that lay ahead were looming over me daily, and I couldn’t get myself to disconnect. I wasn’t out on the trails as much as I’d like during those few months, The kids had to entertain themselves more often than not during that time also. Now some of that is completely normal when a family takes on a big project, but my mental state is really where the problem was.

Anyways, I needed a break. Our new cabinets were installed, our tile was all ripped up, the new wood floors were almost complete, but there was still a long list of to dos to wrap this thing up; and I was feeling disconnected from life outside the house. So we went camping.

One of the best ways to recalibrate is to get outside and enjoy the simple beauty of this world. We found a beautiful campsite with some friends out in the aspens, and setup camp before sunset. It was so nice that we decided to take a little hike. It was a turning point. I started to feel the weight of my last few months start to lift, this was exactly what I needed.

We were finishing up our hike, and we were almost back at camp when I saw this beauty:

Something inside me said, “you must climb the rock.”

The sense of adventure, pushing myself into the unknown.

This day just keeps getting better, I thought to myself as I stood atop the boulder waving to my kids and friends. I couldn’t help but smile, smiling is my favorite.

I decided that I should come down so we could get back to camp. About half way down, it got a little tricky. I hit a spot without a whole lot of holds, and my feet were just a few inches above the next little ledge. I tried to do a little drop and grab to get my toes to the ledge, but as soon as my toes got that ledge… they fell right off.

A lot went through my mind right now, fear definitely, and disbelief at what was happening. “This can’t be real”, I thought as my hip hit the wall and sent me head first down towards the lower boulders.

CRACK! Faceplant, blood, adrenaline, and a strong sense that this was serious.

I jumped up off the rocks and started running back to the trail. I remember lots of blood, and the harsh realization that at least a couple teeth were gone, and the rest of my mouth felt like a mess.

I was fixated on teeth. As I held my mouth with blood everywhere, all I kept saying was “my teeth are gone! My teeth are gone!” I also kept mumbling I’m sorry to my wife as we hustled back to camp.

It was crazy!

Our friends stayed with the kids as Debbie drove me at a McQueen like rate to the ER. We were a strong 30 minutes out, and I just remember being in such shock, pain, and sadness. Things were not going to be the same after this… freekin’ change man.

Is my jaw broke? Nope. Is my lip gone? Nope. As we neared the ER, the Brian Regan bit about rating your pain at the ER was going through my head- Brian Regan: ER bit

If you rate it too low, then you’ll be siting in the waiting room with half a baby aspirin for the next couple hours. if you go too high, they may not even take you seriously, “You say your pain is at a eight? Yeah, okay…I’ll be back.”

Actually in my case, the shear amount of blood got me in immediately.

The staff was great, our friends were great, and Debbie was the ultimate support. Overall, it was as good of an ER visit you could hope for. It was tough being coherent while cleaned out all of the debris and stitched me up. The next week was filled with dentist and doctor visits, and I was so tired of laying there awake in pain as people messed around with my mouth. I went back and forth from a stay positive attitude to extreme sadness. 4 1/2 months later, I’m still getting repair work done.

I’ve always been a smiler, and the thing about being someone who is known as a smiler is that it becomes very obvious to others when something is bothering me; and honestly, I would prefer to be a little more mysterious than that…that is cheesy, but true.  Smiling became habitual for me when I was around others, because it was a great shield to the pain and struggles inside. This started long ago in my adolescence.

To rise above, that is what I had to do. That is a choice we all have when life crumbles around us, or when change is running wild in our life. Yet, the strength to rise above in a healthy matter must come from somewhere deep inside; it cannot be a faked… it must be true.

Now…I had no more smile to hide behind. All I had was a busted up grill, and a head full of emotions. A turning point, a shift in my trajectory. It’s been a wild few months, but it has led to some good things.

I needed to accept the fact that I was a mess inside. I am starting on a path to true healing, facing the fears, doubts, and sadness that has been dwelling in me behind my smile. I would recommend to anyone out there to find your broken smile (figuratively, don’t actually fall on your face!), and be free from the fears that hold us down.

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