Time Travel, Music and a Road to Recovery.
Time Travel, Music and a Road to Recovery.
I have never been musically talented. To offer some perspective to this statement, I had the triangle taken from me in the percussion section when I was in Year 7 – or First Form, for those that can remember back that far. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate music – far from it. As for so many, it has formed the soundtrack of my life, playing in the background as milestones of my existence came and went. Most recently, music has been a pivotal element in my road to post-operative recovery.
Following major surgery, one of the greatest challenges has been regaining confidence in my body. Just days before my diagnosis I had hiked 14km in 38-degree heat. I had been coaching sport, exercising regularly and living an active life for someone in their late fifties. And then I went under the knife. My chest had been pried open and the surgeon had done his magic, leaving me with a range of challenges and nearly as many scars. Merely looking in the mirror reminded me that I had undergone a form of physical trauma.
Fortunately, I had been directed towards physiotherapy, rehabilitation classes and a long-term program to regain my former physicality. At the core was a plan to register mile upon mile of walking, that began with only metre upon metre. I would carefully pace through the hallways of the hospital ward and conquer a few steps in the stairwell under supervision. No more than 7 minutes, twice a day – it seemed pathetic. On coming home, there were endless laps of our house which evolved into laps of a tennis court before finally trekking out into the real world. Still, gaining confidence remained a challenge and music was there to answer the call.
My family had gifted me “ear buds” before I went into hospital but it was not until I began walking after surgery that I began to use them. It was a revelation beyond the mere enjoyment of lyrics and harmonies. The “shuffle playlist” they had set up for me filled my ears with songs of my youth and my walking sessions began to transcend time. It is something that I am sure many listeners experience but, for me, this revelation achieved something very significant – it began to restore my confidence. The soundtrack of my schooldays took me back to the cross-country races and specifically that moment when I passed the Glasson Pavilion and realised that I was going to win. Sting’s “Every Breath You Take” was ever-present as I struggled through my first marathon, particularly around the 35km mark. Cricket, soccer, rugby, cadet pack marches through the national park, nighttime hikes along the Murrumbidgee River and a mix of “crushes” on a mix of girls. From my days as an Ambo, lifting men twice my weight and hauling them down narrow corridors. These vivid recollections were all still there, set to the music running through my head in 2023.
Unbeknown to me, I had apparently achieved these things with a birth defect that had compromised my body. Now that defect was gone. Theoretically, my age notwithstanding, I was now physically better than ever equipped to take on the challenges ahead. As I walked each kilometre, the music took me to that time in my life when I consistently pushed my body and I could feel the good endorphins flowing. I was aware that my days of running marathons had passed, but set to this soundtrack, walking further each day became a reality and, as in my youth, my body responded. As the soundtrack became more contemporary, Kirrily and the kids, holidays by the beach and hiking up Diamond Head all came to the fore. Snorkelling off an island in Fiji, Saturday morning “Park Runs” and “pulling Gs” with Matt Hall as he wrung out his aerobatic machine over Maitland.
Throughout my life, every time that I had challenged my body, it had answered the call. Now the call was ringing like an alarm bell and it was the gift of music that was reminding me of my capabilities and not my limitations. Confidence in my body was restored through tunes that transcended time and reminded me of past challenges. Importantly, I recalled the positivity that such challenges brought me, even when I did not succeed.
It’s been five months since my surgery and each day I walk up to 10 kilometres and yet it’s equally important to remember that those kilometres started with a few humble steps. Just as it is important to recall the strengths of my youth, it is critical to recall five months past, three months past and even last week to mark the milestones and to confirm that my recovery is very real. Life will continue to present hurdles but by remembering the obstacles of the past, my confidence to surmount them remains intact.
With the only possible exception being that while my children display artistic talent, I still haven’t mastered the triangle.