I would be lying if I told you it was easy

I’ve been asked a bunch lately why I don’t write in my blog anymore, and it’s a good question. Writing here seemed to be therapeutic for me through certain stages of my injury and rehabilitation and I think it still is, just realistically I don’t have a lot of time in my day-to-day to give a lot of thought to my overall situation, or maybe I avoid it. As of late when I do get the chance to communicate with friends, family and coworkers I’ve found myself really trying to make this all out to be no big deal, something that’s easy for me to handle and that not a whole lot has really changed. I guess it kind of intimidates me to write here very often, as it’s a sort of self-exploration that I don’t always have the emotional strength to deal with.

I would be lying if I told you it is easy for us to get settled in to our new life in Oregon. The challenges that come along with being a quadriplegic significantly cut down our options for housing, and it has become an incredibly frustrating situation that not many people could hope to understand. As a result we have now lived in a hotel room, completely on top of each other, for six months. The majority of my time with Katrina is spent brainstorming about our housing situation, looking for a better situation or listening to Katrina download what she has found out in that regard (she spends a lot of time on this).

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to have chosen my career over my rehabilitation. I consider myself extremely lucky to have the job that I do and to work with such an amazing and inspiring group of people. I’m completely engaged on a day-to-day basis and I love doing what I’m doing. There is a positive aspect in that I feel normal when I’m at work and I don’t feel anyone I work with sees me as being any less capable because I’m in a chair. Realistically I don’t think if I would have chosen to not pursue my career it would have led to any more focus on rehabilitation, as rehabilitation is expensive, hard to find and consumes not only my time but that of my family. It’s not like when I broke my neck I received some sort of settlement that would have made it easy for me to go focus on my body for the next couple years and living on an income stipend from Medicaid doesn’t necessarily allow a focus on rehabilitation.

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to not feel humiliated and helpless being totally reliant or my loved ones for my care. The times during the day when I have to ask for help or medically require help are definitely the times when the impact that this injury is going to have on my life hits home the hardest for me. You never realize how many things in your day-to-day life you take for granted until they are lost.

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to listen to the stories people tell me about “their friend in a wheelchair who is so amazing because they can do this or that” only to find out their friend is a paraplegic and they don’t know the difference. All I can do is shrug and say wouldn’t it be nice. The challenges I face not being able to use my hands or having full strength in my arms has definitely become the most annoying aspect of this injury.

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to sleep at night. The discomfort of not being able to move is one thing but waking up at three o’clock in the morning from spasticity and not being able to fall back asleep because my mind wont stop racing is another. I try my hardest to focus on making connections in my body and on the healing that still lies ahead but it’s a challenge to not get caught up in the reality of the moment that I can’t readjust without waking up Katrina (who deserves what little sleep she gets).

I would be lying if I told you I didn’t miss my good friend CR Johnson. CR and I had a long-standing relationship; I first met CR when I was 17 and my first filming trip was a month in Alaska with him, Evan and Tanner. Since then we’ve shared a friendship that is very common in the ski community and many were lucky to share with CR. When I got hurt CR immediately reached out to me and was such a powerful and positive person to share what I was going through with that we spoke often. I was lucky enough to have CR spend a couple days with Katrina, Tyler and I in Los Angeles this summer and the memories that came out of that brief visit will always bring a smile to my face. I spoke with CR the day before he passed away and he kept saying “after all we’ve been through think of what we’re going to be like when we’re 40″ (for those of you who don’t know CR suffered a traumatic brain injury in 05’ and just this past year reclaimed his place at the top of professional skiing). The thing we most shared in common was the mental growth that is a result of going through a traumatic injury; hearing about his death the next day was like getting punched in the throat and it’s still hard to swallow.

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to follow the world that I was once so much a part of on TV and the Internet. I miss making films and all the traveling, friendship, teamwork and good times that came along with it. I have incredible pride in watching my friends succeed at what they love but it’s hard not being there with them.
*Big thanks to Jossi Wells for rocking my sticker all season on his way to becoming overall AFP world champion!

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to stay hopeful after being paralyzed for over a year. I am constantly reminding myself that healing from this injury is going to be just as much mental as physical work. It’s so incredibly hard to not settle into the reality of my situation without feeling like I’m losing the hope that is going to change my situation.

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to stay in touch with all of you who are consistently and constantly reaching out sending your support. If anything I wish I had a few more hours in my week specifically for this. I usually get to fit in about one phone call a day on my way home from work so it’s a slow process getting back to people but I’m thinking of all of you constantly and feeding off your energy. When I do get the opportunity to read the comments here or log on to my Facebook it really energizes me to make the most out of each and every day. For those of you who find inspiration in what I’ve gone through, it’s humbling, and I’ve written this to let you know it isn’t as easy as I may make it look.

Riley

50 Responses to “I would be lying if I told you it was easy”

  1. Toshi says:

    Thanks for your honesty brother.
    I think of you often and pray that it gets easier.
    Much love.

  2. Riley,

    Your strength in putting words to your thoughts is inspiring. Thank you for taking the time to think through it. Our love for you is strong. Now, let’s get that house designed and built. Joseph will be calling you in under three hours. . .

    Love,

    Julie

  3. Mary (jamie + brendan's mom) says:

    Dear Riley,
    THANK YOU so much for writing this installment and sharing some of what you are dealing with in life right now. I recently took a bad fall down my front steps the night before I was to leave on a business trip. That next day, maneuvering through a few airports, I needed a wheel chair and someone to help me move from one place to another. It was humbling and a real eye-opener. I kept thinking of you. No experience in my 56 years can compare to what you deal with every day since you broke your neck. The consequences of having your trauma are ever-present. As you say, the healing is about mind and matter, not mind over matter. I am so pleased to hear that you have a creative outlet for your energy among good people. There is tremendous loss, yet in the experience you have found exquisite appreciation for the simple things most of us take for granted. You ARE a fine human being, Riley. Thanks for a glimpse inside your world. Sending you and Katrina best wishes for finding the perfect place for you guys to live in Oregon, and big hugs from me in Cape Town. Love, Mary

  4. Hi Riley !

    Touched me to tears reading about how You two struggle living in a hotel room. It touched me to tears reading about how You struggle through Your day to day life. It’s of course hard for us to understand what You are going through.
    Lisa often tell us that she hope You get better in the future, and visiting church she usually light a candle for You, hope that will help.

    I read Your post sitting in the hotel Lobby right after JOSS awards, realizing that it was just two Years ago You were over here filming Simon… many of your collegues and friends still have RP stickers on their cameras and other stuff, I bet they miss You. We all wish You could have been here.

    I really hope You can find a nice place to live in, you deserve that.

    Big hugs from Sweden
    /Jörgen and fam.

  5. Mike Rogge says:

    You’re the man Riley and you continue to inspire me every time I read a new post. Keep fighting. Thanks buddy.

  6. Pops says:

    I love you buddy.

  7. Victoria says:

    Hi Riley, you don’t know me, but I’ve been following your blog for a while. I consider myself a skier, even though I’ve only been doing it for about 5 yrs.
    Anyway, I’m just writing to let you know that you’re in a lot of people’s thoughts and prayers, even in those you do not know. I read your blog because you truly are inspiring, not many people can keep moving the way you have been. You’re lucky to have such a caring person by your side. I really hope everyone’s words of encouragement help you find the strength inside yourself to get a little bit better every day.
    Take care.

  8. Hey Ri – I’m SOOOOO glad that you blogged… I’d be lieing if I told you I didn’t miss hearing from you, knowing that you are hanging in there and still such the teacher to us all. Selfish on part, I know… but you are just SO valued and cared for and loved. I don’t KNOW why this happened to you… and yet I LOVE that I have become to know you through all of this. You are amazing – really, truely amazing… and Katrina is the strongest, most loving beautiful person ever. you are so meant to be together, through this all (I wanted to say unfair shit but that is just so negative – LOL). Anyway – keep writing, as you can Riley. You owe us nothing… but you inspire us all so much.
    Love and light, believe and beauty being sent to you and Kat every day. STAY STRONG. YOU ARE THE LIGHT that many others have been looking to find! xoxo

  9. Hi Riley;

    You made a good decision to focus on your career.

    Everything you do is rehab.

  10. Stephanie Watkins says:

    Hey Riley,

    I’ve wanted to send you a note forever…I’ve wanted you to know that you’ve been in my thoughts and prayers since your accident and I’ve quietly followed your blog and progress.

    I appreciate you keeping it real…..”I’d be lying” is brilliant because the fact of the matter for many of us is that shit happens…it just does….and everyone elses lives go on and ours are changed forever. I guess what matters is how we choose to move forward ourselves. Its not easy at all, but for me, I’m driven by my son’s energy to strap it on and make him proud…until I see him again.

    With love and big support,

    Stephanie Watkins
    Asher Crank’s mom
    Crested Butte

  11. sandra hannah ben says:

    hey Riley,

    Life is full of ups and downs, don’t let the downs get to you.
    You are an incredibly talented person, with so much to offer.
    Just remember there are so many people out here that love
    you, support you and pray that one day you will dance with
    Katrina.

    Lots of love from Hannah, Ben and Sandra in Vermont

  12. Kathy Darrow says:

    I really appreciate your honesty. It is important to be real, and you express the true circumstances so well without being piteous. Have you ever read the book “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” by Jean-Dominique Bauby? He does an excellent job with this perspective too. You are a fantastic writer. Take care and keep writing!!!

  13. Jennifer McDonald says:

    Dear Riley,

    I think of you often. I can’t even imagine what you are going through. So many people here in Albany, New York also think of you and wonder how you’re doing. Take care of yourself and keep us posted.

  14. Ryan says:

    Riley, you bring tears to my eyes man…I met you in Dillon CO and you were super cool. I hooked you and a couple of your friends up with some free Starbucks. When I heard about your situation I immediately sought out a way to help you out and since then I’ve tried to donate all that I could. I’m not individual of money but I’ll continue to do what I can for you bro. Stay up.

  15. Bosley says:

    Riley
    I have read some of your posts watched some x games with people supporting u

    I know of a couple of guys that were para palegic after having been world class skiers one that I have followed is beyond amazing Bob Vogel I strongly recommend you talk to him
    Listening to you believe it or not you sound beyond blessed by God as crazy as that sounds
    In reading and following Bob Vogel a former world class aerialist his experience and positive attitude will help u

    He is skiing again powder etc he says he gets the same buzz

    Google Bob Vogel absolutely amazing guy always has been always will be

    Keep the faith

  16. Guillermo Soler says:

    Riley,

    From Argentina I send you all my possitive thoughts and wish for the best. I would love to be able to write something that made any sense but I can’t. Between the language bareer and my crappy grammar I don’t know what to say except for YOU ARE AN EXAMPLE FOR ALL OF US.

    Here in the south corner of the world you have someone that thinks of you as an inspiration.

    Stay strong

  17. Christian Skamarken says:

    Riley! Hows it going, brother?

    I’m a 17 year old freeskier from Norway who thinks alot about you and you’re such a hugh insperation to me! I really hope that you won’t give up the hope and keep working on getting out of the chair. You’ll get there, dude!

    Keep fighting!

  18. Alex 高泽 says:

    I’m Alex from China, I saw your videos from youtube,so i come to your website after seeing it. I hope you you are doing fantastically,Riley! I hope to keep informed about your recovery information, I will feel happy for your every single slight advance! Email me if possible!Remember that:There’s no problem so big or so small that it cannot be solved with LOVE !

    all the best,
    LOVE , Greetings and Care from China!
    Alex

  19. Thomas Arbs says:

    Riley:

    Boy, do I understand how hard it all must be for you. Successes, setbacks. And you and you alone have your Real Life to live. Yet this virtual life has come into existance. You have people all over the globe taking part in your life, you have more than 2,000 Facebook supporters, readers like me (far away in Germany and barely into skiing, and still following your story). Hey, give us a copule words! (And hey, right now your Facebook site is being abused and flooded by spammers. Act!)

  20. Honestly, I’am speechless. The Shawshank Redemption is terrific. I am quite young film fanatic, actually, this movie came out whenI was very young, and thus I’am to a greater extent accustomed movies with marvellous special effects, edge-of-your-seat action, et cetera. This movie has zero of that, and however, it appeals so closely . The way Frank Darabont applies the narration of Red to drive on the tale, the excellent the music applied (note the harmonica used just before Red receiving the letter at the end). The entire film, from beginning to closing, from actions to sound, is a beacon of desire, judgment, and redemption. The cast is perfect, Morgan Freeman(Red) really brings about a refreshing feel to the story, and that’s exactly what the movie is, what a film should be. Really recommended for each viewer.

  21. Kay says:

    Hi Riley,

    I learned about your journey recently, and I have to say that reading through everything that has happened to you in the past year has been both inspiring and humbling. I’d been in a bit of a mental funk because I’ve been through major knee surgery this year following a skiing accident in March, and for the first time in my life experienced significant incapacity and reliance on other people – albeit to a far, far lesser extent and for a much shorter period of time than you have.

    Reading your blog has been an immensely humbling experience. You have had to face a test much harder than anything I can imagine, and yet your spirit and will to live your life regardless has never dimmed. I am so full of admiration – more than I can possibly say – and I have so much respect for the tenacity and determination with which you’ve approached such a hugely life-changing situation.

    I also have a world of respect for the people who have supported you through this, especially Katrina. I know that my own limited experience with injury, surgery and its aftermath have given me a whole new appreciation for my friends and loved ones and what they’re prepared to do for me. The support network around anyone who suffers a significant injury is full of heroes.

    Never apologize for having a bad day or a down moment. You are facing challenges that would beat most of us with dignity, grace and determination.

    As a wise man (Laurence Gonzales, author of Deep Survival) once said, “Shit happens, and if we just want to restrict ourselves to things where shit can’t happen…we’re not going to do anything very interesting.”

    I wish you strength on the days when you need it most.

    Kay

  22. rico says:

    Almost two years now and almost Christmas. You are an awedome human and who would not be proud to know you. All my best all the time. Have Katrina friend Gloria d Benish on FB.she should tell a little about you and ask for a response. It would benefit all I think. Ryker and I send our Love!

  23. 22. My brother recommended I might like this blog. He was entirely right. This post actually made my day. You can not imagine simply how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  24. I went to a special science and technology magnet school. Essentially everybody in the science program went to college. (A few would be too poor, or have other life events occur, but it was assumed that everybody was at least aiming for college.) There was never any real debate about it; your career path went through college. (My family certainly reinforced this notion, since I was a very small child.)

    For a well-paying career path, college really is the way to go. There are ways to succeed that don’t go through college, such as trade schools, but many of them involve either luck or very long apprenticeships. So I was groomed to go to college, and given the opportunities to take classes and extracurricular activities that made me attractive to college.

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    My experience is not entirely typical; only a small percentage of students got to go to the advanced classes I took in the environment aimed at higher education. It worked well for me, but I wouldn’t recommend it to people who aren’t suited to it.

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    But you asked for my experience, and mine was extremely useful. I’ve done very well on a public school education, followed by higher education at a state school.

  25. strumpfhosen says:

    I have gotten on facebook not everyone has magnet schools in there area. I thought for sure everyone knew what they are. They are a public schools that specialize in certain subjects along with the regular everyday ones. Here in Vegas they have a couple of elementary, about 6 middle schools and 8 or so high schools. For instance my daughter wants to go to Bridger Academy of Math, Science and Technology or Knudson Academy of Creative Arts, Language and Technology. You do have to apply to go there with only a certain number of seats available so they usually accept the students with the highest grades. Worst part is that they can be far away and the students must be there at 7…earlier then other schools.

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