Monday, March 3, 2014

"Ya Gotta Be Tough, Ya Gotta Be Strong..."

Earlier this week on Instagram, I briefly highlighted the challenge of the last six months of my recovery from the nasty lower back injury I sustained during a race in September (http://instagram.com/p/k-9uDKGf3v/).



While I keeping it short isn't a strong point (little miss long-form answer over here), I try not to delve too far into paragraphs in most social media posts; I do, however, find much deeper meaning in what I've learned from this injury than the words I attached to the above photo. 

Let's just say this: prior to compressing a bunch of important stuff in my back, I always viewed people who talked about constant back pain as whiners, or complainers. I felt that life was a lot harder to more people and that they should probably just 'suck it up'. In short, I was a super jerk. From my ignorance rose an apathy that could only be cured by a similar blight: the onset of continuous, prevalent pain that stemmed from an injury to my spine. 

Fast forward six months, almost to the day: getting together with a new friend for a couple of beers and some chit chat, the subject of back injuries came up. A former world class skier and aerialist, he also damaged some pretty important physical gear in his back and, after a short bit of discussion, wryly pulled out his keys, from which dangled a small, red pill container. "It's become a marker of chronic pain", he explained. I excitedly reached into my own pocket and removed my keyring, which holds my own 'bad pain day' insurance. We both grinned as we tucked our collections back into pockets and zippers, newfound comrades in the daily fight for simple physical function. In that moment, I knew I'd never hear from him what I would have so quickly thought a few months ago: 'suck it up'. 

Some days are good. Hell, some days are REALLY good. Then you have good weeks, and you hit a stride. It feels as though you're 'getting it back'. The weight at the gym comes easily again, and you can (almost) spring out of bed. And then there's a bad day, like an unexpected rain cloud burst during a lovely summer picnic. It just happens. And life goes all to shit. One more time. Again. 

And it happens, over and over and over again. 

But that dark cloud has a few silver linings, and I'm learning to appreciate those linings more than I hate the pain... And that's the difference. Whether it's my newfound empathy and compassion for anyone feeling poorly and making friends, to having a set barometer for my body's limits and knowing myself better than ever, it's important to recognize the positive in every situation. 

Part of that positive is knowing how far I'll  be able to push myself this spring on the competition circuit. Another area is being forced to listen to my body or suffer the consequence of not being able to move. But the best thing about this injury? Not taking anything for granted, and never assuming that my limited experiences sum up the entire spectrum of circumstance. 

And that's a gift, that perspective. It can mean the difference between a positive day and a negative one, which always dictates my thought patterns and behavior. And behavior, folks, determines success.

Everything is a win-win when you look at it that way. Even Mondays.