Friday, September 14, 2018

Grieving to Believing

I took a bit of a blog hiatus recently - we've had a lovely few weekends with Marc's family and with my mom coming to visit, and I've been busy with our "back to school" schedule ramping up at Karma Kids Yoga, plus still fitting in all the doctor's / wellness appointments I need.

When I'm going through a hard time, it's often really hard to blog about.  I don't want to over-share, and I'm also always very cognizant that what I'm going through is peanuts compared to what many people, some of whom read this very blog, are going through or have been through.  It causes me to minimize or feel a bit of shame about my pain, but I always have to remind myself that it's okay to feel it.

Brene Brown says it best, as per usual:

"Empathy is not finite, and compassion is not a pizza with eight slices. When you practice empathy and compassion with someone, there is not less of these qualities to go around. There’s more. Love is the last thing we need to ration in this world. The refugee in Syria doesn’t benefit more if you conserve your kindness only for her and withhold it from your neighbor who’s going through a divorce. Yes, perspective is critical. But I’m a firm believer that complaining is okay as long as we piss and moan with a little perspective. Hurt is hurt, and every time we honor our own struggle and the struggles of others by responding with empathy and compassion, the healing that results affects all of us.” 
-Brene Brown, Rising Strong-

So, I can still be grateful that things aren't worse, but acknowledge the truth of the pain that I'm feeling.  It's a weird balance that I'm never quite sure if I've figured out.

It's also hard to blog about because there is SO MUCH I COULD SAY that I sort of succumb to paralysis by analysis and don't write anything.

I'll keep it simple and just give a hip update for those waiting with bated breath.  MRI confirms a labral tear, which reaffirms my faith in my wonderful sports medicine doctor who made the diagnosis within two seconds of seeing me, but...I had been led to believe that a labrum is completely incapable of healing itself without surgery.  It turns out - that's not the case!  Although it is harder and takes longer than a muscle tear to heal, it can heal.  I was lucky to get a really amazing female doctor to talk me through my MRI results on Monday, to have my wonderful husband join me for the scary visit, and to utilize his brilliant idea to record the visit so I could re-listen as many times as I need to make sure I fully understand everything.

Even though I've turned a corner in my pain level this last month, it's been the worst one so far for my mental and emotional health / attitude toward it all.  I've been bracing myself so fully for bad news - thinking that I'd need surgery which would financially break us or thinking that with or without surgery, I'd never be back to my 100% healthy self (no more running ever, no more yoga ever, no more sitting cross legged without hurting my body, pain for the rest of my life, aging before I'm old) - that hearing good news was a shock to my system.  This week has felt like a series of "Snap out of it!" slaps to the face.

I do need to restrict my range of motion even more than I have been lately, which continues to be frustrating.  I can't mess around with overdoing flexion, extension, internal rotation, or external rotation in the right hip - which continues to make my job and daily life challenging - but I've finally been gifted a little hope.  Not just from my wonderful friends who have never stopped believing I could heal, but from an actual doctor.  Her goal, like mine, is to get me back to 100%.  She thinks continuing to get my ass kicked in physical therapy (literally - sort of) and being really cautious will get me there.  We think it'll take until at least December, and if I'm not where I need to be, that's when we'll start talking possible surgery.  But I have the world's best physical therapist and I am more fired up than ever to put this shit behind me and heal.

Suffering a crisis of faith is uniquely challenging when you didn't have much of a faith reserve to begin with.  I wasn't raised with religious beliefs and was never drawn to anything more than the idea of spirituality, which is the vaguest thing ever.  This was definitely a crisis of faith, though.  I didn't believe I was going to heal - because I had been told that labrums don't heal without surgery, and surgery brings its own baggage - and I literally could not say the words out loud, "I will heal" without breaking down.  I didn't believe it.  Even now, for some reason, it's hard to say that I will.  But I need to snap out of it and fake it til I make it.

For now, it will be enough to get out of the city for a few days and back with my soup sister, who rejuvenates my soul and is one of my absolute top sources of faith when I need it.  Tomorrow I'm off to the Mile High City and I could not be more excited or grateful!

Friday, August 31, 2018

26 Laps

One of the many things I love so much about training for a long distance race is the training plan.  I love a good training plan.  Figuring it out, tweaking as you go, but mostly just the look of that beautiful, clean chart or calendar that steadily tracks your future growth as you go farther, push harder, and get stronger.

I feel a little at sea when I don't have a training plan, let alone when I can't run at all.  This injury is forcing me to treat time and working out very differently, but I at least had the opportunity - once I did my test run which confirmed that my body won't let me run NYC this fall - to create a sort of training schedule.  A shorter term schedule for swimming.

My goal has been to swim 3 times a week, but weather and doctor's appointments have kept it to two days a week for the most part.  My original goal was to swim 20 laps by the end of the summer - and then I realized, why on earth wouldn't I shoot for 26?  If I can't run a marathon in November, I can at least swim a symbolic number of laps on the last day the pool is open.

For the last few weeks, each time I swam I added two more laps.  I'm pretty sure the first time I swam laps this summer, it was a gargantuan effort to get 1, and I wound up barely doing 8.

I kept building up, and it kept getting easier and easier, to the point where today's 26 laps felt somewhat unremarkable.  Each lap, I thought about where that mile would take me through the NYC course - Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, Manhattan again - the bridges, the neighborhoods, the crowds.

Swimming is one of the only other things I can find for myself besides running where it is (or can be) a completely solo activity.  Just you, your brain, and your body getting caught in a somewhat mindless flow.  One foot in front of the other, or one stroke at a time, repeat repeat repeat and just let your mind go where it's going to go - or give it some conscious direction.  They're moving meditations in a way that even yoga isn't quite.  They scratch a different itch, I think.  Plus, swimming laps makes me feel connected to my Granddaddy, who swam laps in his pool nearly every day that he physically could, well in to his 80's.

I'm sad I won't have the Astoria pool again until next year.  I'm nervous to see what my MRI results will be and what that will mean in terms of recovery (although I am making strides in my pain level and my PT, which is great) and most importantly, running.  (I would also very much like to be able to do pigeon pose again, please.)

So, I need something else to do.  Another physical goal to reach, some other hip-safe activity that can help me turn my mind on or off, whatever the day requires, and get caught in a mindless but beautiful flow.

26 laps, 1300 meters.  It's not nothing, and I'm glad I did it.  But I do also very much hope that they are part of a much, much longer training plan that concludes with 26.2 miles on November 3rd, 2019.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Music Share - Aretha

Been playing this in my Prenatal and Mom & Baby classes since Thursday.  May we all have such strength and grace.

RIP Queen.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Music Share - A comforting trifecta

This past week has been hard.  Money, injury, health care, work, future, change, uncertainty, fear - all that scary adult stuff has been coming up in a big, big way for us.  It's been amazing to have Marc back home so we can help each other through it, but I think it also sort of caused an emotional dam to burst in me.  Pretty much as soon as I clicked "post" on the last entry, my perspective and growth was washed away by tears, anxiety, and a variety of exciting breakdowns.

Aside from the unmatched love and support of the amazing people I'm lucky enough to have in my life, my biggest source of comfort this week was music - specifically, these three songs I'm going to share today:

1.  Tender, Blur

Marc discovered this via the Benedict Cumberbatch show Patrick Melrose, which I haven't seen but have heard is great.  It's long and it's an interesting combination of soothingly repetitive but also lyrically jam-packed.  It's a song that heartens me and cheers me up without being aggressive about it.

2. Anthem, Perla Batalla & Julie Christenson

Like my all-time love Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen's brilliant songs often shine brighter when covered by other artists.  In this case, his unparalleled and beautiful Anthem is given an unparalleled and beautiful cover by two incredible female vocalists.  The harmonies are stirring, the lyrics are as resonant and gorgeous as ever, and it's a perfect sad-happy-inspiring song.

3. Come On Up To The House, Tom Waits

Saving the best for last.  I don't have the words to describe what this song does for me.  You know how sometimes when you're down, you don't really want to be brought back up?  I can listen to this during those times and still somehow be brought up.  It's quintessential Tom Waits - gorgeous and smart and poetic, yet unsentimental with bittersweet humor.  The music and melody, his roaring, rough, howling voice, the perfect lyrics - it does that thing that music does.  It transcends, and opens up a path for you to transcend too.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Addendum - Prevention / Recovery

It's been interesting (and also, of course, awful) to unpack the shame, blame, and anger I've felt over my hip injury and the journey of finally accepting the necessity that this year is going to look absolutely nothing like I thought it would.  I've been angry at my body, incensed at every person who has told me it's a sign I shouldn't run anymore, and awash in the seas of, "not fair."

That last one struck particularly because, ironically, my only new year's resolution this year was to make it to the starting line and finish line of the marathon healthy and injury-free.  I literally have a list that's still tacked up on my wall entitled, "2018 Mobility / Injury Prevention Plan!" and I stuck to it.  I foam rolled.  I drank vitamins and electrolytes.  I cross trained more than I had in years.  I took epsom salt baths.  I saw my PT once a month and the cheap foot spa in Ditmars twice a month.  I did everything right - and although I've been conditioned to despise the phrase "not fair," I have had a major, major case of the "not fair's" these last few months.

But as with all challenges large and small, with time comes perspective - and hopefully a teeny bit of wisdom.

Sometimes when I'm teaching a class and students aren't quite grasping an alignment cue, I have them do it "wrong" to feel what it feels like to do it "right."  Tensing your shoulders up by your ears to an extreme, for example, to feel the release of dropping them down again.  You felt your shoulders at their most tense, and you felt that release.  Maybe next time you'll have a little more awareness of when the less extreme but still problematic tension comes back again.

It's with that idea in mind that I started to think, as I was trying to think about what this is here to teach me, that my injury prevention plan was incomplete.  This injury is partly genetics (the shape of my femur and hip sockets and iliac crests) and partly years of hyper-mobility, hyper-flexibility, and insufficient stability.  They say rejection is protection, and my body rejected the way I've used it for most of my life, from my ballerina pelvis of my youth to my billions of butterfly poses of my adulthood to the many steps I've run thinking my form had been fixed when in fact it had only mildly improved.

So - although my resolution and my list of practices was completely well intentioned and laudable, it was incomplete.  I didn't know it, but the proof of that has been in the pain.

I still have a lot of fear and uncertainty about my recovery, but what I do know is that although this year has now shifted from prevention to recovery, the recovery in and of itself will ultimately lead to greater understanding, greater strength, greater self knowledge, and a capacity to come back stronger and smarter.  And that sounds like pretty good prevention to me.

Life is a cycle in that way, isn't it?  We're doing our best to protect ourselves against problems and suffering, but that's impossible, so we inevitably experience problems and suffering.  But it's what we do with it that determines our future responses to it.

Jim MacLaren, quoted here by Elizabeth Gilbert, says it much better.  Her full post is here, and it's well worth the read.

"But what I will always remember about Jim most clearly is when he told me, "Never waste your suffering." This was in response to a question I'd asked him about whether he thought that suffering makes us into better people. He said, 'Not necessarily. Not automatically. Suffering just happens, constantly and randomly, and if you don't make anything out of it, then it causes you nothing but harm — it happened to you for no reason. But suffering can also be the greatest possible invitation to transform — but only if you accept that invitation, and only if you go through a complete catharsis, and only if you actually change yourself because of what you've experienced. But that part is up to you. Only you can execute a catharsis in your own life. Suffering without catharsis is nothing but wasted pain. And you should never waste your pain, never waste your suffering. It's powerful stuff, the most powerful stuff there is. Use it. Transform from it. Learn. Grow. Be better.'"

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


Most of my runs in 2018 have been in absolutely terrible weather.  A few have been just your run-of-the-mill winter runs, and I actually like running in the cold.  One, maaaaybe two was unseasonably warm, which is always amazing.  But especially those few runs I went on post Costa Rica, right before my hip exploded, the weather was trying to tell me something.  Heavy snow, heavy rain, demoralizingly, polar-vortexingly-cold and depressingly overcast.

This past Monday marked 15 weeks until the 2018 NYC Marathon.  I hadn't gone for a run since April, and, although the writing on the wall implied that the marathon was almost definitely out, I wouldn't know for absolute sure until I took a little tester run.

I got up.  I warmed up.  I did all my PT homework like the teacher's pet that I am.  I walked and did drills.  And then I ran for one block.

Deep, intense pain, deep in my iliacus and psoas.  Impossible to ignore pain.

I walked two more blocks.  I ran a block.  It was there - but a little less?  Maybe?  Was it really less, or was it wishful thinking?  Or was I just adjusting to it?

I walked three blocks.  I ran a block.  You see where this is going.

To be clear, I didn't expect to feel good, necessarily.  I didn't expect to feel pain-free.  I didn't expect to run more than a block or two.  I didn't plan on or even want to go for an actual run-run.  I knew there was a 99.9% certainty I would feel some pain.  Some pain.  Not deep, intense, impossible-to-ignore pain.

The disappointment I felt was not so much about the race - that writing was on the wall, and I was always going to feel like I was playing catch-up with my fitness level, and walking on eggshells for fear of re-injury.  That's not a mentally or physically fun way to train.

It's more a disappointment and fear of - oh, we're still this bad?  Months later and this is still where we are?

Well.  Shit.

The good news is, I didn't have a sobbing nervous breakdown, although I did feel sad and scared and a little tearful at some points throughout the day.  Mainly I just focused on work and went to bed ridiculously early.

The good news is also that when I was completely done with testing and I was making the long(ish) walk home from Astoria Park that the overcast skies opened up and poured down warm, summer rain on me.  I went from slogging through humidity to feeling cleansed and even somehow weirdly cared for.  I know that doesn't make sense, and it's hard to explain.  The bad weather (and I actually like running in bad weather sometimes) I experienced the first part of the year almost seemed to be pushing me away.  This weather felt like an embrace.  It felt comforting, somehow.

I walked slowly uphill back to my apartment from 20th avenue.  It was raining hard but not windy at all.  When I got there, I didn't want to go back inside yet, so I stood outside my apartment, stretching my calves and just being where I was.  Trying to be okay with what is.

So.  This week I'll be pulling the trigger and officially deferring to the 2019 New York City Marathon.  We're now at 67 weeks and 466 days til the race.

I've got so much more to say about it, but for now I'll leave it there.  I'm grateful for the rest of my health.  I'm grateful I can defer.  I'm grateful for everything I'm learning through all this, about my body and how I deal with adversity for better and worse, even though I'd much rather just stay ignorant and run most of the time.  I'm grateful for the rain.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Deciding not to decide (a marathon update-of sorts)

The last time I saw my wonderful mother-in-law, she was sweet enough to loan me three books that Marc and I had gotten for her.  I got her into Anne Lamott a couple of years ago, and it's so nice to share a love for her and her brilliant writing.

I read a line that cut me so deeply I had to laugh out loud:

"Maturity is the ability to live with unresolved problems." - Anne Lamott

This is something I struggle with so much.  As a control freak, I like for things to get wrapped up in neat and tidy boxes, and I don't like loose ends.  I've written before about how much I struggle with uncertainty, and I know I'm not alone in that regard.

This spring and now well in to summer, this has obviously been manifesting itself in my slow-to-heal hip, and the question that no doctor or PT has answered for me yet - Is it realistic to think I could run the NYC Marathon this November?  That I could not just run it, but run it in good health and cross the finish line with a smile on my face and a happy hip?

I've had the time to grieve the possibility of deferring it to 2019, and I'm in a place while, though still bitterly disappointing, I can be more philosophical about it and keep perspective.  I don't want to just run it because I can, I want to run it knowing it won't be a stupid decision leading to me jeopardizing my ability to run for the rest of my life, which is much more important to me than any race, even this one.

What's been tricky, though, as I've lived in this space of uncertainty is this:  How do you bridge the gap between foolishly getting your hopes up for something unrealistic, and stubbornly believing in yourself with a relentlessly positive attitude against all odds?

Or to put it more simply:  Is it stupid to walk around saying "I'm definitely going to run in November" when the truth is that I don't know?  And that I might not be able to?

Or - is it defeatist to hedge my bets?  Am I being negative?  Am I not having the right attitude and sabotaging myself?

It's an intensely vulnerable thing to make a declaration, to set a goal - I'm going to run New York this November - that might not happen.  To put that out there with the chance of having to walk it back and say, "Actually..."

It's especially vulnerable if you didn't really grow up with ideas like faith.  I was taught to believe in myself and try my hardest of course, but I've never been a religious person.  As spiritual as I am, I'm firmly agnostic because I can't say for sure if there is a God or there isn't.  I'm a very literal person and I like to be (say it with me now) certain.

Putting a ton of blind faith in the notion that I will definitely, absolutely, no matter what heal in time - like Laura has done, which I could never express enough gratitude for because it has gotten me through so many rough days - isn't something I've been able to do 100%.  The truth is, I just don't know.

So, what can I say 100%?

I can say that I will do everything in my power to run it this year.  I will pull out all the stops.

I can't say yet if it will be this year or if it will be next year.  Or God help me, the year after that.

It needs to be about the larger goal.  Believing in my body's ability to heal in a larger and more general sense rather than tying my self worth to a time table.  We all know our bodies don't care about our plans - sickness and injury can and do strike whenever they damn well please, and the best we can do is take care of ourselves to the best of our ability.

What I'm really saying is that I need to let go of the result right now.  I need to let go of being certain and having the answer right now.  It's hard to do when the result is so deeply important to me and something I've been working toward for over two years.  Adding another year to that is not fun, and I'd like to emotionally prepare myself ASAP if that's what's going to happen.

Running is a passion.  It's messily and inextricably mixed up in my identity.  It's how I cope with stress.  It keeps me sane.  It's so much more than just a workout or just a hobby.  People who flippantly tell me I should stop running have no idea what a big part of my life it is that they're suggesting I cut out.  It's not an option.

All of this is to say - I'm deciding not to decide.  The next two weeks will reveal a lot.  I'm finally working out more in PT and at the gym.  The Astoria pool is (finally!) open so I can add to my cardio.

I'm deciding not to decide in the interest of keeping hope and faith alive, and allowing there space to be an acceleration in my healing now that I'm in far less pain and doing far more work.

I'm working on getting comfortable with uncertainty.

I'm living in hope, but I'm also fully embracing the possibility of deferring, and looking for all the silver linings therein.

And best of all - I'm getting out of dodge for a week tomorrow.  I blinked and my sister's 5-pound babies are turning four on July 16th.  Time for me to go down and soak in as much family goodness as I can.

So - I will see this ol' thang in two weeks.  And I will probably have an answer by then.

(But maybe not.)

Grieving to Believing

I took a bit of a blog hiatus recently - we've had a lovely few weekends with Marc's family and with my mom coming to visit, and I&#...