Sunday, April 7, 2019

Resurrection of a blog (and a hip)

One year ago today - on a much cloudier, much colder, and quite frankly very hungover morning - I went out to run.  My goal was either 4 miles or 5, whichever sleepy, hungover self was willing to give me.  As usual, once I started, I felt wonderful - still exhausted and very heavy, but wonderful.  Running makes me feel alive even when I am at my most physically or emotionally heavy.

Halfway through, my hip, as I tend to say, exploded.  It started small, like I just needed to stretch in a particular way I couldn't get to, and then bloomed out from sharp pain in my groin to dull pain down my hamstring, up my back, and sharper sharper pain down my inner thigh all the way to my knee.  Figuring I tore something and I'd have to take a couple of weeks off - and feeling oh so proud of myself for being mature enough to be willing to sacrifice two whole weeks of training, because I learned my lesson about pushing through pain, and surely I'd be rewarded for my restraint - I walked home.

Most of you kind and indulgent enough to read this have probably heard me tell this story approximately 75,487 times over the last 365 days.  Thank you for tolerating it again.

Where I was a year ago and where I am now could not be more different - for the worse, because this injury has plagued me all year and I'm still not all the way rid of it, and for the better, loath though I sometimes am to admit it.

It's hard to feel grateful for a character-building struggle that you're still in the midst of.  In the thick of it, there's still resentment and resistance and anger and lots of "Why me?" and sometimes a total lack of recognition of what life suddenly looks like now.

It's hard to feel grateful for something that has taken away so many things that I looked at as my identity.  Runner.  Yogi.  Athlete.  Grown-up-kid.  Person with the ability to sit with legs crossed.  Or person with the ability to sit longer than 15 minutes without pain.  After I stopped dancing at age 13, I largely stopped moving.  Taking up running and yoga at end of college and the beginning of 'adulthood' gave me a power and confidence and a freedom in my body for which I have a tremendous amount of gratitude.  Being without that has been frightening.

It's hard to feel grateful for something that has made me feel old and restricted and sedentary and oh so frustrated.  It shoved me forward to make a career change that has been overdue and yet still somehow came way too soon.  It's forced me to deal with things not just by running and giving myself endorphins to release the stress.  I won't say I've been fully successful, but I've at least been forced to explore other ways of coping.  If anything (besides the steadfast support of husband, family, and friends) has kept me relatively sane this year, it's been writing.

And yet, this is my first post in months.  Everything between September and now just felt too raw and personal to put out into the world - and when would I even have had time to catch my breath and write it down?

After 8 absolutely soul-filling years working with kids and families at Karma Kids Yoga and The Giving Tree, it was time to move on.  My body couldn't do it anymore, and at 34 staring down the barrel at 35, after a year of lots of medical bills, my bank account couldn't either.  My departure could not have been more full of love, support, tears, laughter, or glitter.  I'm overwhelmed with gratitude, and even though I know I'm moving in the right direction, I'm still filled with grief sometimes at the change.

My new home is Prehab, a place of healing and good people doing good work.  There is less glitter, but there is love and support and treatment and room for handstands, which are non-negotiable factors for me in any place I will ever go.  I'm surrounded by folks whose injuries and maladies exceed mine to the point of making me feel beyond humbled and small and grateful for all that is right with me.  I'm surrounded by elite athletes at the absolute top of their game who inspire me so much the word feels wildly insufficient.

I talk to patients a lot about being asked how we're feeling, and how even when we're feeling better, we're sometimes loath to use that word.  To me, "Better" feels like it should mean "All better."  But I'm still not all better, and my intense impatience just cannot abide that truth.  It feels like injustice.  I'm doing all the homework.  I couldn't be more dedicated or diligent.  I deserve to be all better.  It's hard to own "Better" when your focus isn't on the improvement, it's on the stuff that's still not better after all this time!

But I know that life isn't about deserve.  Life is not fair.  What I don't fully know and am being taught, is that "Better" is still good and worthy of celebration and sharing and honoring.

I am doing better.  You may not guess it from all the melodrama of this update, but I am.  It still hurts to sit cross legged or be too externally or internally rotated in my hip.  I still can't sit for a long time without pain.  Yoga classes are not necessarily in my near future.  But two weeks ago I was able to hug my knees into my chest - BOTH of them - for the first time without pain and I thought I would explode with gratitude.  There is much less pain.  I can sit for longer.  I have more range of motion.  I can squat again!  The gratitude!

I've gone outside twice now for two little mini baby tester "runs."  Three minutes walking, one minute running.  Lots of paying attention.  That first one, I walked outside in the pre-dawn and the moon could not have been brighter.  I remembered how much more I miss about running than just the act and the endorphins and the stress relief, but I miss being outside now, I miss being outside all the time, weather be damned, and having that time to connect to the world around me.

There's still pain when I run, but it's less.  And I know more about it now.  I'm still learning more about it.  The second time I went, there was less than the first.  I'm doing so much more to help heal myself and I can see that there's actual progress.

It's been hard to own "Better," and to believe that better, even when it's just a little, is really important.  That the small steps are there to be celebrated and not resented for not being bigger.  And lord, I can't even write yet about learning about faith and hope and forgiveness and letting go and all those scary things.  Those are still very much in progress.

What I think this year has done the most is force me out of my body and force me deeper into my head and heart and into the experience of intense humility.  It's been scary and full of powerful resentment, anger, and grief.  But holy shit, has it been important.

So one year later, I'm not done.  None of us are ever "done."  (Especially not if you ask my mom, who if she's reading this, is correcting my use of "done" to "finished.") But I am better.  And I know now that I have to own that and celebrate it and look forward with hope instead of looking at where I am with disdain and impatience to keep getting better.  Hope is a very vulnerable thing.  So I'm working on it.

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.

Resurrection of a blog (and a hip)

One year ago today - on a much cloudier, much colder, and quite frankly very hungover morning - I went out to run.  My goal was either 4 mil...