Roughing the Road to Recovery

Roughing the Road to recovery
A really boring thing they like to call "exercise." Prescribed torture is more accurate.

...12
...13 (voice shaking)
...14 (leg shaking)

"FIFTEEN!" I dig my knuckle into my burning hip flexor and sit up straight, trying to alleviate the tension in my thigh. The final set of my physical therapy sums up a routine of exercise that is simultaneously boring and painful. Besides, calling it exercise is a joke; any sweating is merely a side effect from the excruciating discomfort of trying to get my leg into a position it hasn't experienced in over 2 months.

"Repeat 3x a day," say the instructions.

Roughing the Road to Recovery
Fell asleep eating post-surgery.
Photo: My mom
Doing so leaves me with about two-point-five hours of freedom sandwiched between PT time. This would be fine if I knew it was all working toward freedom from crutches. But it's not. It's merely leading to a second surgery, after which all the effort I've put in so far will be annihilated and I'll be back to trying, once again, to bend and straighten my leg.

Sure. In the grand scheme of things, it all works hand-in-hand. But I'm humanly short-sighted and not appeased with the grand scheme of things.

Last week, one of my Outdoor Women's Alliance managers, Tiffiny Costello, sent me a quick text to ask how things were going. Most days I'm absolutely fine. Cheerful. Laughing at my predicament. I mean, even free spirited adventurers eventually learn coping skills to deal with their injured imprisonment.

But there are times when the situation rushes back to mock me as well.

78 days since I last skied. Climbed. Ran. Walked. Heck, moved at all without considering if my knee was gonna make me yelp in pain. 78 days of you people — you lucky people — saying things like, "I don't want to go to the gym today;" or "The skiing isn't that good. I'm staying inside;" or "I'm tired." During the days when the situation comes back to mock, my patience wears thin with you. "Two good legs," I think to myself, "and you don't even care." I want to shove you into adventure.

Talking with Tiffiny it dawned on me: Everything I missed, from skiing to running, made up the core of what I identified with as my strength. A day ending with burning quads and frozen strands of hair, a trail run that left me gasping for breath, a climb that pumped my forearms and left gashes near my knees — I didn't realize it, but I did those things for strength. Not physical strength. Strength of self. And for the past three months there was no chance to draw from that once-daily well of renewal. My level of strength sat stagnant; or worse, diminished each day.

Roughing the Road to Recovery
Bouldering in Leavenworth, Washington
Photo: Steve Weiss

This dawning hit hard. No wonder there was occasional frustration. No wonder there were days when I felt like my brain was a fraction of what it once was — not to mention my muscles. I questioned my predicament: How was it fair that someone like me could suffer from this when there were others who spent every waking hour watching tv after sitting in a cubicle all day? My spirit can't stand the couch; why weren't they the ones holed up indoors — it would make no impact on their life other than to make getting up to grab chips from the cupboard more difficult. Sorry if that's snarky. But you know I'm right.

For someone who doesn't feel comfortable indoors, experiences attention deficit disorder with her surroundings, and is used to acting out on the passions of her heart, my reserve of strength sometimes feels as though it's about to go bone dry. I'm not sure how to restore it in this condition so I am looking outward and hoping those who have gone through the rough spells of recovery can offer their wisdom where mine fails.

Feel free... I'm all ears.

Roughing the Road to Recovery
Topping out in Moab, Utah
Photo: Maria Paspuel


15 comments:

  1. When I wrecked my back last year, I had to constantly remind myself of two things: 1) Find something you CAN do and 2) It could always be worse!

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    1. It is kinda like finding those mini adventures for the times when you are too strapped to take a trip or too busy to go out of town... the little adventures keep you going. It has stretched my mind to try and find those things, but you are right, Heather, they are out there!

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  2. Have a long-term goal in mind to work for. Something specific. Mine was all 15 pitches of east rundle in Banff. For you, maybe it's Superior, Grand Teton, touring the alps, etc...Give yourself something to look forward to, something to train for, something to fight hard for.

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    1. That is definitely what I need to keep going, Annie. It makes me so excited to think about being in Canada next year, skiing new terrain and challenging myself in a whole new place. Thank you for that tip!

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  3. Have you read "The Prophet," by Kahlil Gibran? I think you'd really like it. There's a passage that says,
    "Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
    Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
    And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
    And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
    And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief."

    It's a little book, and soo soo good. Makes me cry every time I pick it up - mostly out of regret that I haven't learned to live with the grace and wisdom that he had. Hugs, sister! You're doing great!

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    1. Thank you so much for sending the book, Jess! Amazing.

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  4. Live ever with grace, and strength shall return, magnify, and lift you.

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    1. Thank you, Russ. :) Such a way with words.

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  5. I am sorry. I haven't been totally out of commission for that long....at least not to that extent. I had a major back injury 12 years ago and my adventuring life has never been the same. Now I battle every day with back pain....some just an annoying defeat and some barely being abke to walk. I DO admit though that I have two working legs and let back pain, or the threat thereof, keep me indoors more often than it should. I should be more appreciative that I CAN get out. I've had to come to terms though with the fact that my definition of adventure at 20 no longer fits and I need to take it easier nowadays.

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    1. I can commiserate with you. My back has always been a problem since I was in dance from a young age. Back and knees, actually, and I feel it so much now that I am sitting from this injury. Back pain is one you can't really ease — every movement causes pain. I'm sorry to hear that, Jessica!

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  6. Most of my major injuries have been above the waist (broken rib, hand, torn shoulder, etc) so I could always get out and walk. What's been restricting my adventuring in the last few years has been all the demands of the non-adventure life. Work, in an office an hour's commute from home, takes up much of my weekday. Shuttling kids to and from their activities takes up most nights. When I tried to push for more for more's sake I started to lose the enjoyment of it all. Now I focus on the quality rather than the quantity.

    Perhaps what might help you is to focus on the things you can do like writing and making photos. Without the distraction of physical exertion you could sit in an accessible location and study the way the light changes on a mountain or how the birds mine the grass for worms.

    Adventure isn't purely a physical endeavor. Sometimes it takes a period of inactivity to remind us there's adventure everywhere if we look for it.

    (And if that doesn't work there's always the hand bike at the gym for some super ripped shoulders.)

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    1. Agreed with John! Adventure is everwhere, if you open your definition of 'adventure'. For me, it was challenging myself to crutch down the street (and back) to a favorite restaurant. It was using these fun pockets in leopard print (http://crutchbuddies.com/) to still meet my friends at the bar for a beer. It was my husband driving us through Guanella Pass to see the aspens change color because I couldn't make the hike/backpack.

      As someone who's been through 7 knee surgeries - the suck of recovery reminds us not to take our (active) passions for granted. You better believe that even on days I hate running, I'm still extremely grateful that I *can* run (and backpack and ride a bike and walk and grocery shop without a motorized cart). Yes, these days and weeks of recovery are sh!tty but as my momma says, this too shall pass. Keep your head up!

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    2. John and Lynne, thank you for the reminders! John, I like the simplicity of the idea of watching the light change on the mountain. I wasn't able to drive before, but today I did for the first time in 3.5 months, and I am taking advantage of it by just going and driving to the mountains. It is totally the simple things that I have missed. Lynne, I can't wait to run!

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  7. I don't go to the kitchen for chips. Or enjoy extreme sports of any kind. My soul is fed through creating. Which often requires hours of sitting. To each their own.

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    1. Hi Jennifer;

      I referenced those who spend hour after hour sitting on the couch watching tv, not to people who are sitting and creating as you said you are, so my sentence doesn't apply to your situation.

      I also spend a lot of time sitting and creating as I am a writer. No qualms there!

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