“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
“Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert
“Things usually work out in the end.”
“What if they don’t?”
“That just means you haven’t come to the end yet.”
― Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle
“Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be.”
― Charles Jones, Life is Tremendous
Two beautiful quotes about November.
“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
“It was November–the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines. Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
I decided today that I really like the month of November. Halloween is over, we are officially in the depths of Fall. The peak season of leaf peeping has past yet there still remains the occasional gloriously plump tree still turning.
I’ve only given out candy on Halloween a few different times. None too recent or monumental to recount. If memory serves I’ve either been out on Halloween or at home with the lights off. No one home, go away. Any Reese’s on premises are already spoken for.
Alas, tis’ November 1st. Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays, has yet to arrive. Many people are starting to talk about and plan for Thanksgiving. If you’re lucky you’re making plans to spend time with those you feel closest to. There’s excitement, anticipation, colorful thoughts of roasted buttery food, gooey desserts and robust drink.
Here’s a synopsis of my absolutes for November:
- I will be in a cast and on crutches
- I am severanced from my job
Given these two absolutes one can deduce a few things:
- I will have some extra time
- see above
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
As we know I am happiest and healthiest when focusing on a goal. I intend to use this month of November for good and productive and meaningful purpose. Take the opportunity to reach some goals and most importantly, not waste the time that is given. An opportunity like this comes along infrequently. It is not often that you leave your job, but even more intensely, have a broken foot and are getting around on crutches. This adds a whole other layer of being removed. It’s like being snowed in during a huge blizzard. The decision making is taken away from you. The expectation for you to go out and pick up your dry cleaning or check the mail is all but removed, guilt free. Right now there is very little expected of me. Other than to eventually find a new job, yes. But mostly, I’m being let be to heal. I’m being left to be.
So what are the new goals? At the minimum, they start here:
- Go to church each Sunday
- Get to ACF 4 times weekly
- Write here every day
- Take a cue from Carmen and post one thing I am grateful for every day
- Complete the 30 day plank challenge with our group that started today
Item 2 above, the ‘Go to ACF 4 times weekly’ will need to be a little bit more in-depth and explored further.
Today was the start of something very good. I trained with Dean. With his creative coaching and care and patience I was able to rest my knee on a ab mat atop two 25lbs. plates atop a box and do:
- 5 sets of 10 – 54lbs Russian kettle bell swings, and
- 5 sets of 6 and 3 – deadlift, clean and press complexes at 55lbs. It felt wonderful.
My bench presses increased since last time we tried, up to 85lbs.
I’m definitely getting stronger in the upper body and this makes me feel incredible. Now to put some solid goals in place with fitness for the month of November. With the above 5 goals as foundation, there’s no reason I can’t make this month simply beastly.
“There are moments when troubles enter our lives and we can do nothing to avoid them. But they are there for a reason. Only when we have overcome them will we understand why they were there.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Fifth Mountain
It was just on Friday that I was talking to Jim and he asked how everything was going.
‘Sorry I haven’t checked in for a while. How is Oliver? How are you?’ he asked
‘Thanks for asking,’ I said. ‘You know things seems as if they have finally quieted down. Feels like things are not breaking or falling over as much, no one has gotten any stitches. Maybe I’m finally used to this. Beaten into submission,’ I added.
‘That’s good. That’s good,’ Jim said. ‘I’m glad to know you two are okay.’
This was on Friday. I was a little bothered that I had not heard from him in a while, wrapped in the expectation that he should be showing more concern for me but Monday was my follow up appointment with the doctor and I was feeling optimistic. Overly optimistic. I had high hopes for some good news. They would take an X-ray and somehow magically say I no longer needed a cast, that I had graduated to the boot, that my life on crutches was soon coming to an end.
I went about my weekend. Going to Friday Night Fights at ACF and cheering the competitors, taking photos, reconnecting with the community. Saturday morning up early and down to CrossFit Beyond to cheer some of my favorite CF Peeps in a fundraising WOD, Barbells for Boobs. Take some more pictures. Feel happy. On the road to somewhere good. Feeling like I’m making progress and getting healthier and getting back to who I want to be.
Sunday I go to brunch with my family and think about the week ahead. I look forward to the week ahead. I’ve somehow convinced myself that I will receive good news on Monday at the orthopedics. I’ve convinced myself.
Monday morning I check into the doctors office. They remove the purple cast and ask what color cast I would like next.
‘Aren’t you going to take an X-ray?’ I ask.
‘You’ll have to ask the doctor about that, first we need to get you into a new cast.’
‘But, if you don’t take an X-ray how will you know if my foot is healing?’
‘We can still take an X-ray over the cast,’ the nurse says to me. ‘What color would you like?’
‘Black,’ I say.
I’m dumbfounded. I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but in the very least I expected another X-ray. It’s been three weeks since my last appointment. I wanted to see progress, I wanted to know I was doing well, that my foot was almost healed that this life on crutches was soon to be behind me.
As the final bits of the black cast are wrapped around my leg the doctor walks into the room. He’s tall, broad chested, confidently slow moving almost goofily disarming.
‘Aren’t you going to take an X-ray?’ I plead.
‘You want an X-ray?’ he asks.
‘I NEED an X-ray!’ I say.
‘Ok,’ the doctor says.
‘I need an X-ray because I need to know.’ I say. ‘I need to see progress. Something positive. There has to be some hope in all of this.’
‘We will get an X-ray.’ the doctor says.
Frankly, I’m confused why an X-ray is not part of the original plan of this follow up visit. It has been 38 days since I broke my foot. 38 days. Shouldn’t my foot be healing? I simply do not understand. When did broken bones stop healing back together?
After the X-Ray my sister-in-law and I sit in the waiting room and discuss what color Sharpie would show up best on a black cast, silver or gold.
‘Want to see the X-ray?’ The doctor asks.
In his office I study the image on his computer screen. It looks foggy, I’m guessing because of the cast.
Here’s a synopsis of what I think the doctor said to me; ‘The good news is that your bones are lining up nicely. I’d say another 5 weeks in the cast, then you come back and we take another look.’
All I hear is: ‘another 5 weeks in a cast.’ It’s all I can focus on and not at all what I hoped for – what I planned for. The news is devastating. 5 weeks. 5 weeks. 5 weeks. Didn’t the last 4 plus weeks count for anything? Anything at all? When did broken bones stop healing? I don’t understand.
It’s as if all the days and weeks of struggling and growing into acceptance and relearning how to live have been erased and I’m starting from scratch once more. All hope is washed away. I’m not even half way through this journey. The light at the end of the tunnel snubbed out. There is no end in sight. Not for me. Not right now.
I took the news hard. I came home and lied down on the couch. I drank NyQuil to help me fall asleep. This morning I woke up groggy, not wanting to get up. I simply had no desire to get moving. No desire to get the dog fed and the coffee made and the dog downstairs and outside and my teeth brushed and my hair combed or to get dressed in a clean set of clothes. There was no part of my body or mind that wanted to do any of these things. There was no will to join the day.
Tonight I’m feeling a little more settled. But there’s a lingering sensation of indifference. Knowing this is now my fate for the month of November I feel the need to pair down my life even further. My last day in my current job will be Nov. 8. I think about how long I can last until I find another job. The people in my life that I once thought of as best friends have disappeared, the people in my life that I never thought to ask to show up continue to show up consistently and all without my having to ask. The life lessons are plentiful. Like fireflies lighting a distant summer night, if I do not grab the illuminated lesson quickly beneath the lid of my mayonnaise jar the moment will pass and the illumination will disappear.
My perspective on life continues to readjust as new realities come into focus. All of life seems so fragile. Relationships, people, objects, pets, your health, your abilities, down to the smallest minute item we can take for granted. Just going out to get a cup of coffee is now a whole new unfamiliar script.
I feel vulnerable as I worry about my ability to take care of myself in the simplest of ways. I worry I’ll be left behind. I worry I will no longer be relevant. I worry no one will notice I’m no longer there. Losing my job during this time is an additional stress of the unknown.
The final truth is that none of us can really control any of these things. These are life’s events. Our job is to be as best prepared for these moments as you possibly can. Perhaps I should remember I’m able to do so well on crutches to begin with is because of all of my CrossFit training. Perhaps I should be grateful for the time spent with family now as a result of their taking the time to include me knowing I’m injured. Perhaps I should focus on the incredible generosity of those close to me and far, the rides to writing class, the gentleman who carried my groceries to the car, the resistance trainer in the garage secretly assembled and attached to my favorite road bike by my brother and his wife, ready to ride when I get the go ahead for weight bearing activity again. Perhaps I should remember all of these beautiful things.
That’s my favorite bike. And that’s a brand new resistance trainer installed on the rear wheel and ready for action once I’m ready for action too.
I’m finding when these set backs occur, like the one yesterday at the doctor’s office, when I did not hear the news I wanted to hear, when these expectations are not met and I feel disappointed, there’s a resulting bump in the road. A mental speed bump. I get sad, I feel disappointed, I get knocked down.
But it is now 48 hours later and I’m starting to build back up again. Remembering the generosity and love of those around me, I’m looking ahead to the month of November and thinking, take this time and use it. Use it and make it beautiful. Write, create, relax, enjoy. Your job is winding down, you will have some extra time. Granted you are on crutches but relish that you can heal and not feel like you have to be out the door doing and performing for a new job. Enjoy the cool weather, sit outside with Oliver. Go to mass on Sunday. Eat healthy. Focus on your volume training. Finally get a pull up. Get back to that place, get to that place, that you want to be, even if you have to get there on crutches.
You can still get there, even on crutches.
“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” ― Neil Gaiman
I woke up today feeling optimistic. Granted my job is ending in two weeks with no new job on the horizon and I’m hopping around on crutches with a broken foot in a purple cast. Granted. But there are so many good things to focus on too:
- The dog – with the first sound of his happy tail thumping in the morning I’m reminded of the absolute beauty in simplicity and kindness. Oliver was a rescue dog. I found him when he was 2, living as a backyard dog in TN. I adopted him from a photo on petfinder.com having never actually met him. The first year was rough, there were aggression issues. Even my trusted vet, after Oliver snapped at him during an initial exam, suggested I may have made a mistake in choosing this dog. Today, Oliver is a love bug, full of playful bows and nose nudges and patience and kindness. He does not chew or jump or make a mess or bark unless necessary. He calmly watches and waits his turn. I can still stand to learn a lot from him.
- The people that have come into my life as a result of CrossFit. I must have done something right to have this army of bright, hardworking, funny, caring, kind, patient, generous, grit your teeth and buckle down and get shit done group of friends in my life. The amount of support they have demonstated over the past month has been completely unexpected and amaze-ballz. Demonstrated being the key word, there was no ‘if you need anything let me know’ empty talk, because one of the hardest things to do when you need help is ask for it. No, with my CF Family it has been more like, ‘we are coming over and cooking dinner for you or picking you up and taking you to a Penn State Game, or a Pearl Jam concert or to the grocery store or to the gym (you can still work out you know). Not a lot of talking, just an incredible amount of unending doing. Actions > Words.
- My family. Like my CF family, except you can’t choose these people as they are assigned to you at birth. Regardless, they continue to show up. Even despite my best efforts over the years to deter them from liking me. Despite their best efforts to do the same. Sometimes if you’re lucky they stop by to deliver the best chicken wings in town, or pick you up and take you to writing class or to go buy mums and grass fed beef at a local farm.
- There are simpler things to be grateful for too….
- Great coffee in the morning
- October weather
- Leaves that paint the landscape and fall to the ground
- The outfit I’m going to wear as soon as my foot heals which includes; an incredible pair of tall balck boots and warm tights and cord skirt and warm coat.
- Colorful scarves
- The fact that my foot will one day heal
- The next PR on my deadlift
- Thanksgiving is coming
- While I may not have met him yet, the love of my life is out there making his way to me. Remember:
“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.” ― Steve Jobs