The Vulnerability of Injury
Last Friday I hurt myself in Crossfit. It wasn’t as dramatic as it sounds; it didn’t happen during a heavy lifting session or on the pull up bar or anything fancy like that. It was actually quite pedestrian...one of those “dumb” injuries. I was jumping. That’s it. Just jumping. I landed wrong and oh my lord: pain shot through my entire body; for a minute it felt like I had been paralyzed. Excruciating.
No one in the class even noticed, it was so not a “thing”. I tried to laugh it off and keep going but my body was telling me that was an impossibility. I moved to the side and the coach asked me what was up. I told him and he said to roll it out, which I (painfully) tried to do. I ended up continuing with the workout, even though I was in pain. 150 wall balls for time.
Needless to say, a few hours later, I could no longer walk. I went to the chiropractor but he couldn’t really help me much that day. I spent the weekend hobbling around or laying in bed. I couldn’t stand up straight. It hurt to move at all. I figured: Lay low and you’ll be fine by Monday. But Monday came, and I wasn’t. I went to the chiropractor again and he encouraged me to refrain from exercise Wednesday as well, and probably all week. I was so bummed. Exercise creates mental sanity for me.
Being injured is no fun. It is so humbling. It reminds you of your vulnerability and of how much you take your normal healthy every day body for granted. It's also totally inconvenient. Honestly, a real pain in the ass. For a doer like myself, it’s the ultimate nuisance. I can’t move quickly. I can’t move freely. I can’t multi-task and do everything I want to do, all the time. Even simple things like bending down to pick something up, putting away laundry, lifting the baby. Ugh, my impatience screams...When will it end? When will things go back to normal?
But injury is also information - critical information, I believe. It's your body trying to tell you something that it's probably been trying to tell you for some time now. Where are you weak? What needs strengthening? Protection? What have you been ignoring? Brushing off? Pushing to the side?
The massage therapist I saw two days ago assures me this wasn’t about the one jump. It was about groups of muscles, tendons and such (sorry, I’m not very scientific) having been taxed over time. It often happens like this, she explains. Some little thing is the straw that breaks the camel’s back - but the camel has been heading in this direction for a long time. This really resonates with me.
The probing, analytical side of me always finds it useful to ask WHY? WHY has this happened? Why now? What is this telling me? And what in me needed this to happen, on some level? In this case, it's obvious upon reflection that my resistance was down before this happened. Joe had been sick all week and though I managed to narrowly escape it, I was battered and weary from the fight. Beyond drinking Immunity Tea and popping zinc & echinacea, I hadn’t really slowed down or done anything special to take good care of myself. Truthfully, I hadn’t been eating, sleeping, or taking care of myself very well overall, the past couple weeks.
And then there was the weepy state of my emotions. Excavating my past for a creative project I've been working on had left me soul-tired. Combine that with Mercury and five other planets in retrograde, and add in that little thing about the world seemingly coming to an end (Nazi marches, natural disasters, the threat of nuclear war looming) and yes, the picture crystalizes. I was open and raw and susceptible to injury.
But what good does knowing all this do? I can see why my vulnerabilities were exposed - on a spiritual, mental and physical level - but what has this experience shown up to tell me?
The answer I hear is two-fold. The first part is about balance. Mobilization, rest, self-care...these things need to be a priority, just as much as the actual workout is. I wouldn't dream of skipping one of my regularly scheduled workouts, but I often go days without stretching; there's very little yin to counter that yang. In the middle of a busy life, it just seems so indulgent and expendable when you’re healthy. Sure, it’s nice and feels good but who has time for that? On to the next thing. Until something like this happens and then you realize hmmm...I need to make time for that. It’s just as important.
The other part is, I need to get stronger in some areas. I need to stabilize. Maybe I need to commit more to working on the things I don't like to work on so much: my core, for instance. It's always been an issue. It needs to be solid so it can hold me up. I can't continue to overuse and overcompensate with other muscles. I deserve this protection. And though everything in me feels slightly terrified by this reality, there's a little voice there saying - Yes! Go there. You can get stronger. You can have a solid core. Yes, you can. You just have to make it a priority.
Somehow during this messy week, the tide has turned and suddenly it’s not summer anymore. The days are getting shorter, it’s getting darker faster, and my plate is getting more and more full. It seemed to happen out of nowhere. Just like an injury does. By Monday, I hope to be back in the saddle, resuming my workouts. But from this point forward, I resolve to making some real and necessary changes to my daily operations. To notice. To take good care of this one miraculous machine I've been given to to travel in.
The body has so much wisdom. We just need to listen when it talks.