As I sip a rare afternoon cup of coffee, settled down to write this blog post, I can hear traffic sounds tinged with rain and I can see clouds sitting low on the hill across the way. For some this might be an utterly dreary and unwelcome day, but I love it. This is my moment to sit and savour, not only my coffee but my thoughts. My day started early for a day off work, which meant that I was at the gym even earlier than I would typically aim for, but the early bird gets the worm or an empty gym to work out in. Today’s training program focus was bench press with seven sets at a weight that would normally scare me. That kind of weight is something I never used to do for many reps and definitely not many sets, but I’ve been surprising myself these recent weeks and boosting my confidence in the process. Week by week I have been gradually increasing the number of sets I could do at the heaviest weight in the range given to me, and today I even exceeded my own expectations by completing 6/7 sets at that weight. Go me!
At one point between sets as I listened to one of my power songs playing through my earbuds, my thoughts were taken back to New Year’s Eve 2019 as I completed my first 5K race in several years. The exact same power song was playing in my ears as I crossed the finish line and was, in fact, my theme song for the year: Rise Up. In the three minutes I had to rest between bench sets, the past four years flashed before my eyes. In just two weeks will be the fourth anniversary of herniating a disc. That feels like so very long ago and yet still not far enough in the past. There has been a lot of healing since then, yet issues remain. Through it all I have worked hard to be more than the injury. Some have said that this injury would define me for the rest of my life, that it would forever prevent me from doing certain things. While I believe that every body is unique and personal experiences may vary greatly, I don’t want to be forced into a box based on someone else’s experience or bias. This is what drives me, and yet, I sometimes feel as if I’m merely treading water, barely keeping my head above the surface. My life today isn’t nearly as dark and painful as it was when the injury occurred or even a year ago, but I still fall into the trap of thinking I’m getting nowhere. This morning’s three minutes long flashback highlighted a few of the ways that I have indeed succeeded. Not only was there that 5K race, there was also a solo 10K in September 2020. I returned to the powerlifting platform in July 2019. It wasn’t my best performance but it wasn’t my worst. With the exception of vacations or a few acute pain days, I have been consistent with going to the gym and recently increased the number of times I train each week. And I said good-bye to my pain doctor this summer. Depending on your point of view, these might seem like big things or small, and even my point of view will vary depending on the day. But they are things to be proud of, milestones of progress and growth and character.
My theme for 2021 is A New Hope, and I have felt new hope off and on throughout the year to this point. However, I think hope can be difficult to see or feel at times, even for the most optimistic, but maybe part of hope is trust and consistency. In this situation, I have had to be patient with the process of healing and discerning in who to trust when it came to the care and advice given to me. I have also had to be consistent with rehab and all that goes into setting a body up for success in healing and moving beyond the trauma. Even when I had negative and indifferent voices speaking to or directing my healing, I am thankful to have also had positive and supportive voices to speak louder into my life and position me in the right direction. Hope has never been completely lost for the past four years, but this year has truly found me feeling a new sense of hope that is difficult to put into words. It’s intensely personal and more emotion than spoken word. As I look ahead to competing at Westerns in three weeks, I feel a sense of hope that is being bolstered by the small wins I have been having in the gym recently. This will not be my best ever competition and that is okay. There’s still a dark, dusty corner deep inside me that contains the fear of revisiting the trauma of the injury, but hope, even when thin and fragile, is still stronger and I will choose it every day.