Ownership

Grey gave way to blue sky and yellow sun this afternoon, and for a moment my restlessness gave way as well. The sun has slipped back into its hiding place behind the layers of cold, grey clouds. As I type I can feel a figurative finger pressing into my skull between my eyes, eyes that feel scratchy and tired and leaky. My body is reclining, because sitting is painful, uncomfortable, something to be avoided as much as possible. For the first time in nearly three months, I can recline and feel only minimal tendrils of pain in my legs. Instead of non-stop electric currents of pain from butt to toes, I am now getting sporadic shards and spasms in my butt, in my calf. This is progress and it makes me happy, but I feel heavily weighed down by restlessness, boredom, and the darkness that swirls within. I have been feeling this way for days.

This morning, while the day was still dismal and grey, I drove to the gym, grumbling under my breath at the idiots on the road and in the parking lot. As is my habit, I parked at the far end of the parking lot and I trudged, lost in my own negative self-talk. Suddenly I heard a voice call out, “Hello, beautiful Angela!” I looked up and towards the road to see a friend waving as she drove past. Outwardly I smiled and waved back, but inwardly I was already thinking about the less than beautiful parts of me: the eyebrows that had been left to grow wild for almost three months and the hair that still carried the scent of dry shampoo. I carried those thoughts into the gym with me, and I am certain they shaded my confidence with more doubt than I should really have felt in the circumstance.

In my grey days I struggle to like myself. The gross fuzzy caterpillar eyebrows had been annoying me for at least a month, but they were well past being rescued by a pair of tweezers. I had intended on washing my hair last night, then there was no point washing it before the gym this morning. Self-care gets dicey on the grey days. It’s a vicious circle; however, in fairness, these grey days are based more on the boredom and restlessness of being on medical leave since early December.

I am trying to chase the clouds away, even if it seems as if I’m using my breath when hurricane strength winds would be more effective. Today I am choosing to accept what belongs to me, even if I need to double check the name on the gift.

take the compliment

do not shy away from

another thing that belongs to you

~rupi kaur

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Side Sleeper

There are many positions in which to sleep, and everyone tends to have a favourite. For me, I am a side sleeper. When my shoulders act up, sleeping on my side is uncomfortable and a position to avoid. In the early days of my herniated disc, I could barely sleep in any position and definitely not on my left side at all. Thankfully, I have been able to resume my side sleeping, but sleep has still been elusive due to the leg pain whenever I lie down. Sleep has always been important to me. I understand the role that sleep has to play in good health and recovery…and keeping me sane and happy.

So when the physiotherapist asked me how I was doing this morning, I told him that I am tired. Of course, I am tired of this injury and all that comes with it, but I am also just plain tired from endless nights of inadequate, disrupted sleep. After some trouble-shooting discussion, my physiotherapist suggested sleeping on my stomach. On my stomach?! I am not a stomach sleeper. In fact, sleeping on my stomach is the one position that I never use. I do not like it at all. But here’s the thing…when you’re desperate you will try almost anything! And I am desperate for a good night’s sleep. I want to go to bed and actually fall asleep soon after rather than laying awake for hours. I want to sleep through the night instead of waking multiple times from the pain in my legs. I have tried sleeping on my sides and my back. I am already taking pain medication which feels ineffective. I am also taking an opiate before bed that my doctor said would help me sleep; it’s not. I’ve tried a rolled up towel under my side. Will sleeping on my stomach help? I don’t know, but I am willing to give it a try.

 

Never Perfect

As I trudge my way through these days of recovering from a herniated disc, I am discovering that each day is unique. There is a great deal that is the same day in and day out, and yet there is still variations in the similarities. Not a day goes by without pain. There is always pain in my legs when I lay down, but the intensity and scope varies. Lately the leg pain has been consistently more intense and broader in its range. Back pain is felt less often. I can make it through a day or two or three without any back pain to speak of, but then I will be blindsided by aches and pains in the back for a day or two. Less often but occasionally I experience nausea and a mild sense of dizziness. There is no rhyme or reason for why one day might be worse than another, and that unpredictability is just as frustrating as dealing with the limitations of my injury.

Today has been a bad day. When I have been standing today, I have felt nauseous. The nausea would disappear once I laid down, but then the leg pain would hit with ferocity. The mental fog has been thick today, too. I’ve hardly eaten much today because of the sense of yuck in my stomach, but I’m not actually sick.

My husband took me to the mall this afternoon when he was finished work. He was in search of a particular item and thought that I might appreciate getting out of the house. Despite how I felt, it was good to get out of the house and to get some more walking into my day (because walking is good). As we walked through the mall, we passed a young woman wearing a t-shirt with a lovely statement written across the front. The message caught my attention, and I had to stop to enter it as a memo in my phone so I wouldn’t forget. It said:

Never perfect, always beautiful

My thoughts immediately turned inward and reflective. Aside from moments when I am obviously joking, I know and readily admit that I am not perfect. I know most of my flaws and weaknesses. I know what areas of my life need improving. Acknowledging my imperfection is the easy part. Accepting the truth that I am always beautiful is where the real challenge lies. I seldom see myself that way and would never presume to call myself beautiful. My husband says I’m beautiful, and his words make me squirm in awkward discomfort, as if I am an imposter. Believing myself to beautiful has always been a struggle, but the difficult level has only risen higher with this season of injury. When I feel weak and useless, how can I feel beautiful? When I am weary from daily pain and tired from lack of restorative sleep, how can I feel beautiful? When I couldn’t shave my legs for 9 weeks, how could I feel beautiful? When certain types of clothing make my back hurt more, which means I’m living in pajama or yoga pants, how can I feel beautiful? When I cannot do some of the things that I most enjoy doing, how can I feel beautiful?

I don’t have an answer. Not in this moment. As I mentioned, today hasn’t been a particularly good day. I’m just gathering my lemons…

Three Little Words

fridgeinspiration

Many years ago now, I was given these words as part of my journey of becoming, and they have been on my fridge ever since. They are there in plain sight. Not a day goes by without my standing before the fridge. I see the words every single day, but I don’t always allow them to penetrate the surface of my busyness and state of mind. It is far too easy to see without seeing, without believing, without action. Inspiration has impact only when we allow the idea access beyond the surface.

As I was reheating leftover beef barley soup for tonight’s supper, my gaze settled upon these words once again and lingered there. I paused and mentally chewed my cud. Determination is something I have a firm grip on, I think. I know how to focus on a task and how to strive towards a goal. Quitting is a concept I seldom acknowledge. Now that I am at the 9 week mark with my disc herniation, I am firmly determined to do whatever it takes to heal and regain normalcy in my life once again. It’s the other two qualities that I sometimes struggle with.

Well almost. Peace is fairly easy for me to feel, although it can also be easily disrupted for a brief period of time. I’m like a still pond most of the time, calm and peaceful. A pebble tossed into the pond will send out little ripples that eventually settle back into nothing but calm waters. That’s me.

But I don’t exactly feel empowered all of the time. Especially not lately. There is nothing quite like an injury to make you feel insignificant, powerless, weak, and incapable. When something as simple as shaving your legs becomes a major physical challenge, you do not feel empowered. Or at least I don’t. When you used to stick to the section of the gym with the squat racks, deadlift platforms, and free weights, but you’ve been stuck in the other section of the gym with stretches and machines…you feel more frustrated than strong and capable. As I lay down and feel pain coursing through my legs, I want to cry. Maybe cry is a strong response, and yet it is also entirely appropriate at any given moment. This is not how empowerment is supposed to feel.

I’m talking as I think, which could be a dangerous thing or not, but I think my three words work best as a group rather than individuals. I cannot just pull empowerment out of a closet and put it on like an article of clothing. Determination, peace, empowerment…they are meant to be an outfit. They compliment each other, build upon each other and build each other up. I cannot determine to feel empowered all of the time, but I can feel peace in those moments when empowerment is hard to find. Empowerment doesn’t actually leave me; it just lurks in the haze of whatever trouble I’m in the midst of. My determination to continue and rise to a challenge coaxes empowerment to step out of the shadows; peace allows me to endure my struggles until that happens.

Isn’t it crazy the thoughts one can have while staring at the fridge door!

The Polar Bear

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~Lao Tzu

For the past few weeks I had given thought to taking part in a polar bear dip to kick off the new year. There was something intangibly appealing about entering the frigid lake water, but I wasn’t without apprehension. My determination wavered last week with the arrival of a foot or more of snow and colder temperatures. I may be a Canadian girl, even a prairie raised one, but my seasonal preference is for something slightly warmer. When I took up running several years ago, I found a way to enjoy being out in the snow and cold, but since I no longer run, I no longer enjoy winter quite as much.

Still, it wasn’t terribly difficult for me to find enough courage to pursue my course of action. I knew I could do it. I knew I would do it. My biggest dilemma was in the execution. Should I take part in the official dip with dozens or hundreds of people running in and out of the water in a mad frenzy, or should I go it alone without all the supportive hoopla? There were good and not-so-good aspects to both options, but I ultimately chose to enjoy a simpler solo experience. Most of the time now I can walk quite well, numb left leg and all, but I cannot help but feel protective of my herniated disc. I had no intention of running in and out of the lake with it’s unpredictably bumpy bottom, and I did not want to be accidentally jostled or knocked about by the frantically flailing arms of a human swarm.

So, I did it. My husband and I drove to one of the local beaches. I peeled off my outer layers of clothing, and then we trudged through a path in the snow until we got to the shore. Despite being -10 Celsius outside, I didn’t feel very cold until we got to the shore. Although the distance between our vehicle and the shore wasn’t really very far, the wind was distinctly more noticeable at the shore. With the new chill in the air, I felt a reluctance to remove the towel wrapped around my shoulders. I paused and soaked in the stillness and the view before me in all of its shades of grey. Then I passed the towel to my husband and walked into the water without pause.  My steps were steady and measured, eager to reach an adequate depth of water but mindful of the softness of the soil and the rapidly freezing state of my toes. It felt as if I walked for a long time, and in a way I did. Okanagan Lake has many beach access areas where one can walk out quite far before ever getting deep. My body could have kept going, but my toes were in pain, so I found the “deepest” spot and knelt down to submerge as much of my body as I could. I would have liked to have submerged more deeply, but the depth of the water coupled with my own injury-related physical limitations meant that I got decently wet but not higher than mid-waist. Then I walked back to shore, wrapped my towel around my body, and trudged back through the snow to the vehicle and dry clothes.

polarbeardip

“No man steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” ~Heraclitus

A new year has begun, and it is full of possibility and adventure. One of my goals for the year is to try new things and live on the wild side now and then. I think today’s dip in the lake was a good beginning.

Snow Days & MRIs

We got another big dump of snow last night. I haven’t bothered to listen to or read any news reports to know exactly how much snow we received over the past couple of days, but I could easily see more than a foot of snow on top of the table on our deck. With the sunshine and blue skies today, my world is looking rather white, fluffy, and beautiful, but I’m still glad that I can be warm, dry, and snug inside the house as much as I may desire. Being unable to take part in pretty much any physical snowy activity, I don’t feel so inclined to spend a lot of time in the cold and the snow; however, even a homebody can feel cabin fever. I just got back from a short excursion with one of my boys. He had a couple of errands to do, so I thought I’d tag along and get out of the house for a bit. By the time the errands were completed, my back was persistently telling me that it was no longer happy with standing, walking, or sitting in a car. So now I’m reclining with a heating pad and a cup of coffee, trying to enjoy the currents of pain running down the legs before I need to make supper.

Actually, the back is hurting quite insistently now.

I can be in a lot of pain and lie here nearly motionless. My outward appearance is not a reliable indicator of my pain level. There might be a random gasp or a slow but quiet release of pent-up air, maybe a twitching of toes or a tight grimace, but being physically still is something I am fairly good at doing. In the middle of the night when the pain in my legs keeps me awake, I can lie there motionless and quiet. Even my sleep app thinks I’m still sleeping!

My doctor has not called me with the results of my MRI, but I have heard about the results from both my chiropractor and physiotherapist. The good news is that there is definitely a herniation. Is that good news really? Well no, because who actually wants a herniated disc?! But it is good news for the reason that it confirms what was suspected. The protrusion is said to be small, so I guess that is also good news. I know absolutely nothing about deciphering an MRI image, but I have to say that my spine looks pretty good and the protrusion does look small to me. Of course, the size of the protrusion is of little importance to me, because I am more concerned about the ongoing symptoms that I have…the numbness, the pain, and wondering why there is pain in the other leg now.

Obviously my doctor doesn’t feel that he needs to give me the results of the MRI, which tells me that he also doesn’t feel there is a need to refer me to a neurosurgeon. Do I truly want surgery? No. But I am willing to pursue that course of action if it is warranted, and I do not think my family doctor can make that decision. It’s easy enough to cancel an appointment if I were to suddenly see drastic improvements, and knowing the wait to even get an appointment means there should be no harm in starting the process now. I am not looking forward to calling my doctor next week. There are many things I like about our medical system. I am also thankful that I seldom need to make use of medical services. However, it is incredibly frustrating to be in real need of medical services but to be forced to go through layers of red tape and delays.

So Long, 2017!

My husband drove me to my physio appointment this morning, which meant that the radio in his work van was tuned to a local talk show. Although I wasn’t paying much attention to the voices emanating from the speakers, I did hear enough to know that one of the topics for the morning was the end of 2017 and ringing in a new year. This is the time of year when everyone recaps the highlights and low lights of the year and feel inspired with good intentions for the new year. I am no different. The other day I blogged about my theme and goals for the new year, and I have done several posts responding to reflective questions about the year; however, I haven’t yet done an actual recap. Now is the time.

When I look back at my goals for this year, I find that I can only check off a few as being completed. In fact, I was tangibly successful on only 4 goals. I competed at Provincials in June. I qualified for Nationals in February 2018. I broke my bench press PR, and I broke a 100% RAW World record. The final two completed goals were the big ones, and I am proud of what I achieved.

I always have a handful or two of fitness-related goals without a specific deadline. These are skills or weights that I want to achieve with non-competition lifts, but they are not high on the priority list. With all of my back problems this year, my ability to even think about working on those secondary fitness goals has been severely hampered. That’s okay! My life won’t be made better by finally being able to do 3 consecutive pull ups. But I’m still going to keep those goals on simmer.

My theme for 2017 has been Powerfully Beautiful. Here is a snippet from my theme announcement last year:

I want to get stronger, physically and mentally. I want to continue to discover and use my talents and gifts. I want to grow spiritually, relationally, emotionally. I want to be able to take a compliment at face value.

To be completely honest, this year has been quite the ride for me. Now I do like riding roller-coasters, but the roller-coasters of life aren’t always as enjoyable, especially when you know that the ride never ends. I don’t think I could go so far as to say that this has been the worst year of my life, but there have certainly been more downs than ups. Or maybe that’s just perception. Nah. It’s been a rough year with a few bright spots scattered throughout.

But, at various times during the year, I have wondered if I was living out my theme of being powerfully beautiful, and I didn’t think so. Today, as I look at the highlighted words above, I feel as if I might have been more successful than I had thought. Did I ace my theme? No, but I think I did a decent job. Despite the struggles, or possibly because of them, I did get stronger, physically and mentally. Emotionally. I’ve had moments of insecurity, self-doubt, and negative self-talk, but I’ve also been able to rise above the struggles and find solid footing once again. I’ve had my little pity parties and then shaken it all off. All those times when I felt I was failing in my theme were instances where I had my lens focused on the “before” instead of the “after”. It is in the act of rising above the struggle where power and beauty are best displayed. I am not perfect, never will be, but I am powerfully beautiful because I am strong enough to pick myself up and carry on with as much grace and dignity as I can muster.