Early this morning I found myself doing my yoga routine in a quiet space without dogs or children or even the light of day to distract me. After a month of reintroducing running and yoga into my life, I have endured all manner of obstacles.
One day last week, when my shin splints were not manageable, I decided to take out my bike, run the dogs and strengthen my leg muscles without much impact. It was a Saturday morning, and I had lined the counter with flour, milk, eggs, baking powder and a waffle iron as a hint to my husband. There was a cold November wind ripping the hood from my face, which was growing sticky with rain but I pursued anyway.
When I was at the farthest point from home I met up with a woman walking her dog. As is the proper etiquette, I rounded up my dogs to tie them up. I sat on my bike, holding the leash against the handlebars, brakes squeezed on. Just as the dog passed by, both of mine struck into a full lunge. In slow motion, I felt my entire body lift up into the air as the bike flipped end over end and shot me over the front. Lying on the ground with my legs tangled around the bike, my dogs continued to pull towards their newfound friend. The woman tried to offer help.
I could not get up. My knee had knocked into a stone and I was unable to straighten or put any weight on it. The woman moved her own dog along so mine would settle and after she left they sat next to me on the ground while I tried to get myself to standing for several minutes.
After the pain subsided, I finally made it home by pedaling in a way that required no weight on my one knee. Our family enjoyed a wonderful waffle breakfast together. I had to walk with a stiff leg for a couple of days and could not kneel directly on it but I felt lucky. It could have been much worse.
I might have chocked this up to a free pass from any physical activities, but I decided to try to keep up the momentum I had gained. So I kept on moving and stayed away from anything that hurt. I even found myself back in a Bikram (hot) Yoga studio after a 10-year absence (same teacher no less!) and managed to get through the poses much to my great surprise. I did attempt to run only to find out that the pain in my knee didn't appear until I stopped running. Despite the fact that I was hungry and still far from home, to be safe, I made my way back walking.
The truth is that no matter what goals we set, there will always be excellent reasons to stop, quit or take a break. I have exercised my right with excuses for decades. And in my opinion, this has left me in a position far short from what I feel my potential to be in every aspect of my life. I have given in to the voice in my head that said I couldn’t. I’m not saying we should all run 10km with a broken leg – but if we could stay tuned to ourselves and go forward where there is still the light of possibility, we might surprise ourselves and learn ways to work around the obstacles. There might be creative solutions where quitting (or never starting) seemed like the only option.
This morning I was lying in that awkward, deliciously painful pose called the pigeon (or runner’s stretch). You basically lie on your stomach, except for the small detail where one of your legs is bent on the floor in front of you and you’re putting all of your weight on it. The hip is opening. Or trying to as is the case for one side of mine. Apparently our hips are great storage depots for emotional baggage. My one hip seems to be storing an elaborate history as I can barely get past upright in this position (when there was a time not long ago when this was not the case).
While grimacing in this pose, I heard a whisper (not my children finding me in the dark, but the crazy kind from inside of my head). Come here, it said. I bent down closer to my leg. Slowly. Gently. Come here, it said again. I came closer to the floor. My hip hurt. A lot. Yet the pain beckoned me into it. I followed.
Soon, I was lying on the ground bent over my tome-filled hip, breathing deeply into what felt like the most fantastic release a girl could dream for. It didn’t hurt anymore. Stay here, it said.
Now go away, it said.
It was then that I realized that most of the things we don’t naturally gravitate to in life (fear, pain, unpredictability) are actually our friends if we let them be. There are things that have held me back my entire life: lack of confidence, low self-esteem, listening to what others wanted from me. All along I ran from them, tried to shut them out, make them quiet, tell them they had no power. But they come attached with a message.
All along, what I needed was to invite them in for tea.
One safe morning in the dark, when the house was quiet, pain invited me to come closer. I went. Pain ran its course, then took its last sip and without any drama at all, got up to leave.
I can’t say I know the difference between looking for trouble, self-sabotage, self-deprecation and this kind of surrender. Nor would I know when I was about to crack myself in half and when I was healing.
But I can definitely say that this experience has me wondering what else I should move closer to, rather than try to push away. What other troubles could I resolve if only I was willing to let them in?
Who knew? The swan song of hardship comes when you bring it closer and have a good look at it, so you can send it on its merry way.