Before I was injured I think I was what I did. I was the Danger Dandy from my childhood. Up for any physical challenge, deathslides, abseiling, big jumps, deep drops, you name it... we label it, runner, snowboarder, army girl, teacher? But if your body decides it can't support you on your adventures (or your location for your career), then what? When my hip started hurting Summer 2015 obviously I ignored it, I've ignored pain before and it's gone away, but this time it was me crumpling on the floor whilst holding a basket of washing... not the result of some intrepid activity. It kept getting worse, even walking round the block with the dog was not an option, it was the only time I didn't curse the American ability of being able to drive everywhere...
I eventually and perhaps naively opted for surgery (and my first brush with the American medical system is a whole possible post of its own), sadly the day after my operation my darling dog almost died and I drove my car, dog and toddler around Lafayette trying to find a vet that'd take him. His diagnosis with terminal cancer that day was beyond horrible, and then trying to navigate my many apartment steps, normal chores, ill animal and confused toddler on armpit crutches was not a helpful step towards recovery. The healing was slow, and when I found I couldn't open jars and had numb hands I started to panic, then my other hip started to scream, and to top it off my 2 1/2 year old only wanted his dad. I thought this is it, I have become that person who by circumstance is sliding into a negative spiral.
If my whole supposed persona was built of what I could do, and I could not longer do it, then was I me anymore?
What was my explanation of me to new people. Just having moved 5000 miles from home, injured, visa-less and initially jobless, pretty much friendless and potentially dogless... I felt quite miserable. For me it turns out its not who I was or what I've done, but who I was in the day to day that got me my new network**.
I got help, changing my crutches was critical, my temporary nerve damage improved. I reduced my expectations, there were no teaching vacancies so I got a little job, I made new little goals.
I was determined to get better and the only feasible non weight bearing option available to me was swimming, so what if I hated it and couldn't swim more than the absolute minimum required to tick the necessary boxes... I'd never understood those people who could get in a pool and effortlessly glide up and down, even bizarrely claiming to find it relaxing and a chance for them to almost meditate? I hated my face getting wet, and my mop takes forever to dry, and my only technique was a 'blue rinse' breaststroke which was now off limits now because of the kick; I would have to learn front crawl. Fortunately our apartment complex had a pool, albeit unheated and probably only 10m long, but for me an ocean. I needed to have swum before 7am so I could be done before Bear would leave for work; a shocking start to the day but an awesome springboard for the remainder. The first swim I struggled to do two laps without what felt like drowning. But slowly, and by swimming every morning, I gradually was able to swim 10 lengths, then 20, then on my 37th birthday I celebrated by swimming 37 lengths, I was ecstatic... I can still taste the chlorine-y euphoria. Our lease came up and we had to get new digs, but now the swimming was part of my new requirements, it seemed that somehow I had become a swimmer, ever improving my distances and my technique, and then I realised I was also various other newisms along the way, and I found that I was not what I did, but do. Someone that is always moving forward, with an open mind and a love of acquiring new skills and experiences.
On my final morning in California I swam 2 miles. That was a mythical distance, I still sometimes can't believe that I have swam that far...
And now I swim meditate in pools and am learning to swim in the sea, and lakes and rivers, and my swim challenges are waiting for me!
I could not have done this without the amazing Total Immersion blog, I was never able to attend a training camp but it was/is an incredible resource. Sadly Terry L died a year or so into my journey and I never got round to thanking him for the way he rethought swim training, how willing he was to think outside the conventional training ideas. Big respect.
** Do you have eye contact with and thank the girl in Trader Joes who does your bags, do you complement a stranger, hobble after someone when they've left something, do you leave something better than you found it?