The Grace of Injury

So let's talk about my shoulder, shall we.  Ug. I really don't want to.  I have a lot of feelings about it. 

"Gray326" by Henry Vandyke Carter - Henry Gray (1918) Anatomy of the Human Body (See "Book" section below) Gray's Anatomy, Plate 326. Licensed under Public Domain via  Wikimedia Commons

"Gray326" by Henry Vandyke Carter - Henry Gray (1918) Anatomy of the Human Body (See "Book" section below) Gray's Anatomy, Plate 326. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

I have another shoulder impingement, and some wear on my AC (acromioclavicular) joint.  Basically, roller derby + CrossFit wins again in the "meat tenderized + overuse = OUCH" category.  No dang fun.

A couple weeks ago, a fellow CrossFitter asked me if I was doing the Open this year and before I ROFL-ed, I said something to the effect of "Nope, I'm recovering from a sprained wrist."  To which she replied, "You're always getting over some injury or another."

Guh.  *gut punch*

This statement stuck in my craw, a little bitter pill of resentment.  "It's true! I get hurt way more than anyone else.  I'm weak!  I'm lazy!  I'm lame!  Why can't I be a super CrossFit biohuman badass and just DO STUFF and not be stuck on the bench!  This shit never happens to Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet!  WTF?!"

My emotional reaction to another injury was pretty intense, and it came on the heels of all the other crazy stuff that's been happening in my life.  The good news is that I'm getting pretty good at dealing with big challenges, and the tools I use are more readily available and top of mind because of it. 

I've been reading Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart, which is a book of Buddhist writings on how to deal when your life hits the skids.  One passage stood out to me:

We think the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
— Pema Chodron

Things fall apart, and they come back together.  That is the circle of things, the nature of life.  I might "always" be recovering from injury, but honestly, we are all recovering from something at any given time--heartbreak, disappointment, sickness, death, a bad season finale. 

What's causing me emotional pain is my attachment to things having to always be happy and healthy and well.  The physical pain of my injury is difficult, yes.  But I'm increasing my suffering by believing that when I am in pain, it's the worst thing ever.  If I make room for my feelings, for the injury--if I have patience with myself and decide to just be with whatever comes up, I make room to honor whatever that experience is.

I tried doing this this morning in my daily 10 minute meditation practice.  I just let things come up and made space to hold them.  It was sucky.  I have a lot of feelings, and many of them are hard.  But afterwards I felt better, because I wasn't trying to run from my pain anymore, or shove it down into a dark corner of my psyche.  It was just there, just being.  And that took the sting out of it a little.

My intention is to make room for the good and the bad in equal measure, because in the overall scheme of things, the bad stuff allows us to learn.  It takes us out of our routines and patterns, shakes us up so we can understand more about ourselves and the spiritual, physical, and emotional work we need to do.  This experience of injury has been an opportunity to rest, to recover, to evaluate and reflect on what I want my life to be now, having been through the fire of the last few months.

So the next time someone says to me, "You're always getting over some injury or another."  I will say, "Naw girl, I'm always healing."

Already Okay

I'm going to start off this blog with a post I wrote about the end of a journey.  I've been participating in the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating program since July 2013.  It's about to end, and I realized a few things when I reflected on its ending.

What if the point of Precision Nutrition was to convince me that I am already okay?  That I am already perfect just as I am?

Because you’d think after months of awareness brought to my eating habits, extensive checklists such as this one:

A chart I've been keeping every week, for nearly a year.

A chart I've been keeping every week, for nearly a year.


…. Routine workouts, a whole foods challenge, and all the rest of it, that I would have dropped a bunch of weight, right?

NOPE.  I’ve gained 10 lbs since I started.  And to be honest, I feel pretty great about that.  Is that weird?  Probably.  Do I care?  Nope.  

You see, the thing is guys, I know I can lose weight.  I did it last year with Whole30 and a couple of Whole14s.  I look at the pictures right after that and feel a little nostalgic.  I look a bit leaner than I do now.  My face and arms are more defined, my chin and arms look like daggers, and my stomach is nearly flat in the outfits I’m wearing.  And that’s cool.  I realized yesterday that instead of feeling wistful that I’m not quite as thin, I should look at that as an accomplishment—my goal back then was to lose weight, and I did it.  Go me!

That should be it, right?  I look thinner, so that was clearly the most successful time of my life, and I should be upset that I’m 10 lbs heavier and a slob, right?  No.

What you don’t see in those pictures is that I had injured my shoulder by overuse and lack of care, and that I was in a really bad cycle of restriction followed by binging.  There was a stark difference between each “challenge” I was on, and whatever came after.  I didn’t know how to take care of myself, nourish my body, or what level of exercise was appropriate for me.  

I was constantly sore, sick, and self-doubting.  And the illness part is where I figured out something was wrong.  It’s not normal for me to be sick every month, but I was.  Every month.  With a cold, usually, but sometimes with strep throat (June) or some kind of wacky infection that took antibiotics and a round of Prednisone to finally heal (September).  That round of steroids had the added effect of putting my shoulder back online, which was rad, but also sad that it took steroids to get it to heal.  Sad/rad.

It wasn’t until this year, and my friendship with Lacy Davis of Super Strength Health, that I finally figured it out and turned it around.  I had a breaking point back in February where, for the first time ever in my life, I felt so low as to be nearly suicidal.  This sounds dramatic, but it wasn’t.  It was sad, and isolating, and scary, because those feelings are totally new for me.  I’m a doer—when shit hits the fan, I like to go out and fix it.  But I couldn’t fix my profound despair that despite my best intentions, I couldn’t lose weight.

Every time I’d try, a small little voice inside of me would say, “Stop it. I don’t want to diet anymore.  This is all just one big diet, and it’s not sustainable. I want to feel creative and free about food. I want to enjoy the process of eating. I am so tired of the mental gymnastics. I am angry that you are putting me through this feast and famine cycle again and again! Can you please just relax into this?  Take it more slowly? Take care of me?  Please! Please?”

And I was low enough and fed up enough and angry enough that I actually listened this time. 

I wrote an article about how diets are a fallacy.  I cried.  And then I ate some cinnamon raisin toast, and went to the gym, and started a weekly yoga practice, and cried some more, and meditated, and thought a lot about what I wanted my life to look like, and I realized that little voice was right.  It was me reaching out to myself, trying to care for me.  It was trying to get me to see that the opportunity to lose weight will always be there, but that it’s not my focus right now.  And that’s okay.

My focus right now is building a healthy, nourished, self-loving body.  It means going to happy hour once in awhile—not always saying no because I have to go to CrossFit.  I haven’t given up or anything.  I still go to CrossFit 3+ times a week, but I don’t feel crazy if I miss a session, or reschedule it for later to take a rest day, or even just some much needed social time with friends.

Because the fitness journey can’t be all there is.  At the end of this, we’ll all die.  A healthy body isn’t proof against death.  It can prolong your life, sure, but if you’re killing yourself to get there? You’ve missed the whole point.

My life now has really awesome, creative recipes, mostly made from this cookbook, and this one. It has a weekly brunch date with Lacy, after we hit the WOD hard, but also laugh and cheer our way through it.  It has a whole, healthy shoulder, recovered from injury, and lifting more weight than I ever have before.  It has a mat, and me balancing on my head, and taking lots of warrior poses, and meditating and chanting because I feel closest then to whatever great big energy is out there, even if I don’t know what it is. It has more flexibility, both physical and mental.  It has people who love and support me and think I am amazing and gorgeous as I am, right now, in this body.

I am embodied.  I’m not hiding from mirrors or windows or even conceptions and dreams of myself. I am aware of how my body feels and I listen to it, rather than listening to other people about it.  And that’s the biggest change: that I trust myself to know what’s right for me.

Maybe that’s what that illusive “maintenance” thing is really all about (even though the name is kind of unpleasant and makes me think of coveralls and paint).  I know how to keep my body healthy and safe and nourished and lovely, as is. And if that means an extra 10 lbs—well, I trust my body to tell me that’s the weight I should be at.