Tag Archives: injuries

Hobbling Through Enlightenment

Note: Yeah, I have a new shiny travel blog, but I’ll still turn back here for slice-of-life postings I like to do that are not about the travels.

Crutches. Painkillers. Icebags. Elevation. These are the cornerstones of my weekend and the week ahead. Maybe the next two. God forbid it last longer than that.

Meniscus issues, it seems. I say “seems” because x-rays loom. My crazy-ass former-rugby-team-doc chiro tried a (painful) trick of pushing what seemed like a meniscus flap back into where it belonged. Two days later, I can bend my knee 90 degrees again. Not any further, and not without strain, but that’s a start. (Pro tip: If it’s a “rugby team cure,” expect to cry like a baby or punch the doc. Guy’s lucky I didn’t belt him.)

This gimp knee means that, for now, Netflix is my god.

elevated and iced

Today’s viewing includes the VICE doc “All This Mayhem” about the Pappas brothers and their skateboarding rise to glory and drugs/crime-fuelled crushing defeats. It’s about a blend of tragedy and redemption. Angst, attitude, and all the inevitable pitfalls that come from confusing being a student in life with being a victim of it.

We lived on the cusp of hoods and lifestyles when I grew up. A former vacationing area for the big city became an early suburb, filled with new families and financially-challenged folks who were living on the outskirts. It was an area made of equal parts the gentrifying invading forces along with the mainstay white trash.

I was offered my first drugs at 8 years old, but somehow I stayed on the fluffy-angelic line of the divide in the years to come. My brother toyed with the angst and everything else that came from the disenfranchisement of the suburbs. We were equal parts the product of our upbringing.

We were never in the leagues of those who really went astray. I remember a lot of those in my youth who were really, really angry. Some went on to crime and drugs, others went on to bleak places that were more internal than external. Some just died young.

I dealt with enough stupidity in my teens, just like a lot of other folks did. These “happy family” types piss me off sometimes even now because I’ve never really experienced that. It’s a weird world, tight-knit families.

I love my family but it was a broken family, still kinda is. Divorce, bad communications, everyone’s got their issues. The North American Way. But good, fine people, and I love them.

I didn’t really become angry until later, and I don’t really know what started it. I just got there and stayed there. I had all this stupidity happen where the easy reactions were bitterness and blame. Year after year of bitterness and blame.

These people who tell you they had some brilliant moment where it all made sense, I don’t really understand ‘em. For me, enlightenment is a gleaming of insight that takes me time and time again. The anger and confusion sort of wear away in the constant adversity like a river carving away at rock. Epiphanies make for better writing, POOF MAGIC, but I suspect most of us don’t have that change-of-state moment and instead we learn through time and repetition.

I learn more all the time, daily. Constant growth. Life is school, man. Like this knee thing right now. I’m reacting and responding better than I expected.

I mean, this is the sort of thing that throws a wrench in the travel-the-world plan. This was NOT an adversity I expected added to my list as the seven-month countdown begins. Yeah, I cried. Then I got over it. Later this week I need to find a course of action. That’s how it rolls.

That resilience, I’m not the only person who’s got it. There’s a lot of us who rock it, and I think for most of us it’s because we’ve been shit-kicked by fortune one way or another time and time again. Eventually we just realize it ain’t personal, it ain’t malicious, it’s just life.

BOOM, adversity. BOOM, overcome it. BOOM, onward. That’s life.

It’s funny, you know. A lot of the people I know who were once angry as a way of being, a lot of ‘em have gone on to become the mellow, easy-going people I like to know. They’ve been on the “dark side” and realized that perspective was a lot of the problem.

Yeah, my leg’s fucked up. Oops. That really sucks. Know what’d be worse? Being broke with a fucked up leg. Or having it happen when abroad. That’d be bad. Maybe it happening now means I change something, improve myself, and reduce the odds of such a thing happening later. Who knows. Maybe this is a catalyst for changes I need in fitness and health. I suspect it is, because I’m feeling motivated.

Adversity is the biggest teacher there is. Necessity of change is the mother of invention. Those are truisms for a reason.

I feel sorry sometimes for folks who have these smooth-sailing lives and then BOOM, some huge thing happens and they just crumble. It’s a hard road through it for them. Sometimes I see them becoming bitter and hardened as a result.

Everyone needs to open their eyes and see how hard others often have it. They need to look for examples of the extremes we can overcome when we focus and ditch the victim complexes.

Shit happens to us all. We’re allowed to cry a little and get a bit angry, but odds are we learn more about who we are as a result of those fluctuations. The trick is in the bounce-back.

So I have to bounce now. I gotta weather this little patch of suck-ass luck with my knee, find a few positives, make a plan to overcome it, and do everything I can to avoid feeling sorry for myself or acting like a victim.

If you think that’s easy for me, or for anyone else, you’re a moron. It’s not easy. But it’s doable, and it’s a choice. It’s a lot of self-talk, deep breathing, and weathering through periods of feeling like everything’s hopeless. Because that happens to us all. That’s the mindset. That’s the challenge.

It’s also where the victory comes too, though. So, yeah, this blows a little, but methinks I’ll get past this. I have something to prove to myself.

I also have the fortune of knowing it’s my own stupidity that caused my injury, from when I heard the little voice in my head saying “No, don’t sit like that, you know your knee hates it–” and chose to ignore it.

I caused this. Now I have to solve this. That’s the school of fucking up. It’s also “Success in Adulthood 101.” It’s called responsibility. Like my favourite saying goes, life’s tough — get a helmet.

(Or a crutch. Check.)

crutch

photo 2 (2)

The Zen of Landing Badly

I recently had a reminder that asphalt ain’t good eatin’.

I can’t play the victim card here. I fucked up. All my fault, 100% dumb-ass coming your way. I knew I was cutting it close between an intersection curb and a truck waiting for the light, and foolishly tried to ride through anyhow. Handlebar whacks mirror, down goes me. Mashed my face, my knee, my thigh, my hands, everything. I was so bruise-spotted, I looked like a human-leopard hybrid.

Oddly, it’s the third time I’ve been injured since late May. First time, I literally fell off a bar stool at the pizza joint, flat onto tile floor. Incredible fluke — Not only did I not hurt my back or head, I didn’t really get hurt at all. A couple days’ stiffness, and I was basically fine.

At the time, I was thick in the mire of a three-month contract that upended my life balance far more than I’d intended, so I wasn’t getting out much. I was counting days, like a schoolkid, until July 1, when the contract would be gone. Summer! Whee! I planned to blow off writing until the fall.

I shit you not, June 30th, 11:50pm, hours to go before my “So, our contract is up” email is to be sent, I’d been watching TV from the floor, went to stand, and heard CLICK as my knee popped out of joint, my tibia grossly cranked to the left. Horrified, I hopped to the kitchen on one leg, got an ice bag, and for no reason, the tibia popped back into place. Boom. Back like bacon, baby.

That boo-boo, unfortunately, did inconvenience me. I couldn’t walk much until the end of July, and most of the month’s summery fun eluded me.

Life removed the distraction of summer because I just couldn’t get out. I channeled that inconvenience into finishing my cookbook. Finally done  (it’s really good! buy it and support me), I once again felt like a kid getting outta school for summer. I was excited to cycle, be leisurely. I’d rode my bike daily that week. Bliss, whizzing through August air, sun beating down.

Five days into “summer break,” I whacked the truck mirror. Now I’ve been home licking my mental wounds for much of the last nine days. Once again: “I could’ve been hurt so much worse.”

It seems fortune has a twisted sense of humour in the dog days of summer.

Look ma, asphalt for eatin'.

Look ma, asphalt for eatin’.

School of Hard Knocks

Shit happens. Ask me my top ten life mottos, that one makes the list. Shit happens, it is what it is, que sera sera. Cliches to live by, my friends.

I’ve ridden the rides in this injury-filled park one time too many and I don’t need to be uninvited from the party anymore. When it’s time to go, I’ll grab my coat and be gone.

This is one of those times. Injured three times in three months? Yeah, okay, universe, you got my attention. What’s the lesson?

That’s rhetorical, people. I already think I know.

Writing well is a gift. It’s a privilege. It’s also a craft. It requires great sacrifice and dedication to accomplish matters of note. It’s not some flip of the switch. Like sailing a long ocean voyage, when finding one’s sea legs can take some time, getting a good writing flow takes a while of testing the waters.

Where the craft part comes in is where the sacrifice plays out too — daily duty, workworkwork.

Opting Out

I know writing is a choice. You see a keyboard, you sit, you pound it out. It’s like the old Hollywood movie trailers — “One man, alone in a foreboding wilderness… where only he can decide–”

The struggle that constantly assaults me is guilt. I feel like a failure if I’m not doing the outdoorsy-n-awesome things the locals here pride themselves on doing. Oh, look, someone else climbed a mountain and parasailed before landing on the moon for a local, organic picnic with cheese they hand-pulled at dawn. Thanks for the shame, Instagram.

I wish I could write in other places, but I’m a creature of habit and I like to be at my desk. I like the noise my keyboard makes, the rattle the keyboard tray emits under my staccato-fire key-whacking, the distance of the screen from my eyes, how I squint when I’m lost in thought and the creamy walls blur before me, while I listen to the white-noise whoosh of cars under my window, always noting the sea breeze blowing in and stiffening my knuckles. It’s my thing. This is where I do it.

So as summer days pass and nights get longer, cooler, and darker, my Catholic upbringing leaves me pounding the keys in shame and guilt at my desk, as others pass my window in their shorts and sunglasses, oozing optimism for a fun day ahead or the fatigue of a great day behind them.

And there I sit staring as they pass me by, me in my passive glory, ever the observer.

Of People and Places

But that’s writing. It’s not a party favour. It’s not a group activity. It’s a dark and dingy thing done alone.

There are different kinds of writers. Ones who write on events and places, happenings and zeitgeists. They need to be in the thick of it to serve it back to the masses. Then there are the those who slip away into otherworldly mental caverns. No safe place for others.

I’m the latter. My introversion can be extreme. A party of one works all too well for me. Three months on an Irish coast with a broken phone, only sheep dotting the horizon, and wine to keep me warm while winter winds howl and the skies cry, that would be a vacation for me. I might commit a serious crime if it meant time in isolation like that.

Paradox of paradoxes, for convenience and more time alone, I find myself living on the edge of the busiest part of my town. The most crowded, superficial, hyped, over-marketed part of my city. Rare does even a moment pass when people aren’t walking past my writing window. Isolation? Beyond my four walls, I think not.

Unlistening to the Machine

Part of me is very much of the “So? This is who you are. Just own it. Who cares?” mentality about self-imposed isolation. But I also think the world is beautiful, nature is powerful, and if I could have more of it with less of the humans in it, that wouldn’t be so bad. Humans aren’t so bad in small doses, either.

But society tells me Summer is fun! Go do summer! There’s only so much summer, so go out and play, kids! Whatchoo sitting inside for?! Don’t you know only losers don’t play outside? Come on, kids! GET HAPPY — it’s right there, outside your house!

It’s something I only want in 90-minute spurts. It’s not a lifestyle I seek. I don’t need to be on the Tilt-a-Whirl of the big-city life. Getting happy isn’t gonna accomplish my dreams. It ain’t gonna write my books. It’s not gonna pay my bills.

People who don’t understand introversion think people like me opting out is “sad” or “lonely,” but we think it’s sad and lonely that they can’t enjoy being alone in the same way we can. As Oscar Wilde wrote, loving oneself is a life-long romance. Even if there’s no one around to see it.

Among my favourite places to go alone: The sea.

Among my favourite places to go alone: The sea.

Do or Do Not, There is No Try

The trouble with writing a book, for any author, is it means sacrificing time you can spend earning other income today on the dream that it will earn income for you well into the future. This is where the stereotype of the broke-ass writer comes in. I have to cut back on my earnings AND my spending to be the writer I want to be. That’s sacrificing on every level.

That’s the risk we take when seeking the elusive dream of passive income and royalties. Passive income, that’s money you don’t have to run ragged on the hamster wheel to bring in. That wheel spins on its own, in theory.

The best way to grow that passive income isn’t to keep talking about the one book, it’s to continue writing others so you’re attracting new audiences.

For me, that time is now. I have to write more, produce more, and promote myself at the same time. All of it must be done at the expense of everything else in my life. Less time for leisure, less time to earn “real” money on the side of my primary job, less time to exercise, to cook — everything.

The longer I wait, the more interruption it causes in flow on all sides, the less then that momentum can carry me.

It’s a matter of discipline now. And my summer, as little or as much may remain, is a distraction from that discipline.

Dinner is Served

Which brings us back to the asphalt.

That day, I’d been meaning to cycle to the Gorge and sit under a big leafy tree as I considered my choices. Do I take more time to enjoy summer, or do I finally concede this summer’s a bust and writing must be my focus while the motivation burns?

For good or ill, I needed no leafy tree for the pondering. Life threw me to the curb and said “Eat this.”

I’ve never felt more strongly that I was getting told what was what. Writing, life said, was what my days had to be about for now. It was safer, for one. No moving parts, except on the chair.

If I barrel through this year as a writing tour de force and accomplish all the goals I’ve got bopping inside my head, I’ll have no regrets for the choices I made this week.

photo 2 (2)

Road Warrior

Sometimes when life knocks sense into you, it can be very literal about it all. It gets literal with this girl.

It took three injuries in a little over three months, but the Zen of landing badly has taught me a thing or two about a thing or two.

Sacrifice, choice-making, focus — all these themes played on a crackling, staticky loop in my head for days. Here’s hoping they echo loudly in the wintery, writerly months to come, ‘cos I know what road’s ahead of me — asphalt, curbs, potholes, and all.

And Then There Was Change

So, I love cycling.

In 2008, I blew out my back after losing about 60 pounds on my bike. I’ve always thought it was that I was stretching wrong and destabilizing my back. That’s what I thought caused the injury.

Despite all the things I’ve tried to do to improve my back, all the rehab and everything else, it’s never really been right again. I live with kind of a constant fear that something will compromise me, or I’ll fall and get hurt. Just a constant awareness something’s not right.

For some reason, I never thought about my bike seat being the problem. I mean, how could that be? It was an expensive supposedly-ergonomic bike saddle intended for intermediate cyclists — I splurged $60 on that motherfucker, you know. It was recommended to me! It had rave reviews online.

Last weekend, I took my bike into my chiropractor’s office*, and he examined the set-up, looked at me, and then said he thought I should switch to a wider seat.

So, that was a lightbulb moment. I already had been shown what just changing my seat’s angle by 3-5 degrees could do to take strain off my back. “I’ve changed everything else in my life,” I thought. “Why the hell not give it a try?”

I cycled again that afternoon on my old saddle, and it was a wonderful sunny ride, but the next day the pain set in, and it progressed for a few days while I stayed off my bike and really, really, really paid attention to how the pain developed and changed.

I realized how tender my tailbone was, how strained my sides were, and started thinking, “You know what? It DOES seem like it could be the seat.” It seemed like maybe my hips were sagging down and excess pressure was pushing my tailbone up, which made sense if the saddle was a little too narrow for my ample hips.

Then I considered the nature of repetitive strain injuries, how we see things slowly deteriorate but because it’s nothing clear-cut we often don’t specifically know the cause, and then it just compounds until we’re fucked. I think that’s what my back injury has been. A repetitive strain injury. A bit of suckage adding up every time I did the thing I love to do — cycling.

Thursday, I got the seat.

Yesterday, I installed it. I checked out all the “how should a bike seat be installed” docs I could find online, busted out my level, made sure I got my seat horizontal.

Sick, I rode to a nearby walk-in clinic to get seen by a doc, since it’d be less time and effort for getting groceries and prescriptions filled after the appointment than fucking around with bus routes.

During my ride, I realized I had broken my nice wide seat a few months before I began cycling to lose weight in 2008, and that the seat I “splurged” on as a replacement has been the only thing that’s remained constant in my life, in all that time. This had never occurred to me. It’s the missing piece in the puzzle. The possible implications were adding up pretty quickly.

This morning, after only a 7km, 30-minute leisurely ride, my lower back feels more stable, less pained, and stronger than it has in months.

It would be absolutely incredible if, after the thousands of dollars, endless hours, countless tears, and never-ending frustrations of a 3-year ongoing back problem is ultimately resolved by the purchase of a $20 bike seat and a free iPhone “level” app.

And it will be the biggest lesson I’ve ever learned in my life.

I’m just not yet sure what the lesson is. But today I have more hope about my back injury than I’ve had in three years. It’s overwhelmingly awesome to think I may have finally found the cause.

I’m excited. I’m looking forward to beating this cold this week and seeing what develops with cycling. I love riding my bike and it’s been absolutely heart-breaking to endure so much frustration for so long.

But if it’s resolved? Oh, lord, the gratitude I’ll have. Without a doubt, living with a chronic injury has been one of the greatest character-defining, life-teaching experiences I’ve had. I won’t be bitter for a minute that I could have resolved it cheaper, sooner. That’s the way life fucking goes, man. Sometimes the lessons that should’ve been the easiest but became the hardest are the ones that define us the most.

I have literally spent thousands and thousands of dollars on this injury. I’ve lost so much income — I can’t even count that high.

If it’s all going to end and be fixed by a $20 seat, I’ll have no choice but to laugh my goddamned (now well-supported) ass off. It’s so hysterically ironic that I can’t even express it.

I’m laughing as I type, actually. What can you do, man? Life’s really a funny joke on us sometimes.

If we learn from it, then it’s not for nothin’. So, we’ll see how this goes.

Thank god I have a great sense of humour. I needed a good laugh, even if an ironic one.

*My chiropractor is a guy who’s just getting his practice off the ground on Vancouver’s West Side. Dr. Bryson Chow practices Active Release Technique, a method that is preferred by many athletes. It posits the belief that healthy muscles lead to strong skeletons, so instead of forcing bones into place like most traditional chiros do, ART practitioners like Bryson instead work on breaking the muscle memory and helping retrain your muscles so they don’t keep pulling the bones out of alignment. I wasn’t healing at all until I made the switch to ART, but Bryson is the first doc to suggest my seat might be a problem. If you have any kind of repetitive strain or injuries that traditional folks aren’t helping you get past (like Frozen Shoulder Syndrome), consider an ART chiro. A few friends have found it similarly life-changing.

There’s A Post-Injury World I Live In

And it’s somewhere in between Uncertainland and Hopeville.

Most of it is of my own doing, too. Having burnt out with EVERYTHING last July, I just walked away from most of my obligations, organized  fitness, and social life. It’s been EXACTLY what I needed to do, but my back has been iffy from time to time as a result.

Fortunately, I’ve always sort of maintained my core to the bare minimum, and have had a lot of improvement with my back. It’s better, FAR better, now than it was last July when burn-out hit me.

I’m back, baby, and my back’s considering coming back too. I began last week with the simple goal of being active daily — not much, just enough. I’d started inconsistently the week before, but last week did honour my commitment to doing something physical on each day — even if only for 15 or 20 minutes. By the week’s end, I seized the day and had an 80 minute cycling adventure.

The last three days have been filled with uncertain moments for my back, though. Twinges and tightness, pricks and pains. I’ve been so looking forward to chiro. I’ve also been torn — do I rest this, or do I work it out? Resting wasn’t really working out for me, so I decided to pick up the weights. Continue reading

Update, and How to Be When People You Care About Need Your Help

Hello, world!

I’m still in a mad spiral as I sort out everything to do with my loan, and then I can slowly segue back to mostly-broke time-on-her-hands Steff that brings you tons to read. It’s been WEEKS since I’ve been able to sit at my writing desk to write for you, but I think the day is nigh. I miss my desk, I write nowhere like I write at my desk!

My new bed seems to be incredible. I think I never bought the right bed to begin with last time, and ten years of sleeping on it just destroyed me. Four NIGHTS into my new bed and the difference in my back is profound.

It’s easy when you’ve been a crash-test dummy like me in four MVAs, thrown from a scooter, thrown off a motorbike, and fallen down a flight of stairs, to dismiss bodily creaks and groans as just collateral damage from a life lived on the wild side of the “klutz” divide, but only four days in it’s obvious I’ve given my inner Little Miss Disaster too much credit. Really, my bed just sucked. Continue reading

It’s Not You, It’s Me

That phrase is among select company in the statements none of us wants to hear in a relationship we value. It’s gone beyond being a standard line given when something inexplicable has gone awry in a relationship to being a pop-culture joke of reknown.

In Seinfeld, George Costanza freaks out after being dumping by a woman, saying, “You’re giving me the ‘It’s not you, It’s me’ routine? I invented ‘It’s not you, it’s me’. Nobody tells me it’s them not me. If it’s anybody, it’s me!”

But this time, it’s the Guy.

He needs some time, he says. Life’s hard. Between the rehabbing, working incessantly, being completely out of sick time for the next ten months, the frustrations of life being different from what it was, the fatigue, the lack of freedom and fun, the residual depression that comes with… It’s proving to be a hell of a reality cocktail for him.

Apparently, the future of the relationship is in jeopardy. As a result of all the things going on for him, he’s been left feeling flat and emotionless, and it’s eating him up.

I’m worried that it’s over. My worries are valid. A decision won’t be made yet, there is no timeline. Space will be had. Things will be revisited. We’ll see what’s next on the horizon then.

The strange thing is, we both care for each other a great deal. I know it. He knows it. We’re a great match. On paper, we have so damned much going for us, so how it’s here, how it’s this way, neither of us can figure out beyond just really dumb fucking luck.

I’ve had reservations since the get-go with his badly broken leg that he suffered only a couple weeks into our relationship. I should have played things differently. I should have pulled back more, made myself scarce, but I didn’t. I wanted to pretend things were fine, too. Delusion is a great plaything.

Unfortunately, I know exactly what he’s going through. I should have known better. I’ve been down that road – coming home from work so fucking tired all you want to do is die a while, cry a while, whatever it takes to reset. The last thing you want is having to deal with people of any kind, because you haven’t even got the energy to deal with yourself anymore.

Am I feeling negative about it? Yeah. Because although I’ve come through those injuries and know that he’s at his lowest point right now – there’s a false optimism when you get that first update on the prognosis from the doc: “Progressing nicely” – because it’s never as easy as you hope it will be. In fact, it’s harder. You throw excess overtime and challenges into the mix, and then you’re sent spiraling into a hole you think’ll take you all the way to China.

And one day, things change. One day, things get better, and you come back to yourself, and things carry on as you wish they would’ve a long time before.

The only question is whether I’ll be around to see it. Whether I want to be. And right now, I don’t even know the answer to that. I know he doesn’t want to hurt me, but I’ve been pushing little hurts and neglects aside for a couple weeks now, with a realization of what he’s been enduring and cutting a little slack as a result. I’m not sure what my breaking point is. I had a vision for this relationship, and that break broke more than his bones.

I have no cards to play. I get to back off, and that’s all I can do.

That’s adversity for you. It’s why hard times are so consistently responsible for trouncing relationships. In the end, we all close our eyes and become prisoners in our own minds. Lovers seldom can truly break through the walls we raise between us and the world. We try to let them in, but there’s a place inside they often just can’t reach (and sometimes we can’t, either), and when things like these happen, those places grow cavernous and dark and dank.

The thing that makes this really hard is, I want the Guy in my life, but if this was to end tomorrow, I’m not sure he would be. I’ve never stayed friends with an ex-lover. I don’t have it in me. Just like I can’t do random, casual sex; my emotional capacity doesn’t work that way. My reservoirs run far too deep to just turn the valve off and change pressure modes for comfort’s sake. I can’t ignore matters of the heart, and I can’t pretend they’re less than they are. “Friends” are nice, but when you’re wanting a lover, there’s not much sense in pretending you’re not the person you know you are, or that you don’t have the needs and desires you do.

I sometimes hate how life can change in an instant. (Ironically, mine seems to be changing two ways in an instant. I’m so fucking torn.) There’s so little power any of us has over our circumstances, and when the going gets tough, we have to hold on to the things we have and struggle to keep ourselves in the game.

Only this time it just isn’t that easy. Nothing is.

It’s a waiting game now, and my suspicions last week about overtime possibly being a dire contributor to this relationship have proved true; I saw it posing a bad shift in balance between the me time I have far too much of, and the time he’s had virtually none of. I don’t blame him for the overtime, he’s had no choice. We all know what responsibilities to the workplace entail, and we’ve all sacrificed our private lives to an extent for it.

I just wonder if either of us really knew what was on the table.

Now we do.

Am I optimistic? As I write this, not particularly. And I fucking hate that. I have no question that he wants it to work with me. He’d be a fool not to want that. I just don’t think he has it in him right now. And if he doesn’t, then I probably won’t have it in me to be anything outside of what I’ve been thus far for him. I wish I wasn’t, but it’s how I’m built. I foresee things being hard to overcome if it goes that way.

For now, we wait. We hope. We wonder. Then we see.