In the classic sci-fi “Dune,” the protagonist, Paul Atreides, brings the desert-dwelling, still-suit wearing, water-conservationist inhabitants, the Fremen, of Arrakis to a standstill by shedding tears. It’s rare for them, and they all look at him differently after he’s cried, but not with disdain. Quite the opposite.
The scene came to mind after I had a crying spell during the time I’ve been offline. Not weeping, which was really all Paul was doing; you know, stoically grim-faced with the single tear running down your face. Nope, I was in full-blown sobbing like a bellow. The kind where the only thing that stops it (or at least forces you to take a break) is that you can’t breathe any longer because you’ve produced more mucus than a kindergarten class during cold season.
But, Fremen, it’s more than a waste of water. It actually alleviates the built-up tension. And, you may ask, what did I have to be so blasted tense about?
Isn’t that what haunts us whenever we set ourselves high goals? The fear that we will fail. And I felt myself falling down the hill I’d been climbing. (Or maybe skiing down it on my face, which is how I recall my decades-old experience on the slopes.)
At first, I kept thinking it would get better in a day or so. Then we went to the doctor, and she said “No exercise for at least a week.” Gary then asked about upper body exercise, and she said that would be okay, but if it wasn’t better after a week or so, then call her to schedule an MRI.
Other than that, it was ice and Naproxen. And I’d ice the hell out of that puppy. Used to be you couldn’t make me ice any injury because I thought the ice was worse than the pain, but we’ve got these ACE bandage wraps for the ice gel now, so it’s not a choice between frostbite or so much insulation that you might as well not bother.
The Naproxen, though, messed me up. I believe I’ve mentioned before that the drugs I take to avoid migraines could probably make a hippo high. (Hippo: Wow, man, look, my sweat is red/Hippo’s friend: Dude, chill. It’s always red.) I went through months of slowly inching it up and figuring out the timing so I don’t faceplant at awkward times. But the Naproxen was enough, shockingly, to make me all kinds of a drooling zombie. It took a couple of weeks to figure out how to get that timed so that I wasn’t getting pie-eyed at awkward times.
But we kept trying to get in the upper body workouts when the knee calmed down. And each time, the damn knee would get worse after. So I began, in Gary’s words, to “eat for entertainment,” a very bad habit, particularly when I wanted carbs to dance for me. As far as I’m concerned, a pole dance is not enticing, but give me a bagel with just a small cover of Philly, and I’m putty.
But it felt like a thousand failures rolling up on me. The same thing I’ve felt every time I quit something (diets in particular, but not just them) because some force majeure popped up to say “boo!” Yes, injuries and illnesses put you back.
Which brings us to the point when I cried myself blotchy and snotty. Luckily Gary was home, and he’s a wise enough man to let me cry rather than to try to get me to stop. He just provides shoulder and kleenexes until I’ve gotten the emotional balance back that comes after the storm passes.
I realize now that it was that point that the decision was made. We talked about how I was feeling, how pissed off I was that my clothes were feeling a little tighter (hence no EOM weigh-in and measurement; I didn’t want to check my stats because I was afraid that would be the death blow), how I’d started avoiding doing the things that were helping me stay on track (including this blog) and why I was now doomed to fail.
And, somehow, during that discussion, I decided I wasn’t going to fail. I started getting my eating back under control, but I took the longest break from working out I’ve had since I started. Last night, just before I started writing this post, I did an all upper body workout. I’ve been symptom free for four days now.
The workout was a bitch. And so was I, mostly because I was frustrated that I wasn’t able to do things as well as I had before I took the break. No, not all the way down to where I was when I started, but definitely lower capacity. I was frustrated, but not particularly surprised, because in the back of my head I kept wondering how long before I started actually losing the muscle I’d built.
Sure, I’ve now got a setback, but I felt the best about myself and the odds of getting fit than I have since somewhere around the beginning of July. Then, sitting down to the ‘puter, I read a post by Adam Bornstein, the link to which had been sitting in my inbox for almost two weeks, which was entitled “Is this your health downfall?” I wished I’d read it sooner when I realized that here this guy, much younger and healthier than I (or at least I’m convinced that’s the case), was going through the same thing I was:
During the past couple of weeks, I’ve been faced with a constant reminder of my own limitations. A recent back injury slowed my normally active lifestyle to a halt. Among the biggest frustrations: My inability to exercise left me with no way to counterbalance the frustrations of long work days, the stress of wedding planning, and my insatiable love of almond butter.
As I struggled with the incapacitating pain of my injury, I found that my physical abilities weren’t all that was affected. I lost my patience faster, became frustrated easier, and generally morphed into something that wasn’t representative of who I wanted to be. I was left with a simple question: When you can’t do what you want, must everything else also suffer?
We live in a world where excuses are prominent and real. But if you’re not careful, temporary excuses can become a permanent way of life. I’ve experienced it myself. I was once an overweight kid and rationalized that I had bad genes and could never be fit. Clearly, my self-perception became the world I created for myself, rather than the far-reaching potential that lives within us all.
Adam clearly learned the lesson much earlier than I did: that you can’t give up on yourself completely because of a valid reason to partially back off. I am still working into the mindset, being an old dog learning a new trick, that the choice isn’t either I’m the paragon of weight loss and fitness pursuit or I’m doomed to be the deconditioned lump of a person I’ve been.
And both my husband and my daughter have taken great pains to remind me of the mental journey I’ve taken: It’s rather astonishing that I, the lifetime hater when it came to working out, am agonizing over the fact that I can’t workout at the level I want to, rather than being secretly relieved I have a legit excuse to quit.
So I finish this post in the wee hours of the night, having awakened with the same damn knee hot and hurting. I’m going to get the ice pack. I may have to miss some more workouts. Hell, I may have to get surgery for a torn meniscus if the damn thing doesn’t finally go away. I have injured myself.
But I know, remembering that crying session, that I’ve already made my decision. I’m not giving up. I’m not going to go back to the way I was.
My husband, once again, is a role model for me. He injured his right shoulder and went through what I’ve been doing: It would get better, then he’d reinjure it, and it kept spiraling down. Finally he went to the doctor and get the MRI, and the orthopedic surgeon told him, yes, it could eventually get better, but there was as good a chance that it would not. Gary waited far longer than he should have to get the surgery (many of the reasons for that were valid), but he didn’t stop working out during the period he was waiting to get the shoulder fixed. He stuck it out, modifying his workouts to things he could do, and treating the shoulder like I am now: ice and Naproxen.
He did get the surgery, and the tear was worse than it appeared in the MRI. And now he’s worked his way back up to the point that no one who wasn’t there would realize he’d ever had shoulder surgery. And, as he pointed out, DeJuan Blair goes out and kicks ass on the basketball court, and the reason we (meaning the San Antonio Spurs) got him is that the teams with higher draft picks thought the man’s lack of ACLs would be a problem. Doesn’t seem that way to me (despite the embarrassing end-of-season Spurs faceplant).
So the injury, even if it’s the worst case scenario, doesn’t mean I’m done. Yeah, I’m not in as good a shape as my husband (and clearly nowhere near as in shape as a young professional basketball player), but the principle is the same. Just on a different scale. And I don’t have to give up all the things I’ve been doing to stay in the right frame of mind and to be healthy just because I can’t do a squat right now.
Scaling. That’s what I said to begin with and I’m bloody well going to do it now. I’ve shaken my head at people being foolish enough not to scale down when needed, and now it seems I’ve been playing the fool.
So my crying game will have a happy ending, damn it. Even if I am going back to bed with an ice pack on my knee, oh, Susannah. But don’t you cry for me.
P.S. [Possible spoiler alert] No, I’m not a tranny. I just like stealing titles from more gifted writers than myself.