Life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent of how I react to it ~ Charles Swindoll
Being extraordinarily active is part of who I am. When I broke my foot two years ago and was forced to stop running, I questioned my identity. The sense of loss, confusion, and frustration were overwhelming. I no longer had my “outlet”, my “thing”. I was a runner. Period. As my foot healed eventually, I found that returning to running was not something that was safe or healthy. At least not in the way that I had been running. Six days a week, three hour weekend runs, four half marathons per year. My body was rejecting this whole idea and although my mind and heart were stubborn and unyielding, eventually my soul won out as I knew in my gut, I needed to stop. I have grieved this loss. And I continue to struggle with that piece of my identity. Although I no longer run everyday and although I no longer race and participate in the thrill of a competition, I still identify as a runner. It was a big part of me and I feel I will always keep that label as part of my identity.
Last week I was told the news that I had been dreading, my foot is broken again. Despite my retirement from running and despite the mindfulness of limiting my impact on my foot, it broke. It is broken, again. Although my life looks and feels completely different, and the context of this injury is nowhere near the same, hearing those words, confirming what I already knew deep down, was a highly triggering experience. I was thrust back to my dark times. The darkness of a broken foot, the loss and grief of not being able to run and ultimately, the ending of a new and promising relationship, threatened to once again engulf me. Before I broke my foot, I was on top of the world. Or at least, I felt that way. That small broken bone had a way of exposing all that was broken in my life, I just didn’t know it at the time. Instead, I found myself a few months into a relationship and we loved to run together. It all unravelled after I broke my foot, and a few months later, the relationship broke too. I blamed my foot, I blamed the fact that we could not run together anymore, I blamed my lack of mobility and my sadness around that. None of these were the real reasons. But I failed to see that while I was in the thick of it.
Experiencing those thoughts and feelings washing over me like a wave, was like watching myself on the TV screen. I have no intention of being part of a remake, or a rerun. I know that everything is different this time, I know I’m in a better place, I know that the past does not dictate the future, but those old feelings are also very real and triggers are not necessarily rational. A trigger is any stimulus that sets off a memory or flashback that transports a person back to the event of her original trauma. Triggers are very personal, generally involving the senses, or experiences that were reminiscent of old painful feelings. This can cause feelings that are overwhelming, including sadness, anxiety or panic. There are several theories about how triggers are formed, most of them involve fight or flight responses, sensory stimuli and the way memories are formed.
Regardless of the theory underlying my trigger, I find myself thrust back into a hauntingly familiar place. The pain of the foot- and heartbreak all too real. I am finding it difficult to differentiate fact from fiction, the past from the present. Currently, I find myself a few months into a relationship that has sparked hope, trust and that feeling of vulnerability as I start the fall, the tumble. Our relationship is fun and easy, combined with equal parts sharing of ourselves in a truly real and vulnerable way. We have both shown up in ways that invoke belief, excitement and truth be told, amazement. But I find myself with limited mobility, and struggling with The Sadness that comes along with it. What if I’m not fun anymore? I tried this past weekend to keep up, to be fun, to do the things that we had planned. I was determined to not have anything be different, to be fun and dance the night away. What I didn’t take into account is that things are different, temporarily, but they are different. My foot is broken. I have no control over that, just as I have no control over what reaction that inspires in those close to me. This weekend I overdid it physically, mentally and emotionally in my attempt to not acknowledge a change, to prove I was still fun, to try and control the situation.
I have been gently reminded, by the amazing people in my life, that there is a lesson in this for me. I may not know it right now, but there is another lesson to be learned. I was also reminded to be grateful for what I have. To flip the script. I am grateful. I am resilient. And I will surrender to what my body is telling me and the lessons, growth and strength to be gained. But most of all, I have been reminded that my worth, that my value, to those closest to me, doesn’t come from my ability to dance or snowshoe or play dodgeball, it comes from within. It comes from kindness and caring and laughter. It comes from within me, not my left foot.
Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses ~ Alphonse Karr