Being Injured, Being Humbled

Being Injured, Being Humbled

I’ve never understood why people respond to winning awards or recognition with “I am so humbled by this.” My instinct says the opposite of that should be true – now that everyone knows you’re the most eligible bachelor in Tampa under the age of 30, or whatever, you should feel like hot stuff. And feeling like hot stuff isn’t inherently bad; there’s no need to feel guilty for celebrating our accomplishments or the qualities we love about ourselves. (After all, loving ourselves is the root of loving others.) We are, however, always balancing those feelings with humbling experiences, too. Failures. Close calls. Setbacks.

I’ve had a couple of setbacks myself recently. Part of how I define myself is through what I’m able to do, and worked hard to achieve, physically. I am a rock climber. I am a yogi and yoga teacher. I get outside and play outside.

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Can’t do this right now 😦 Working through the moves last July on “Butch Pocket and the Sundance Pump,” 5.12a, at Wild Iris, WY. Photo by Andrew Hudson.

Last September I woke up one morning after “camping” in my car in Ten Sleep, Wyoming, with an intense ache in my neck. While driving back home, the pain worsened. When I woke up the next day, I could barely look up or down, much less side to side. I immediately booked myself a massage, but walked out feeling about the same level of crappy as I’d felt before. After a referral and a physical therapy consultation, I learned I’d acquired an inflamed cervical disk.

This immediately had consequences for me. No more headstands. No more backbend-y yoga poses where I need to gaze up and back. And, as I learned on our next climbing trip, it also meant I couldn’t look down to find my next foothold, or up at the climber I was belaying.

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Couldn’t do this either. Tripod headstand playtime in the park with Jessie (center) and Amy (right), summer 2014

After months of physical therapy, I’d finally reached a point of comfort (and I mean physically, not financially- yikes). My neck still hurts on occasion, but the muscles in my back no longer seize up to protect it, and I have almost the same range of motion as I had before that doomed morning in September.

Come late October the outdoor climbing season ended and, in late November, ski season began. Knowing I’d improved my skills significantly over the course of the last season, I was excited to get back on the snowy slopes.

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A beautiful snowy Sunday in Steamboat Springs, CO

After the new year, I went down to Steamboat Springs with friends Georgia and Tom, and Tom’s family. Saturday night it snowed over a foot, maybe around two feet, even. In the morning we laughed as we tossed armfuls of snow off our cars. The lifts carried us out of the sun and into the icy clouds surrounding the mountaintops, still dumping snow.

On what became our last run of the day, the front end of my right ski lodged itself in a mound of heavy, powdery snow, twisting my foot out to the right. The rest of my body didn’t get the message and kept sailing downhill until my right knee jerked inward, and popped. I dropped to my back, dug out my sunken ski, and held my right knee into my chest while I made some pathetic wails. Fortunately Tom and Georgia heard/saw me, and came over. After about five minutes of feeling sorry for myself, I swallowed the pain, got up, and we made our way to the bottom of the mountain- slowly.

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Just before I hurt my knee! Steamboat Springs, CO. Photo by Tom Ashley.

My physical therapy appointment for my knee is later this week, but the preliminary diagnosis is a partially torn MCL. This means no more skiing, climbing, or running (honestly I won’t miss that one), and avoiding certain yoga poses- again.

I hate being injured, and not just because of the pain. I hate the limitations it brings. I find myself sitting at work, feeling blah, and thinking, “Oh I know- I’ll just go to the climbing gym tonight,” and as soon as I start to feel cheery again, I realize I can’t. Yoga class? Nope, not if there are any deep lunges or squats or psoas stretching. So I settle for gentle movement on my mat followed by some resistance band nonsense to make my knee feel more stable.

So much goes into those Instagram photos of flexible yogis in breathtaking poses, or YouTube videos of skinny guys break-dancing. So much has to go right. Just because that guy in the gym is only lifting 5 pounds or walking around the track instead of jogging doesn’t mean he’s lazy or unmotivated. He could very well be recovering from illness or injury. He could be on chemo and unable to do any high-impact exercise for fear that his fragile bones could fracture underneath him. Maybe that woman in my yoga class is in child’s pose instead of the pose I’m teaching because she just had a baby, or she has a herniated disk in her spine, or that pose is just too intense for her and that’s not what her body needs right now.

So. What do I do when I’m not climbing up mountains or skiing down them? I cook. I eat. I read. I tell our new puppy that I don’t appreciate his chewing a hole in the curtains, or constantly sniffing our butts, or jumping on our laps while we’re on the couch so he can gnaw on our fingers. I stress about being out-of-shape. I scroll through social media sites feeling envy at all the beautiful photos of my able-bodied friends. I paint my nails. I clean my closet. I cry. I drink wine. I play the piano. I try some yoga, and slowly back out of all the poses I can’t do, and try to be kind to myself.

Last night I met with my friend Amy (pictured above doing tripod headstand) to discuss our plans for the kids/adults yoga event we’re leading next weekend (learn more about it here!). Our theme for the classes is kindness, and Amy shared with me a kindness-centered visualization and meditation exercise she has used in the past as a kids’ yoga teacher. I invite you to try it.

Kindness Visualization:

Situate yourself in a comfortable seat, or lie down comfortably. Now, begin to visualize a person you love- not a person with whom you’re mad right now, or with whom you’ve had a recent argument- but for whom you just feel love. Maybe it’s a family member, or a partner, or a best friend. Picture this person’s face with as much detail as you can muster. Maybe you find your lips curling into a smile as you think of them. Now, with this person’s image in your head, say silently to them, “May you be healthy. May you be happy. May you be at peace.”

Begin to shift your focus inward. Notice your breath. Notice the feeling of your clothes on your skin. Notice the parts of your body touching the floor. Notice how you feel. Now say silently to yourself, “May I be healthy. May I be happy. May I be at peace.” It may be hard to repeat this words to yourself, but try to be receptive to them. “May I be healthy. May I be happy. May I be at peace.”

~

Love to all.

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Meet Us: Matt & Katherine, a Valentine’s Day Post

I was inspired by this blog post from Free People to create a similar question-and-answer format post about Matt’s and my relationship. With Valentine’s Day coming up, it seemed like a perfect time to do it! I hope you are as uplifted by our answers as I was by Matt’s.

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At Summersville Lake in West Virginia, 2010

  1. How did you two meet?
    Matt: Katherine and I met at a UNC Outing Club meeting in the fall of 2008. However, Katherine does not remember this and thinks we met at the climbing wall about a week later. I guess I didn’t make a good impression at the meeting and it took some sending to get her attention.
    Katherine: Apparently I don’t remember the first time we met, but I do remember the second, at the climbing wall at UNC, where we were both undergraduate students. Even though Matt is older than I am, he was also new to campus because he had just transferred schools, which I think made me less intimidated by him. I liked his freckles and eyebrows, and I was impressed by his climbing expertise. And his muscles.
  2. Briefly describe one another.
    Matt: Red hair. Cold hands. How briefly?
    Katherine: Matt is very kind and somewhat introverted. He has a great sense of humor and takes responsibility for his actions (sometimes too much responsibility). He loves being outside. He has auburn hair, brown eyes, and an adorable dose of freckles.

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    Goofy in San Francisco, 2015

  3. What do you admire most about one another?
    Matt: Katherine’s resilience in the face of difficulties has surprised and impressed me. She always finds a way to find joy in the little things, even when life is throwing obstacles at her. I didn’t really know this about her until we had been together for a while, because life is pretty rosy when you are in college and the whole world is your oyster. When the real world kicks in — grad school rejections, annoying or malicious co-workers, unanticipated bills — things change. I know these things are still troubling to her, but she doesn’t let them consume her and is still able to jump for joy at the prospect of watching A Charlie Brown Christmas. I’m not this way at all. I also admire how dedicated she is to teaching yoga. Getting up at 5:30 am in below-zero weather for very little pay is insane.
    Katherine: His ambition- Matt has high expectations for himself, and I love to watch him meet or exceed those expectations, like when we go climbing together and he sends a hard route. I also admire his willingness to go out of his way to be kind to others, even when it is inconvenient for him. Matt is a very thoughtful, intentional person, which makes his actions very meaningful. Watching him be kind to others warms my heart-  it’s like a little validation: “Aah, this is the person I love.”
  4. What is something people may not know about your relationship?
    Matt: She is the messy one.
    Katherine: Having a dog is a great way to test out your boyfriend. I love to watch Matt play with the dog, laugh and cuddle with him, and even sing to him. Yes- he sings to the dog! This probably just means I’ve rubbed off on him. Also, Matt doesn’t appreciate throw pillows, so I know when Matt’s been on the couch because all the pillows end up stacked on the armchair.
  5. What is your favorite thing to do together?
    Matt: Taking a walk or hike with the dog.  The house can be filled with distractions, some of which are stress-inducing (clutter, bills, chores to be done) and can pollute the dynamics of our relationship.  Getting outside gives you some space and perspective.
    Katherine: Although I do love camping and hiking and climbing with Matt (I’d totally get lost in the woods without him), I also really enjoy more mundane moments- couch conversations, beating him at Boggle, playing with the dog, etc. These little moments remind me that we’re spending our lives together, which is lovely.

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    Us + Abe in Ten Sleep Canyon, WY in 2013

  6. What is the most romantic thing she/he has ever done for you?
    Matt: She moved to Wyoming with me.
    Katherine: One Valentine’s Day Matt recited some of Pablo Neruda’s poetry to me in Spanish, which (obviously) I loved. I also like to tell people about when Matt was trying to convince me to move to Wyoming. He actually created a PowerPoint presentation with information about Laramie, including things specific to my hobbies and interests, and then pitched it to me. *Swoon.*
  7. When did you know you were in love?
    Matt: I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the word love (as used by dating couples, not parent/child, etc.) because it is very vague and means something different to everyone. To texting teenagers love means infatuation. To elderly couples it means a lifetime of understanding. As a couple in your 20’s, you are navigating the space in-between. I think this leads to a lot of disappointment for people.  How many times have you heard some variation of, “He/she said they loved me, but he/she did this!” It is possible that the offending party lied, but it is also possible that they have a definition of love which is not inconsistent with their behavior. Maybe their definition didn’t include a commitment to the relationship if the other person moved far away, but the other person’s definition did. My preference is to try to define love based on observable actions or attitudes. Love means a willingness to sacrifice your own well-being for the other person. Love means a consensus about what things are important in life. Love means physical intimacy. Love means patience and acceptance. Ideally, I would like to think that how Katherine and I define love has evolved together and that our definitions have converged, but I think this process takes a very long time. There are a lot of divorces. So, back to the question — when did I know I was in love with Katherine? Probably when we adopted Abe and started building a life together. Although, as my definition of love matures and evolves, maybe it was actually when we moved to Wyoming, life threw us some obstacles, and we found out how to still make it work and make each other happy.
    Katherine: I like to think of love as total acceptance. When people say “I love you,” they mean (or should mean), “I accept you as you are, in every way.” Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things with which I disagree, or that I would change, if I could. But to love someone is to acknowledge that person as they are, and to realize some things may change, and others may not. I loved a lot about Matt when I first met him. He was gracious, funny, and handsome (that always helps). The first time we said “I love you” to one another was the summer after we’d started dating, maybe 7 months into the relationship. I said it first (no surprise there), and he said he’d have to think about it and get back to me. I know. Was he playing hard-to-get? Probably. He “got back to me,” if I remember correctly, later that week. And the rest is history!

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    Atop Stone Mountain in North Carolina in 2010

  8. Any relationship or dating advice you would give?
    Matt: No, I have no idea what is going on.
    Katherine: Go on trips together, and prioritize mutual experiences over material gifts. Being able to say, “Remember that time we went to x and did y?” and reminisce together is invaluable. Building these experiences also brings you closer together because it gives you common ground, and helps you think from similar perspectives. The last advice I’d give, mostly because I’ve read it and find it super helpful, is to simply be kind to one another. People have a tendency to treat others who are closest to us- our family, namely- like crap when we’re in a bad mood, or not feeling well, or when someone else has wronged us. Not only is that unfair to your partner, it also sucks them into your poor mood, and disregards their needs. What if they have some great news to share with you, or if they were feeling particularly good about themselves, and you just walked in the door and tore all that down with your bratty mood? Even if your self-pity or whatever is totally legitimate, your partner still deserves your kindness. Be polite. Be interested in what they find interesting. Listen to them. Be considerate of their preferences, just like you would to a coworker, or a stranger, or someone you just met.
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Being fancy in North Carolina in 2010

Happy Valentine’s Day! Tell your loved ones you love them. Love to all!