So Many Beats
I limped into physio on Thursday night to see a precipitous drop in cheerfulness on my zen-calm therapist's face.
He is a ridiculously cheerful person. He's one of those people you wind up best friends with at the bus stop because he couldn't stop himself from saying hello. Not this time. He nodded grimly and gestured me up onto the table.
Was he upset because I was late? I had called ahead to let them know I was at a birthday party dinner, running late but rushing to get there.
I apologized at length - not the it's-not-my-fault-because kind of apology. More like the I-am-so-sorry-to-have-kept-you- waiting kind of apology. (I like that kind a lot better.)
He nodded. No sale.
So we chatted about children and sleep habits, while he administered the ultrasound treatment. We chatted about the impatience of the Western world in dealing with emerging economies, and the resounding unspoken judgement that permeates political aid decisions. We chatted about grad school for me (humanities) and for him (sciences). We chatted about Christmas shopping, juggling two very different extended families, and how many days we might have before the snow comes.
We chatted. He did not smile.
And then, as he hooked me up to the TENS machine and I turned on my Kobo to finish the last dozen pages of The Road, I experienced that ominous throat clearing, shoulder touching combination that means bad news is coming.
"Desi, we haven't seen the kind of improvement we were hoping for."
"You should be experiencing very minimal pain and a near full correction of your walking gait."
"Yes. I would like you to do three things, next week. Meet with your doctor. Consider an acupuncture session for pain management. And research your injury based on the possibility that your lateral meniscus and supporting ligaments may have been torn."
And then he smiled. "You're okay? Do you need a moment?"
"I'm okay. If you ever find the time, read The Road. It does put bad news in perspective."
I finished my book, went home to my family. I got in to see my doctor the following afternoon. She delivers bad news warmly. It's never as bad as it seems.
"Desi, conservative treatment, such as intensive physiotherapy and targeted strength training, usually brings injuries like yours up to a recreational level of exertion within four to six months."
"Six months?" (Cut to my solemn face voicing over a sports injury prevention PSA: Do NOT run mad, people.) "Do you mean recreational, like walking to the park with my kids? Or recreational like the Iron Man I intend to try for when I'm 40?"
"You want to race an Iron Man?"
She sent me for X-rays. She short-listed me for an MRI. There may be a referral to an orthopaedic surgeon in my future, followed by arthroscopic surgery, and then a six week healing period before I can start really training again.
And now I wait.
One of the things that happened to me, once I had lived long enough to truly experience grief and loss, is this bizarre confluence of feelings: I am aware that my heart only has so many beats. I know that this time we have right now is impermanent. I want to fully live every second of it. You know?
But I am also aware that my heart only has so many beats. I know that this time we have right now is impermanent. And that makes me feel I'm in a sort of headlong rush to do as many things as possible before my clock ticks down. The Road speaks of "life" under the black shroud of mortality. Living each day with the knowledge that each might be the last sounds so romantic, until you find yourself walking in the shadow of death always. The fear that drives you to drop your inhibitions and try those things, have those adventures, fight your way through to no regrets.... Sometimes that fear steals from you the peace to just be here. Changes your relationships. Right now.
So, I won't be racing, next spring. I won't be ready for a 10 mile in April, or a 10k in March. I remain optimistic about the half-marathon in August, and the half-Olympic tri in September. It's okay. Really.
I've got other things to do.