Tuesday, July 09, 2019

How We Define Ourselves

The Irish blessing begins: "May the road rise up to meet you."
And that's exactly what happened to me yesterday during a run as I tripped and fell, landing on my hands, one knee and then thudding onto my side. I lay on the hard-packed dirt and gravel road for a few minutes assessing the damage.

At least I didn't land on my nose and break it. I've done that before. 
And it's been 12 years, so maybe I should count my blessings that I had a nearly 7-year streak of not falling.
But the fall injured more than my outside.
I had just determined that I was going to conquer these hills we are living on for 45 more days. 
  I'd been sluggish, walking a lot as I climbed the two miles up, then increasing my speed as I went down.
So yesterday morning, I forced myself to run farther before I stopped. I took a flatish detour past a flock of sheep then headed back toward the uphill. I felt confident, unstoppable even, before a rock jutting out of the road caught the toe of my shoe.
In slow motion, I stumbled, my hands outreached. I could stay upright, I could keep going, but a few steps in I fell.
And it's hard to fail at something you consider yourself good at.
I've been running seriously for about 18 years now.

 I trained for a marathon and tore my ACL. Nevertheless, I trained the following year and actually ran the marathon. I tout the benefits of running and often claim I use it as an antidepressant.
Yet, a submerged rock reached out to tweak me.
In the past, I have bemoaned that my two hobbies -- writing and running are best done first thing in the morning and I couldn't decide which to devote myself to. Now I haven't written seriously for 18 months, since we moved to France, and suddenly my running is off too.
Who am I if I'm not a writer or a runner?
I told my friend Janine that I felt like the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz with the straw being stuffed back into me, trying to restore me to what I was before.
If a runner falls in the woods and no one hears, did she make a sound?
I had the luxury of sitting on the road a few minutes, gravel embedded in my palms and a little blood on my knee, because the road is seldom used. A fall is different when you're middle aged than when you're young.
The distance isn't farther, but the thud feels harder.
And as I stood in the shower later, trying to take in deep breaths but feeling a pain under my ribs, I played with the idea of a collapsed lung or broken ribs. But by this morning, I decided the ribs were just bruised and I would be okay.
I didn't run this morning. Instead, after I taught for four hours, Earl and I went on a hike in a nearby state park. A few times, I placed my hands across my right ribs, feeling for that tender place where I had landed.
Maybe the fear is what makes the fall worse as we age.
But I can't let fear or inertia keep me down.
Tomorrow, I'll be back on those hills, forcing myself to run a little farther before I stop and walk to catch my breath. And maybe I'll even schedule some time to sit in front of my computer to put down words that tell a story, a story about two women on a trail in France.
I'm a runner.
I'm a writer.
So I'll end with another song, this one by Frank Sinatra who sang:
Now nothing's impossible, I've found for when my chin is on the ground,
"I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again."


4 comments:

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Hi Paulita. Quite a story.. Very happy to read, that all seemed OK after your fall. Very lucky you didn't break anything, especially your wrists. So I hope your ribs are doing OK. You are such a strong determined lady, nothing is going to stop you. Definitely not Fear.. Take care. Anne

Just Me said...

Loved his story. Intimately relate. I still have a feeling of caution since my last serious 'trip while running'. Although tripping since, with less consequences has helped. Of course you always have a unique perspective that I truly enjoy and treasure.

Jeanie said...

I so get this. It's a lot harder to recover and regain confidence after something physical smashes you for a bit. I know you will, but it will take time. Be gentle with yourself. And so glad there was no break.

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