My friend James is the CFO of a mining company that has a site office in Medellin, Colombia. Before one of his first trips to Colombia, he received an email (considerately written in English, as his Spanish still starts and ends with "cerveza") about what to expect:
"Medellin has several muggings. Of this I have experienced. Please no panic."
I loved this e-mail more than I should have. It says, very nicely, that yes, bad things can happen - but don't lose your shit. And, for the record, James has been travelling to Colombia for over three years and has yet to be mugged (I think he is just not trying hard enough).
Which is, to say, when my foot pretty much exploded last week, I totally lost my shit.
Things were feeling good and I was getting itchy feet. In my case, itchy feet meant texting Matt at 4:30pm on a Wednesday to do a 6:30am speed workout the next day. We did some intervals to a moody sunrise around the seawall. The first was warm up, the second was fast, the third felt tight - and the fourth I stopped mid-way. My foot hurt like it had never hurt.
I hobbled back. At first, everyone (including me) thought I was being melodramatic.
Me, 7:30am: "Matt, I will be calm - can I call you 9pm if it doesn't feel better?"
Me, 10am: "My foot still hurts!!"
Me, 12:30pm: "I went to the walk-in clinic. They refused to give me an x-ray or bone scan requisition. The doctor suggested swimming, advil, and that I "relax"."
Thanks to my very awesome superphysio Ramsey Ezzat, and very awesome RMT Matt Thompson (he may trash-talk when running and have questionable endurance, but he is very professionally competent), we figured out I had metatarsalgia. Not a stress fracture, not a deal breaker - but meaning that there is still stuff going on with my ankle that I need to fix.
It also meant, for four very painful days, that I couldn't walk. So for an entire weekend, I only left my apartment to hobble one block to the block to the gym in hopes of biking at level 2 resistance to try and loosen things up. Thankfully (for me) and possibly unfortunately (for her), my very close friend Stacy was in town visiting. This meant activities like playing a drinking game when watching "Eat Pray Love" where every time "relationship" is mentioned, you drink (Stacy had to go out to get more wine).
But it also meant, when Stacy was out - it was just me. And my head. And a goddamn sore foot.
And it was hard. Being injured for four months and coming out of it took pretty much everything I had. I white-knuckled parts, held on for dear life, and told myself: "it's ok, you won't have to go through this again."
you do / what you can do / with what you've got
Here's the thing - I got X-Rays when my ankle was sore back in January. The way things look, it may never really go back to normal. There's things to fix, and it will get better - but maybe never perfect - and I work every damn day to do what I need to do to run.
Sometimes in life, though, there are no answers, and no real certainty. For someone like me, it's hard. The same time, for someone like me - it's a choice. You can't always pick what you love - sometimes, it chooses you. I wake up, some mornings, and I wish I was an easier person. I have an amazing job. I live in a wonderful apartment in a neighbourhood that feels like home. I have friends and family and a life. I wish I could go to the gym for my hour, do some weights, dress up, go out for drinks or a movie or brunch or a walk and have it be enough, have it make me happy.
And I do those things, and love them - but it's never, ever enough. My feet - oh god - my feet are so itchy, and I dream of wet boardwalks, of roots and mud and the smell of earth and rain seeping down the hillside. I dream of clouds rolling in, of the gasp of breath on uphills, and the forest through mist. Vancouver is home, and the mountains have a dark, uneasy beauty.
But the thing with love, and it hurts, some days, so much - but it also makes the colours sharper, and my eyes clearer. I ran for months, and I was grateful every damn second. I ran with joy and abandon and so much gratitude - and that's how it'll be like when I come back. I may never, really, be better. So I may need to live with this uncertainty as long as I run. It's bittersweet, and loss is the other side of love. The thing is - loss makes the colour sharper. It cracks, and cracks again, and into that space can move a life.
it's not the same
So, after losing my shit, really losing it - I had to get on with life. And I realized that things weren't the same as this January - I wasn't the same. My friends came over last Sunday with dinner and groceries. Since then, I've been so lucky to have the support of the run community. And at the end of the day, I do what I need to do - get up, get to the gym for 5:30am, get on the bike or the rowing machine and get it done. It's been just over a week, and things already feel better (and I also have calluses on my hands and have befriended the imitation crossfit crowd at the YMCA, thanks to my rowing enthusiasm and intense porno-breathing).
I wanna get better
The thing is, even with setbacks, life still moves on. This last Saturday, I went out to see Lucy's husband's (Chris) band play at the Princeton. The band was great, and we drank beer and joined in as the other wives yelled "take it off!" at their husbands onstage. Then the band started to play the song "Down by the Water" - and Chris dedicated it to me. I remember playing this song for Chris, back when I was living in their guest room in January (my life goal for 30 is basically to not stay in Lucy and Chris' guest room due to a poor romantic decision). I remember getting off the bus, walking home in the fog, and hearing Chris already practising on his guitar.
So, as the band finished their set, what else could I do? I got up, with my slightly gimpy foot, and joined Lucy on the tiny dance floor. And we yelled and danced and laughed, as the band kicked into "Lonely Boy", and the flourescent lights swept the dance floor, and a train passed by the windows at the back.
I know I'll get better, and I know I'll be running again - and in the meantime, all the joy, all the colours - it's still there - and sometimes the only answer to setbacks is to finish your drink, get up, and dance.