Letting go

Sometimes I think life is just smooth sailing, everything’s going as planned (whatever that means) and I am the master of my own universe. Work is good, bills are paid, hitting the gym hard, feeling proud of myself, liking myself, family seems content, kids are doing well. It feels almost easy. And then something happens.

For me, it started on June 22, 2015. My husband fell while camping and broke his right ankle. At the time, he was a full time server, aspiring photographer. We went to urgent care and they confirmed two cracks through his talus bone. Somehow, in that moment, I had peace, I knew it would be ok. I turned to him and told him, “you never would’ve quit your job and pursued your dreams. Now you can.”

Being the caregiver, OCD person I am, I immediately increased my workload, started mental lists of how to accomplish everything in our lives, groceries, household chores, family activities. You name it, I had a plan for it. I had it under control….. but not really.

Shortly after Brent fell, I became very weak. I was suffering with pain in my back and my body began to break out with patches of eczema. In December of that year, I came down with a viral sickness and had to take 17 days off work. I had never been so sick in my life. I told myself I had it under control. I could handle it all…. but I couldn’t.

By January 2016, we had moved in to Brent’s grandmas house. We were in debt. I was defeated. My skin was so bad I ended up in the hospital. I was trying so hard to manage our life but instead of feeling accomplished and successful, I felt broken and exhausted.

It was then that I realized I was worn out because I was trying to do everything on my own. I was carrying the burden of every responsibility on my shoulders. I was clinging too tightly to the notion that I had some ultimate power over my life and my families’ situation. My letting go began.

Living with Brent’s grandma meant we sold most of our belongings and what we kept, was in a 5X10 storage unit. We had to let go of a lot of things. I moved out of the home I had rented for the past 6+ years. My son let go of the home he mostly grew up in. I let go of furniture and clothes and things that felt necessary . More importantly, I began to let go of my need to control everything and my belief that I was responsible for the success of my family.

In 2017, my family was blessed with the opportunity to long term housesit and in accepting, we emptied our storage unit and continued to let go of things. I realized there were all these things I hadn’t seen or needed for the past year. It felt easier to say good bye this time. I had learned to be content with less, to live in close quarters with people, to share space, to minimize my life.

And then, at 1am on Saturday, November 25, 2017, a drunk driver drove a car through the house we were sleeping in. The home we were housesitting at. When I say a car drove through the house, it literally drove in one wall, turned left and drove out the front. My husband and I were sleeping and woke to a home without walls. There were firefighters and sirens and police tape. I was traumatized and terrified. Every emotion you could imagine feeling in that instance, I felt. How does one even begin to process that experience? Calling my friend serving overseas and telling her that someone drove a car through her house. Trying to figure out what the next step was. I felt violated and scared and unprepared.

In the last four months, I lived in the tension of having no home, trying to feel grounded, navigating contractors and legal issues while forcing myself to be calm. I walked through conversations and interactions I had never imagined. I found myself unearthing strength and faithfulness I thought people faked in trials. The letting go continued. When your existence is disrupted in such a way, when you lose so many tangible things but still have your family and your life, you naturally let go of even more.

And here’s the kicker, on March 5, 2018, in a freak accident, I tripped over air on my skates and broke my ankle in three places. Yes, I play derby, but this wasn’t a typical derby experience. All of my thoughts of control and what’s important got immediately shaken even more. I can’t workout. I can’t skate. I can’t drive. I can’t walk. I can’t work. Everything that I thought was in my control, that was a choice, was disrupted. Because I can’t work, our money is also not in my control. So today, I gave up my studio space. I have been a massage therapist for 11 years. I have been out on my own for five of those years. I do not know when I will be able to work again and continuing to pay rent for a space I cannot use doesn’t make sense.

On paper, all these things seem like enough to break someone and trust me, there are parts of me and times that felt maybe breakable. From all of this though, I have found that it’s ok to not be in control. It’s a false sense of control at best but to even accept that is ok. I’ve come to truly appreciate my struggles because I have seen them only make me better. I have found a peace that does surpass understanding, a genuine calm in the storm. I cannot stop the “bad” things that life will throw at me. I cannot spend my life in anticipation of them. I’ve never felt more prepared for uncertainty. I’ve never been more excited for the unknown.

Redemption

This past weekend was the home opener for Ohio Roller Derby. Had I not broken my ankle, it would’ve been my return to derby, my first bout back. I had no idea what I would feel like attending the game, watching everyone play and not being able to participate. I know when I played derby before, from 2007-2012, it would have made me crazy and angry and jealous to sit on the sidelines. I couldn’t even handle being on the bench and sitting out one play. Back then, I truly believed I was valuable in every moment and if others didn’t agree, then they were in the wrong and just didn’t know what was best.

Wow….. who was that person? So full of pride and ego. That attitude led me to leave my league full of unhappy feelings and with a trail of hurt teammates. I said a bunch of things that came from a place of control and contempt. I was so unaware of myself that I didn’t even see what I was doing. I believed I had good intentions but I saw years later what was really going on. Yes, I loved my team and league. Yes, I wanted us to be successful. But because my feelings were leading me and I was selfish, I know my words came out wrong.

When I rejoined Ohio Roller Derby this past year, I was nervous. I wasn’t sure if I would be accepted back. I was worried that maybe I couldn’t be forgiven. I wasn’t sure what had been said after I left and I had no idea how much I had negatively impacted my team, my friends. I felt uneasy for a while, encountering people who had been with the league since I left. People who knew me back then. Wondering if they really were smiling inside about my return or if that was a facade and deep down they wanted me gone.

Here’s what I’ve found, and it’s beyond surprising: none of those things happened. No one treated me poorly. Everyone was kind. I was able to apologize to people and ask for forgiveness. I didn’t even know I needed that and you never know how remorse will be received.

Redemption is an interesting thing because often times you don’t know you need it until you have it. I didn’t consciously feel like I needed to redeem myself to the league but I quickly found myself yearning for that and realized that my return was less about skating and more about reconciliation. I love skating and I love derby but more than any of that, I am eternally grateful for the chance to make things right.

I’m not the same person I was 10 years ago. I will probably mention that in a lot of my posts because it’s just so true. I used to be so selfish and wanted to promote myself above all others. I was quick to speak, careless with my words and self righteous when confronted. I couldn’t celebrate others successes because I was too busy critiquing them or feeling envious.

As I’ve processed this whole experience, breaking my ankle playing derby, missing the home opener, knowing I’m going to miss the whole season, I’ve found peace easily with the circumstances. I’m not as upset as I would’ve been in years past because this wasn’t even about me. This whole thing that I thought initially was me returning to a sport I adore was really about the new me being a part of a team, truly being happy for others and joyfully humbling myself. I am obviously sad to not skate but my unhappy feelings are quickly overtaken by the pride I felt watching my teammates play and by the joy I feel knowing that I will not be remembered for my harsh words or controlling nature.

The changing of the seasons

Have you ever thought it would be nice to just start over from the exact moment you are at right now? Take all the life experiences and knowledge you have now and start things fresh? Not redo your life, but be your current age and just erase all the “bad” things in your life and refresh? A new job, new friends, maybe keep some of the old friends, but just begin anew. At times I’ve thought it would be easier to just pack up and move, to run away from my life. Who I am now is so radically different than who I used to think I was. And sometimes, because that old me creeps in, I make old me decisions. Inevitably, I wish I could take them back.

When I tell people I’m an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs test, they’re shocked to hear that I’m introverted. Heck, when I took the test, it kinda surprised me. I suppose when you spend years and years partying and on drugs, it’s easy to seem to be or be outgoing. When you’re so detached from your true self, that you just get lost in your surroundings. Sure, I will be a hype girl on stage for a DJ, yes, I will take those pills even though I don’t know what they are, sure I will boldly talk to strangers and make friends everywhere I go, and yes, I will attend every social gathering and stay out all night day after day. Until I grew up, not just in age, but in maturity. Until I realized that all those things were ways to avoid my real life. Until I woke up one day and saw my value and decided I wanted more for myself and for my son.

The journey to becoming my true self has been interesting and it’s by far not over. I imagine it’s an adventure I will hike along until I die. I will constantly be learning new things about myself and what really makes me come alive.

A week before I broke my ankle, I ended up in the ER with debilitating back spasms. A week prior to that, I somehow split jerked a barbell into my nose and a few weeks prior to that, I ended up in urgent care with moderate but fairly unenjoyable back spasms. My body was trying to tell me something. I wasn’t being true to myself. I wasn’t feeding the calm within me. I filled every moment of my day with exercise and work and activity and ignored the now clear signs: it was too much.

I believe that everything happens for a reason. In some strange way, I believe I needed to break my ankle or have something dramatic stop me because I was caught up and somewhat detached. I was going along, moving through my life but not really intentional or connected to myself. That may be a strange concept but humor me. I found myself spending less time at home, less time with family, less time at church, less time in silence, less time with worship, less time with prayer. All the things that I know feed me, nurture me, grow me and ultimately satisfy me, I had replaced with externally satisfying but surely less meaningful distractions. Now, I’m not saying that working out or playing a sport are meaningless but when they begin to take the place of more fundamentally important things, to me, that’s an issue.

Enter in the calm of sitting in a hospital bed alone for hours every day. I never turned on the TV. I just sat for three days. I wasn’t bored. I wasn’t miserable except for the pain in my ankle. I was full. It was the calm I’d been needing. The serenity I didn’t even know I wanted (I’m sure the pain meds helped a bit). All I’ve done for the last 10 days is think and pray and worship (and watch a bit of HGTV). I’ve written and talked to friends and sat in silence waiting for my Creators words. I am grateful for this time to reflect, to accept grace from others and to tap back into who I am. I do not know what this year will look like. It will look very different from what I thought previously. I do however know that it will be good.

It’s a choice even when it doesn’t feel like it

I’m finally almost 48 hours off of pain meds. My brain is beginning to feel like my own. I think I remember things more clearly. I at least don’t feel so led by my emotions. It’s crazy the amount of drugs I was on for the last week; Diluadid, Fentanyl, Oxycodone, Roxycodone, Flexeril, Torodal and some other things I can’t recall. Sometimes it’s shocking to me that I used to choose to be high on every drug possible and now, I hate being absent from my life, even when I’m in pain.

The clarity in my head made way for my grit to begin shining through. The part of me that is tougher than my pain, braver than my fears, more confident than my doubts. Yes, using crutches to go upstairs still made me cringe but my insides refused to feel defeated today. I refused to listen to the voice in my head that wants me to believe that I am weak.

I AM NOT WEAK!!

I have endured worse things, harsher discomforts and longer seasons of suffering than this and I will not give in to the sadness and uncertainty. It is a choice, even when it doesn’t feel like one. It always is. Feelings are so tricky because they convince you that things are permanent, they cause you to believe you’re justified, they encourage actions that often times we regret. They can slow you down and hinder progress and in times of struggle, I find they can be the last thing to guide you.

I am sure I will cry many more times through this process. Sometimes it’s hard to completely halt emotions. I don’t believe I should completely shut out every emotion anyway. What I do know is that I will pick myself up, wipe my tears, and push. I will believe in miraculous healings because I know they can happen. I will believe in my ability to have a “normal” ankle because why shouldn’t I? Some days, maybe someone will need to remind me of my strength. Some days, I am certain I will need a nudging. Some days, it will hurt to push and that voice in my head will try to convince me to quit BUT I won’t. That’s not who I am.

If you knew me in my twenties, I wasn’t so tough. I looked for an easier way out of every situation. I felt defeated always and let my emotions run every aspect of my life. I had no control over myself. I made tons of decisions that only added to my pain. I found myself hopeless often and I never understood how to hold my head high in tough times.

I’m not bragging. Its not vain to speak the truth. I am not who I used to be. Some may call it personal growth and development, like I manufactured this change on my own. I accept that belief system but I call it my God. The God who I cling to, who has changed me from the inside out and who continues to create in me a new person. He is the one who is healing me. He is the one who gives me strength. He gave me my grit and He is my hope. Now, this isn’t going to become a Jesus blog but He will be included because He is a HUGE part of my story.

He is the person who taught me to base my decisions on facts, not feelings. That has been one of the hardest but truest things I could ever learn. Every day, in every situation, no matter how hard it is, it’s always a choice.

This is not my ankle

If you told me I’d feel this way with surgery and hardware, it would’ve been hard for me to truly comprehend the notion. I can feel the screws in my ankle. I can feel the pressure of my muscles trying to figure out what this foreign body is inside me. The tightness, the discomfort, the throbbing. I know it will fade over time. I know my body will eventually surrender. I know this whole experience will become less and less clear as the years go by.

But the hardware, the screws, the plates, those are mine forever. My ankle feels like a stranger. I don’t know this ankle. I don’t trust this ankle. I don’t even like this ankle at all. I move my left ankle in every direction possible and it’s smooth and reliable. It makes me smile. That’s my body. My functional, strong body. Then, I turn my gaze to the stump of a right ankle and I feel anger and disgust.

I know I’m not paralyzed. I know my injury is so small compared to others. I know I will go through all the phases of grief and one day, transition into acceptance or maybe even appreciation but for now, I’m no where close. Future thinking is always dangerous. Getting caught up in the endless possibilities becomes torturous. Maybe I will be the exception and my healing will restore me back to my old self. Maybe I will be better and stronger and find a deep sense of gratitude for this break. Maybe I will never be the same, never skate again, never run a race again. I try to stop all those thoughts from consuming me. Nothing good comes from focusing on things I can’t control.

For now, I will mediate between myself and my ankle, try to keep the peace and not feel so betrayed.

Coming Home

Leaving the hospital was bittersweet. In my room, in the silence, I had nothing to distract me. I couldn’t focus on dirty dishes or taking care of the dogs. All I had to do was think about myself and I had nurses and aides to do everything for me. I had IV drugs when my pain was too much. I had fresh ice packs and a bed that accommodated my every comfort and need. I could just press a button and I was cared for.

The doctor who performed my surgery came in to say good bye to me. I hadn’t seen him since the pre op discussion. It made me cry a bit which was surprising. I felt a sense of gratitude that was unexpected. I mean, he was doing his job so I didn’t expect to feel so indebted to him, but I did. I realized that this experience felt healing to some past pains. I realized, in that moment, that I have experienced pain or trauma and have felt uncared for or undeserving of care. Today was different. Today I felt all the care and compassion pouring into me and it was good. I didn’t question my value. I was simply grateful for the people who put me back together.

When I arrived home, I found myself scared. Frozen at the front door. Terrified to jump the one step up on crutches. I felt silly. For all the brave things I’ve done, I wasn’t sure if I could make that one step. I thought about all the Crossfit workouts I’d done with box jumps and how much smaller this step was. I thought about tripping and falling and feeling pain and being embarrassed. I thought about how I didn’t want to be scared.

It’s so interesting to feel so confident, to show up to work, perform massages, go to a workout, lift a lot of weights, to walk around feeling untouchable in a sense and overnight, to be completely flipped upside down. To be scared to jump four inches. To be terrified of anyone touching my leg. To cringe at the thought of putting a skate on my foot.

I don’t want this journey to be about fear. I don’t want this experience to leave me full of reservation for life. I only began to dream big dreams in the past few years. I only began to truly feel strong and capable recently.

How much of this is real anyway? How much of this is the pain medication in my brain?? Will I forget this pain soon enough and be skating again? Will I forever be changed in a way that makes me proud?

Whatever it is, however this pans out, I know it will be good. It has to be.

Day one

Today is Wednesday March 7, 2018. On Monday evening I broke my ankle in three places. I had surgery Tuesday morning and have been hanging out at the hospital since then. I have intentionally spent most of my time here mulling over my life and life in general. I imagine most people find themselves in the same internal conversation during traumatic times. Debating what’s valuable in their lives, maybe what they could’ve done to prevent their current struggle or fearing the future.

I’ve cried a lot these past two days. Some tears during X-rays when my ankle had to be moved into positions that hurt beyond what I could’ve imagined. Some when I looked at my husband and realized I felt like a burden (not his doing, just lies in my own head). Some when friends showed up or texted because kindness can be overwhelming and feel undeserved. A lot of tears that felt unexplainable with no specific cause but a very genuine and strong emotion.

I’m not a big crier. I usually default to sarcasm during tough and painful times. I find cussing to be helpful and sometimes yelling loudly out of frustration. I have spent a decent amount of time doing that although I’ve tried to keep my voice down since I’m in a hospital. I’m also not a physically or mentally weak human. I’ve skated since I was four years old (I’m 38 currently). I’ve worked out doing Crossfit for almost five years (with a small break due to some back issues). I’ve ran half marathons and 25k trail races. I have a full back covered in tattoos and I’ve given birth.

To be in this position is shocking to me. I would have never imagined to get injured skating. To top it off, when I broke my ankle, we weren’t moving fast or hitting hard and in fact, the level of aggressiveness of my break doesn’t even closely match the aggressiveness of what I was doing. But here I am. Two plates and nine screws later.

I have felt compelled to write a blog for some time now. I wrote most of my young life and then stopped as I got older and ran out of time (stopped making the time). I figure now is a better time than any because I will be just laying around reflecting on life for a while. To be clear, this blog will not be specifically about roller derby or this injury. What I feel and have felt like sharing is more about my life and life in general. The hardships we endure and the strength that is birthed in those experiences. The kindness I’ve seen well up out of people during struggles. The human I have become and seen others become during some of the scariest and seemingly hardest days.

I believe that I have something valuable to share with this world. I pray I can encourage and inspire others. I hope I can open conversations that may be tough and that my blog is a safe space for me to process things and others to heal as well. I welcome all comments and questions. I am an open book!