I break easily, apparently.
Which is funny because I always thought that if faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge I would have enough inner strength to be the poster girl for enviable courage. Pollyanna smiling and waving to her teary-eyed masses, telling them to look on the bright side even as she’s carted away on a gurney to undergo an experimental surgery that will most likely result in a gnarly infection and eventual death because penicillin was still thirty years away. Digging deep, continuing to claw forward with all my might despite a long road to an unsure recovery.
Where this imaginary well of bravery would spring from I have no idea; I tear up with the news that I have a cavity.
I am not Pollyanna. I am Pollyanna’s hopeless, resentful, frustrated, angry little sister who lays around writing blog posts that are “scaring people and all my friends are calling because they think you are unstable so can you please take it down”, according to my husband.
Therefore, in an attempt to think positively, I will tell you that at least it’s good to discover this little tidbit about myself. It’s actually a huge weight off my shoulders to take out the guesswork; I know for a fact that I will just crumble into a little ball of pitiful despair begging people to cook me dinner should I discover the signs of early onset osteoporosis.
So, PROGRESS REPORT: Had some feeling in my fourth toe yesterday, woke up this morning and it was gone. SEND CHICKEN.
As part of my mental therapy, I’ve been Googling inspirational quotes. I came across a picture of a cross-stitched bathroom wall hanging that said, ‘If you’re going through hell, keep on going’. I’m not exactly sure, but I assume this means if you’re in a bad place, just keep thinking about every other bad thing currently happening to you until you realize that you’ll never get out of hell but it’s not all that bad because it’s temperate year-round and you can do bad things without feeling guilty.
So let’s just get it all out. Part of my ball of despair is the knowledge that a side effect of this surgery is that I will never run again. Like ever ever. I mean…my Tuesday morning routine of chasing the garbage truck down the street barefoot in my bathrobe is probably still fine, or if I’m being pursued by a bear I’m pretty sure my doctor would give me the thumbs up to high tail it to safety. But “any activity that is in any way jarring to your spine is strictly off limits from now on. For ever.”
My doctor punctuated this news by slowly dragging his index finger across his throat in a slicing motion.
“What?” I whispered.
“Running is horrible for you anyway,” he said, gathering up the papers scattered around his desk, each loose leaf representing a part of my spine that was completely jacked up. “It is extremely hard on your vertebrae, and probably what exacerbated your herniated discs.”
I have been running my whole life. My middle school days when I ran around the track with an enormous walkman tape player in one hand. Through high school when an enormous CD player replaced my enormous tape player. I got fat and lazy in college but once I graduated, at every place I’ve lived I have found the perfect route and beaten a well worn path on familiar sidewalks.
I just can’t believe it will never happen again.
“Nick, I have a proposition for you,” I said over dinner the night before my surgery. “Since it can’t get much worse… how about I take one last run tonight for old time’s sake?”
“Are you being serious right now? You look serious. Let me remind you that you are having back surgery tomorrow because you can’t move your toes or feel your ass cheek.”
“It’s just… I feel like I need some closure. I’ve run forever. I can’t believe my last run will be my last run.”
“No. Oh my god no.”
“How about just down the street and back? Can you put my shoes on for me? I can’t bend over or move my legs very well.”
“Just to the end of the driveway?”
So there it is. My last run was my last run. It was a beautiful Sunday morning a few weeks ago, unseasonably warm for February. The same route I had run a hundred times, never in a million years suspecting it would be the last outside run of my life.
And my last race was my last race. My sister came into town and we ran the split half of the Rock and Roll Marathon. One of us was supposed to run the first half and tag the other halfway to finish, but we decided to run together because that was more fun. And it was really really fun.
Now, during the winter months or bad weather I ran on the treadmill, which I will miss as much as I would miss a hemorrhoid. And my last time on the treadmill is when this whole back fiasco started. It was a freezing cold Tuesday morning and I was trying to squeeze in a quick workout before I went over to my friend Amy’s and once the timer hit 30 minutes it kicked into cool down mode and I kept trying to kick up the speed but the buttons were sluggish and finally I took my headphones out, snapped a picture like I always do to send to my workout group, cursed the machine for being a piece of shit, picked up my kids from the child care and stomped off to my van, wondering why it felt like there was a knife in my back.
I am not going to miss that. Die, treadmill. Die. See how positive I’m being?
A few of my favorite running memories… it feels like a Eulogy.
I must be making progress because I feel like I just got a little deeper into hell. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s a beautiful day so I’m going to grab a bag of rocks and hobble down to the jogging path. At least my throwing arm still works.