Lesson from my Ankle Surgery

Today marks two weeks since my ankle surgery. Two weeks of pain medication. Two weeks of sitting and laying with my foot up. And most challenging of all, two weeks without leaving the house! When I told most of my friends that I was having ankle surgery, they were utterly confused because I had no recent accident and I had been walking around seemingly normal.

*Rewind two years ago* One day I woke up and felt pain shooting through my ankle. Figuring that I slept wrong, I proceeded to get ready for work quite confident that the pain would go away once my body warmed up. Limp, limp, limp to the bathroom I went and limped some more to the car to drive to work. Long story short, three days passed and I was still limping around inch by inch and the pain was constant. Absolutely certain I had not recently done anything major to injure my ankle, I was left with no choice but to head to see the doctor. Looking back, my doctor must have thought I was lying, trying to hide something, or just crazy, because I reassured her that I had not twisted my ankle, fell, or even exercised on it. Well, after crutches, a temporary boot, and an X-ray, she discovered FOUR broken bones off my ankle. Say what?!

After a referral to an orthopedic specialist to deal with my mysteriously broken ankle, it was determined that the bones were likely from an old ankle sprain in my running days, a misstep off a curb, or from some other weird force of nature. The doctor decided that since the break was old the pain was probably ligament or tendon damage and proceeded to give me a cortisone shot in my ankle. Well, stop the pain it did! So, broken bones remaining and my newly numbed ankle, I was off to go bust it up some more for a year! I didn’t do it on purpose. The cortisone shot made me feel NO ankle pain, but it didn’t heal anything. Well, the shot wore off. I felt more pain. He gave me another shot. I ran and pranced on it for another year. The shot wore off. The pain was WORSE than ever and I now had MORE damage than ever. So, six days after my appointment, I was in surgery to remove broken bones, another bone spur, and repair ligament damage. Awesome….NOT.

Moral of the story: Fix things the first time! Don’t cover up painful areas of your life with figurative cortisone shots and other numbing aids. You may not feel it at the time, but trust me, it is in there damaged and eventually when it emerges from the numbed darkness, you WILL feel it. Whether it’s a painful physical injury that you’ve told yourself you can live with or an old emotion injury that you’ve resigned to live with, don’t let anyone encourage you to cover it up or MASK it. Be healed and recover once and for all. No pain doesn’t always mean no problem.

From the Gym Mirrors to your Heart.

Is it just me or is it harder to put in difficult work into a goal when you know you’ve fallen off the wagon quite a bit or when you know you have a long way to go before you see your dream become a realization? You see the mountainous obstacles more than the distance goal, and waver in your dedication because it is dark and the light is still a little too far away to see…

Due to injuries, disorganized priorities, personal and professional frustration, I slowly slipped into possibly the worst shape of my life. To others, it’s not a huge difference to my old self, but to me I’m not in the shape I once was in. Being thin or lean doesn’t mean that you are in great shape. Listen, I am a former athlete, so I’m used to looking and feeling a certain way.  Nonetheless, I’m not as toned as I once was and I am on a mission to get in the “best” shape of my life, but I’ll gladly settle for the tone I once had.

So, as usual I randomly looked into the mirrors at the gym and for some reason this time started to secretly asked myself why I “let myself go.” I think it was because I was breaking a huge sweat and really wished I would see some instant results in that mirror… a magic melt. I started thinking about the near future and dreaded all the hard work, soreness, and time that I know I will have to spend to get back where I once was.

And then it hit me, I was more motivated and committed when I was in better shape because I could look in the mirror and see the ab-pack and more toned arms and legs to inspire me. It kept me coming back like a secret high.  I could visually see the fruits of my labor and I knew the ultimate goal was within reach. But now, not seeing that tone is a constant reminder of where I was and how I “fell off” the wagon. It is not possible to just work out for a week and see that tone right away. I’m actually going to have to burn and burn and burn and wait and wait and be patient in order to see my ideal shape once again… hopeful sooner than later.

I know I’ll keep working on my goal because I want to see the results, but I realized how that same mentality affects many people in other areas of life. I have found it challenging, yet easy to put in the work when the results seemed closer or but when my goals were lost in the dark, covered by factors that will take time, grit, and pain to move, my motivation sometimes wavered. The light is distant and the mountains of “why and how the heck did I get here” resound louder than the beauty of the end result.

BUT, then I looked in the mirror again, visualized what I will look like after all the pain, dedication, and time and did three extra sets of my exercise. I found inspiration and resolve in the thought that if I once was in my ideal shape, I can get there again and even further. Whether it’s fitness or LIFE, don’t be discourage by where you are. You don’t have to like where you are, and it may even frustrate you, but remember and TRUST what you know you can be. You will get there and beyond, if you never give up. Literally, if you don’t stop, it is just a matter of time before you see results. And when you get there, remember all the hard work you put in and refuse to go back. 

P. S. And just in case you go back, remember you were strong enough once before so you are strong enough do it all over again.

A Short Guide to Spring Cleaning Your HEART

Every year there are tons of articles and guides to “Spring Cleaning.” I guess the whole point of Spring cleaning is to organize your environment in order to prepare for both the literal and figurative growth that is quickly approaching on the winds of spring and summer. People throw out old clothes, dust behind furniture, purchase bright colored accessories and accent pieces, and re-commit to exercise in hopes of getting the prized summer abs and buns.

As I anticipated how and when I will tackle my own spring cleaning checklist, I started to wonder why I have to go through this process every year. I mean, why can’t we just keep things clean all year, not collect unnecessary items, and throw things away as time passes in order to virtually eliminate the need to have to spring clean every year?  Well, I have yet to find the answer as to why spring cleaning has to exist, but I have admitted to myself that the process it necessary. It is a kind of symbolic refresh button. It is our yearly detox of all things unnecessary. It is a time of reflection and goal setting. And, it is a time of hope and anticipation of something different, new, re-purposed  or renewed.

Environmental cleansing and organizing are important as they effect how you feel internally. However, it works the opposite way as well; how you feel internally will effect your environment. As I thought about this concept a little further, my first thought was to conclude that we just simply need to keep our environment and heart clean at all times in order to maintain our overall internal-external balance. But then, I thought about how much time I realistically have and how realistic my life changes with time, and therefore deemed the “state of clean” virtually impossible. Dust simply accumulates whether you like it or not, and whether you clean everyday or not. There is always something to clean and polish. Nevertheless, cleaning is important, especially internal cleaning because it is the most controllable indicator and predictor of your environment. So, in all your spring cleaning efforts, don’t forget to spring clean your heart. 

Here is a short guide to help with your Heart Spring Cleaning:

1. Throw away “old” stuff you have stored away in your heart (hurts, disappointment, unforgiveness, etc). You know the things that you have been “saving” but don’t need anymore. Yes, you will need to go throw those stored boxes and get rid of some stuff. You may have forgotten about it, but it’s still there contributing to the clutter. Ever wonder why maybe there is less room for new thoughts, new happiness, new habits, and new love? Go through it and  decide what you need to keep. Obviously, it is very difficult to forget the things that have happened in our past, but you will be deciding this Spring which of those things you want to let control your emotions and actions. Choose wisely!

2. CleanOnce you have decided what stays and where it goes, wipe it down. This is the time to renew your mind and recommit to the positive aspects of your life. Write out some affirmations and read them out loud to yourself. Look in the mirror and speak positively into your life. Tell the people you love those special three words… I love you. Spend some time to re-energize your heart and mind by whichever means works for you (spa day, new hair cut, exercise, vacation, read a positive book, meditate, etc.)

3. Paint, Seal, Glue, Repair. One last important step. There are some things in our heart that are not negative and are essential but will be worn-out, cracked, and broken. No need to worry, they just need a little sprucing up. These are things like good habits that have weakened a bit, great friendships and relationships that have been a bit neglected, compromised sleep or health (yes, sleep affects our heart and emotions), lost/weakened motivation and effort toward a positive goal, etc. You can use inspiration, meditation, objective criticism, a good heart-to-heart, therapy session, a relevant book, or quality time to help with this step. Once this step is done your heart will feel a little brighter and lighter. Get working!

So, whether you are starting a new phase of life or working on the present phase, take some time to do a mental and emotional inventory and Spring cleaning  that big ol’ heart.

Happy Hearts everyone!

Compromise Health… Compromised Life

In my pursuit of what I perceive to be a “good” goal, I sometimes catch myself neglecting a critical building block of life – physical health. Logically, I know better. Being an former athlete, I should know even better than that. When I finally come to my senses, I look back at the fact that if stupidity were a person, even it would have more common sense than me. The hustle, the bustle, the “grind,” work deadlines, appointments, life, these factors create a world in which “time” and I start running together, but by the end of some days, “time” ends before I’m even halfway done with my daily tasks.

Interestingly enough, in my mind all areas of health are always at the top of the list, but in reality, I look up from time to time to see them drifting down to the middle. For the first time in my life, inconsistent workouts due to the demands of work/life, and roller-coaster-like energy levels (because mental stress and even “positively” focused energy and productivity demand my waking attention) have become the more common experience. And obviously, as a result (no surprises here) more health ailments decided that despite my plans of exercise, health, productivity, and purpose, it needed to sideline me for days or even weeks.

Recently, a visit to the doctor for chronic pain ended with a diagnosis of a degenerative condition that will require obsessive-like action and attention in order to avoid surgery in the near future. Say what? I know, that’s how I felt. After processing the diagnosis, here is my conclusion: You can chase a life dream, but you will not obtain or sustain it, if you run out of energy (or good health) along the way.

I’ve had to quickly refocus my attention back on health, not in words only, but in action. Whether it is a stressful emotional, occupational, or physical experience, or significant school, work, or personal time constraints, sometimes you just have to decide that you cannot compromise on mental, physical, or emotional health. Literally, your life and happiness depends on it. There is no point in chasing a dream and deteriorating your health or emotions so much in the process that you cannot enjoy the fruits of your labor once the goal is accomplished.

When I was younger, older people told me that as you get older it becomes harder to balance life and easier to neglect your needs. Well, I’m not that old yet, and I’m certainly not dead yet, so although I lost focus for a little while, I’ve dusted myself off, looked in the mirror, said “oops,” walked away saying “ouch,” forgave myself for it all, and am back on the wagon! Anyone care to join me?