Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tunes without the words and never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson
I had my new year’s blog post ready to go, a positive yet simple declaration that 2017 would be the year I’d get “stronger” than ever; Amidst worsening pain from my chronic nerve/muscle injury that had sidelined me once again, I decided to start back with physical therapy to focus on strengthening the muscles that had remained weak despite my “comeback” to exercise these past couple years. You see, although I’ve been able to run for the most part, the ability has never remained consistent. Tightness has crept up, forcing me to rest, even to drop out of races. And as for anything besides running, like a boot-camp? Forget it.
So, with a lot of hope, and a lot of determination, I began seeing a physical therapist and a chiropractor. And I also began this blog post.
That was about 2 months ago.
I remember first looking up the definition of “piriformis syndrome” back in 2013 and being terrified of the word associated with it: chronic. Recommendations for relief included that same word (along with “pain”) over and over. “No,” I thought, “this popped up because of my running injury, it can’t be chronic, can it?”
A little over 3 years later, I still struggle to accept that I’ll have this condition forever, but what I have accepted, is that the journey to overcome it — which I am undoubtedly back on — is a hard one. It’s really, really hard.
It’s really hard to have an experienced doctor tell you “yes, for many people I can fix them in a few visits. You? There’s a lot there that’s off, and it’s going to take a while to stabilize. I can’t give you an exact timeline, we just have to keep working at it.”
Have you ever wished for an ACL injury? A painful tear of a knee ligament? I have. Yep, that’s right, because I see other people I know go through it, and the road to recovery is all laid out. Certainly not without its difficulties and setbacks, but for the most part, there’s a defined comback pattern.
Not for this. Not for me.
It’s really hard to start working with a physical therapist, determined to get stronger, determined to start slow and build up as needed… and then have one of the incredibly small, slow exercises flare up your muscles and nerves for nearly a week. “It’s okay, Megan,” he said, “we’ll just build up to that one.”
Build up… to the easy one, the one that’s supposed to be a stepping stone for other ones.
One of the things that certainly didn’t help my most recent flare up (s) was having to fly to Cleveland at the worst of it. An airport delay, followed by 2 one-hour flights, followed by sleeping on a rock-hard bed and then getting on return flights the following day, was certainly not what my body needed.
My chiropractor was able to help the following day back, and offered some suggestions for my upcoming four-hour flight to CA. “That’s a long one… ” he said.
“Yeah… hopefully all of this will be done by the time I go back to Europe in April,” I said.
“Oh yeah, I think so, you should definitely feel a lot better by then.”
And then a funny thought hit me.
“Why are you laughing?” He asked.
“I was just thinking… when I was the most flared up I’ve ever been — like, in the throws of this injury, before I’d ever figured out any way to combat it — I flew all the way to Zurich.”
“Wow,” he said
The memory of that 8-hour flight — sitting on my foot for comfort (even sleeping propped up like that) — took me back to the memory of the whole trip. I’d only been able to wear three pairs of pants at the time — same cut and style, all formal, all a size too big so they wouldn’t rub up against my tight muscles. Even my choice of purse had to take into consideration that the length of it wouldn’t rub up against my hips either. But with those pants, and with that right-sized purse, I’d wandered the quaint, charming streets of Old Town Zurich, with the same optimism and awe that has characterized nearly all of my visits to new cities overseas.
I visited Bacharach, Germany on that trip, and climbed 11 flights of stairs to a viewing area, the first walk or climb of that kind since my injury. The view at the top gratified me in a way I hadn’t felt in months. I paid for my determination in Paris 2 days later with a lot of pain and tingliness, but managed to enjoy the sights still; and luckily, the following day, the pain subsided for my birthday in the city.
Just two weeks after that trip, I did the thing I’d been most scared of to do with my injury — I drove out to Tucson (well, rode along with my mom). You see, moving to Tucson didn’t scare me — I desperately wanted a change of scenery, especially one with warm temperatures and sunshine. But a 27-hour drive when I could barely sit up straight?
Sitting on my foot, stretching into full-out yoga poses at every rest stop, I made it at least no worse than I started, ready to continue the healing process, which went on for another 6 months before I finally felt any true relief.
I went to church on Christmas Eve this past December — my annual trip. I remain somewhat agnostic — no DOUBT that I am not the only one, as they say “running the show,”–but putting my beliefs in a bucket has never suited me, and thus I mostly refrain from the idea of brick and mortar reflections. But on Christmas Eve, I enjoy the spirituality at our local non-denominational place of worship: the music, the celebration, and this particular year… the message. It was simple: Hope.
“Human beings are inherently hopeful people,” the pastor explained, ” it’s why we look forward to a new year, a new chapter, a new age….”
My very first piece of writing, the one that would turn into my very first book, is titled Mañana. Written over 13 years ago now, I can’t distinctly remember what motivated me to write that word — particularly one in another language — at the top of the page. But as I read the 8 pages following it, and of course the story that came from it, I understand exactly why I did: on a night that left me feeling as confused, devastated, and betrayed as ever, I chose to look forward. To believe that I could move on, that tomorrow, or “mañana” would be better.
It’s the same view point that has continued to guide me the last four years… through the ups and downs, the triumphs and the tragedies.
Mañana, Girl Enlightened will be released for readers around the world. My wish is that it carries forward the same message of hope to everyone who reads it, particularly if you’re going through something that seems a little “hopeless,” whether grieving the loss of a loved one, or overcoming physical pain. I hope you find comfort in the fact that you’re not alone, I hope you find solace relating to the ongoing journey to find your way back, and I hope you find that voice that has stayed with me all this time, suggesting that no matter the heartache, no matter the darkness… tomorrow will be better.
I just started a new physical therapy routine this week, and I’m told I’ll see progress within 2-3 weeks. I’m a bit anxious of course….
Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.” – Unknown