If you'd asked me a year ago if I believed in signs from the universe, I probably would have rolled my eyes. Six months ago, even.
I may cry at certain movies - okay, at most movies, but just because there's a secret sap underneath this steel exterior doesn't mean I've haven't also always carried a certain edge of pragmatism. My mind wanders during church. I'm not much for living passively, expecting your world to fall into place. So it made sense that I never concerned myself much with the idea of guardian angels, or signs of a higher power at play.
Then, you know, things happened. Bad things. Should-I-ever-get-out-of-bed again kind of things. What's the point? Things.
Things I've covered before. And they've come with all sorts of ramifications and new discoveries. I was at dinner with a friend last night who pointed out that I seem determined to take the events of the last five months and mold them into something positive, to grasp whatever lessons I can out of them, to let as much light as possible into my life because of the mountain I feel like I'm climbing. Part of this is, I think, self-saving: I'm not sure I could, actually, get out of bed in the morning if I didn't believe that there were lessons to be learned and adventures to be had as a direct result of the last stretch of my life.
Part of it is because someone seems hell-bent on hitting me over the head with messages from somewhere not entirely of this physical earth. I mean, we're not even going for subtlety anymore.
I ignored it at first, like all good Irish people do. When the first doctor looked at me, frowning, and said "You know - you probably stopped running at the exact right moment?" I rolled my eyes. Because, hello, I couldn't walk. I was in a wheelchair and the act of sitting upright in a wheelchair was so painful I had to pep-talk myself through mere minutes of my life.
Okay, doc. Sure, I'm lucky.
But then it happened again, with the orthopedic surgeon. And again, with the second orthopedic surgeon. And yet again, with the physical therapist. All said a version of the same thing - "You know, if you hadn't passed out when you did, if you'd kept running - even a few more feet-, things would be really bad. Like worse then now. Like, irreparable damage. Like, forget running again, walking normally again could have been off the table."
So I just passed out at the exact right moment to stave off permanent, life-altering damage? That was the first inkling that someone was trying to get through to me. I'm going to physically stop you now. I'm going to take the situation out of your control. It's time to spend some time with your thoughts. It's time to re-evaluate.
And then there's the whole thing with the dates. I spend my months now dreading the 14th of each month - I have never loved Valentine's Day, and it now seems pretty clear that it will forever be a shitty day for me - and looking to the 18th of each month as a day I can chart my progress. The Marathon was April 18, and privately, I decided that I would hit a different benchmark.
May 18, one month out - no way I was going to be on crutches anymore. June 18, two months out - no way was I going to be limping. July 18, three months out - I'd go for a run again.
I hit absolutely none of those benchmarks. But some other stuff happened instead.
May 18, I was on a boat (you can roll your eyes a little bit), and because "scalp sunburns" are a thing that I need to worry about - Irish, remember? - I was wearing a Red Sox cap. A boat docked next to us, and one of the guys working on it waved to me to show me his matching Sox hat. "The owner of the boat I'm on is from Hopkinton!" he excitedly told me.
Hopkinton, Mass. You know, the tiny Massachusetts town where the Boston Marathon starts. You know, the tiny town where the Marathon starts, where almost nobody that owns a yacht is from and let's consider the odds of someone owning a yacht having it on an island in the Exhumas that is so small that there are only four slips and there isn't a restaurant or a hotel or anything - that's what pulled up next to me exactly one month after my injury, exactly one month after the Marathon.
It took my breath away for a second. And it made me hope - maybe this chapter of my life wasn't closed yet?
Nothing happened in June, except that I was angry, and in pain, and annoyed that I wasn't progressing fast enough for my own liking. I tried to spend the day thanking my body - being appreciative of all of the work it was doing to heal - but I still cried alone later that night, consumed by the "what if's" and "what could have been's" of the last few months.
The three-month mark was on Monday. It was a normal day, except for the fact that I can't run. Still can't. Still have no benchmark for when that ability will return. But when I got home from work on Monday, an official runner's program for the Marathon had come in the mail.
So for all the days of the official summary for this year's race, as well as information about next year's race, to arrive, it landed on my doorstep on the exact three-month injury/race anniversary? I found it around 7 - which was right around the time I was self-medicating with gin and tonics and wallowing in a sea of self pity three months ago.
You can roll your eyes, you can think it's all coincidence. That I'm a fool for assigning any higher meaning or value to any of it, that I'm being overly dramatic. All I know is that each time, the hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I instantly felt the presence of a calming message : be patient. Remember, but don't dwell. Honor what you've been through. Know the story isn't done.
Could it all be a self-preserving mental health strategy? Absolutely. But somehow I know - I feel - that someone (and I'm pretty sure I know who) is trying to reassure me that there is positivity to be found. There is opportunity to be grasped. Someone is trying to tell me that I'm not going to be defined by pain and physical limits, that there's more - greater - coming.
Is it all just coincidence? Perhaps. But if I've learned anything in the last five months, it's that you absolutely have to, must, celebrate small beautiful moments in life. It's what gets you out of bed, what keeps you going, what helps a smile push through the sadness. So if my small coincidences help me to push aside the pain, confusion and fear, and see the endless possibility born out of my hurt? Then I think they're pretty powerful. And I plan on celebrating them.