fixing the hole

Here is a list of things my orthopedic team is unimpressed with : how many squats in a row I did (you can always do more). Me, showing up with a pulled muscle, because I insisted on pushing my legs out further in a lunge. My ability to stretch my hamstring completely above my head (apparently this is a "thing everyone should be able to do" and "we won't celebrate you finally starting to take care of your muscles." Rude.) Me asking when I can start going on long training runs again.

Sometimes, if I make too many of these remarks at once, or mention an upcoming half marathon in an offhand way, they'll show me my own MRI. Aside from the breaks, there's a big black hole between my hip and my thigh. It's where my muscles ripped as my leg pulled away from my torso.

We're just going to focus on fixing that hole first, okay? They tell me.

This morning was remarkable in that it was unremarkable. I woke up at 5, talked myself into the gym, and got ready for work.

This morning was remarkable in that it was an unremarkable morning and also four months post-injury, exactly.

Someone I didn't know very well said to me recently that she can tell I'm healing because I "look healthy." When you're in constant pain, there's no way to hide it: from your body to your face, it seeps through, leaving a stain on seemingly simple activities like trying on a dress in a changing room. Or getting out of bed.

The thing is, though, as the days add up and the amount of time from date of injury increases, I can sense myself changing in a way that has nothing to do with how quickly my bones strengthen.

Every time someone new hears my story, they almost always say the same thing : "I'm so sorry that happened to you."

Here's the thing. I'm not. I'd never want to feel that kind of pain again - wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy - but I passionately believe I've emerged stronger, physically and mentally, from the past four months.

I'm learning to listen to myself, and to trust my own judgment. You do a lot of thinking when you're on bed rest. You do a lot of thinking when your social life is limited because honestly, going to bars when you're on crutches just plain sucks. I'm beginning to push myself out of my comfort zone in ways that have nothing to do with physical challenges - though, yes, I'm pushing myself physically, too.

I'm writing more - here and for myself. I'm signing up for classes, asking my parents to weigh in on my next steps, allowing myself to vocalize big - and intimidating - dreams. Four months ago, I felt like the world needed to see me have it all together. Today, I'll be the first to tell you that I don't. That I have some ideas of my next step, but I'm going to need a lot of help to get there.

I'm beginning to recognize my own body again. That was the most alarming aspect of recovery. I remember vividly having to take stairs on my butt, staring at my legs, willing them to just slide down to the next step on their own. That was all. But I couldn't do it. Every time I wanted to climb or descend, I'd have to physically lift my own legs up or down.

The sense of being an imposter in your own body is a jarring one. For most of the early stages of recovery, I was on the outside looking in - unable to reconcile the running, cycling, moving person I knew myself to be with a girl who now needed someone else to brush her hair.

But now, four months out, a cycle class is unremarkable. I feel as if my body belongs to me again, and it's a triumph. It also means I'm kinder to myself (or working on getting there). I don't feel guilty when I need a day off. I celebrate small things, like making it through my first HIIT class, with a joy I previously reserved for PR-ing during a race.

I recognize that life isn't about how fast you can run in a race you're paying to participate in, anyway. It's about being strong enough for the small moments of joy.

For better or for worse, the monthly anniversary of Becky's passing is close to the monthly anniversary of my injury. Sunday was six months, and I woke up feeling a little off. I didn't want to cry, I didn't want to be alone, but I had a sense of disorientation the entire day. Like I was pushing myself through mud with tiny movements - everything was slow, deliberate, challenging.

It wasn't until the end of a yoga class that night that I felt something break, and the tears came. They were sad, they were happy and they were bittersweet. And I was entirely at peace with crying in public. In that moment, I felt like I was back to watching myself make my way slowly down some stairs, lifting my own legs. But instead of watching myself with frustration, or disgust, it was with compassion.

Look how far you've come. Look at the strides you've made. We're fixing the hole.