physical therapy and forcing yourself to be humbled

Lately, I’ve been playing with meditation – waking up earlier than normal to slowly sit for a period of time, focusing on my breathing and allowing my mind to gradually wake up. Since my normal alarm is at 5:30, this meant pushing to 5 – so the waking up process should definitely be defined as gradual.

I’ve also been trying my hand at yoga. Never one to enjoy a class on the yoga mat, I’ve tried probably ten different styles in my life, unable to get one to stick. But I agreed to peer into East Side Yoga with a friend, and left the first class feeling an unmistakable pull to go back. So I did. Three times in one week.

Both experiences are the opposite of the type of person I believed myself to be : proudly type A, the owner of a written to-do list every day (I make one over my cup of coffee, even on weekends), constantly scheduling myself to the hilt.

But I write this on my fourth plane in two days, having completely lost my voice, tired to the bone – and wishing for nothing more than early to bed, and a simple, slow start to tomorrow morning. I write this as someone who’s seen the power of a little humbling.

It sometimes seems like 2016 was an entire year based on humbling me. And just as I felt like I was starting to get my confidence back in 2017, I found myself face down on a physical therapist’s table, getting needles stuck into my hip – only a few months after proudly declaring for the whole world to read that I had graduated from physical therapy.

Yeah, about that. Talk about humbling.

I think what surprised me most about my orthopedist ordering me back into PT was how easily I was able to take it in stride. It didn’t feel like a setback, an invalidation of my hard work. It felt like another deep breath, another silent pep talk, and another small mountain to climb.

Recently, someone asked me how I’d traveled from point A to point B, how I’d simply lived my life, when my struggle with my injury was at its zenith. And before I really even thought about it, I replied, “I pretty much just spent April to September always tired and always in some form of pain.”

Later, I sat in silence, thinking about that. I’d never really put it in those terms before, and it immediately smacked some perspective into me. Is my right thigh aching more than normal? Did my hip flexors roar in protest this morning when I slowly did my now-daily routine of stretches? But did I continue the rest of the day without getting into and out of a seat being a physical challenge of catastrophic proportions?

Now that the immediacy of physical recovery has slowed, I’ve noticed a sort of mental recovery beginning to percolate. After dodging the fastballs of the last year – on days I’m feeling particularly good, I’d say after catching those fastballs bare-handed and shaking off the pain to throw them back - I want to be a calmer person. I feel myself closing my eyes and taking deep, slow breaths when my tightly wound brain begins to spiral. When someone is callous, rude, or just plain hurtful, I’m trying to do a better job of acknowledging it, allowing myself to be upset – and then going right back to what I was doing.

When things go wrong, when I find myself once again gripping the sides of a physical therapist’s table in pain – it’s just another step, I like to remind myself. The final destination will be so worth it. The journey has already been so valuable.

I’m finding I want to push myself to be humbled. Forgiving people that hurt me? Not allowing one instance of bad luck to ruin my day? Meditation? Yoga? I suck at all of those. Especially yoga – really, ridiculously bad. But it’s also kind of funny just how terrible I am, just how inflexible my leg muscles are. And I still walk out feeling lighter, standing taller - knowing my posture has improved just from an hour of practice is incredible – and with my mind clearer than it was all day.

Humbling myself is translating into letting the shit of the universe go. Some days, I’m pretty bad at that, too. But I’m finding that, more and more, it’s working.