A funny thing happened after I had to come face to face with my second fracture : I stopped loving running. I started hating it, in fact.
It wasn't running that I hated, per-say. It was the reminder that I was physically incapable of doing it with the strength I expected of myself. It was watching others accomplish races, routine training runs, one-mile jogs. It was having my sense of control ripped away from me. It was the reminder of everything I'd lost in a year.
After the second fracture, things got really tough. Emotionally, I was in a worse spot than I was when I broke my hip. Once the initial pain subsided, that was mind over matter. This time, my mind spiraled, forcing me to re-live moments I'd squashed. It reminded me of what failure felt like. It reminded me of what loss felt like. It reminded me of how painful my year had been, and how I'd come so far to fall far short of the heights I expected myself to reach.
Then, a beautiful, thoughtful friend surprised me by sending me Sheryl Sandberg's book Option B. (Hi, Lindsay, you're a gem.) It's a stunning, breathtaking musing on loss, grief and how we move forward. Because how do we move forward? That's a question I've been wrestling with for over a year - and each time I thought I was taking a step in the right direction, something else knocked me down. Like a broken hip.
This time around, I'm gaining more understanding of how these broken bones are related to my broken heart. Indirectly, for sure, but the searing pain is just under the surface with every MRI, every physical therapy appointment, every tear-soaked Kleenex in a doctor's office. I've lost count of how many times I've explained - no, don't worry, I'm not just crying about my leg.
Sheryl's book has been a painful and fulfilling read. Only able to handle small doses, I'm reading a chapter here and there, taking moments to cry when I need to, laugh when that's called for instead. But at first, I struggled to connect deeply with what was in its pages, until I read this passage, that Sheryl had written about her mother :
"After hip replacement surgery four years ago, she feels grateful for every step she is able to take without pain. What she feels on a physical level, I feel on an emotional level. On the days that I'm okay, I now appreciate that I'm walking without pain."
After I read that, I literally sat upright in bed (I read lying down, it's extremely comfortable...). That's me! I thought. Except I have both. I'm walking without pain in my hip, so I relate to the physical level. And when I can walk without pain in my heart, I can relate to the emotional level.
Talk about literally spelling it out for me. And that's when I realized I'd found my option B.
A few weeks ago, I organized a series of 5Ks throughout my company's offices in Becky's memory. The lead-up was a fun blur of mapping out routes (we organized it sort of SWAT-team style, just ...showing up and running), celebratory happy hours after, and urging our loved ones to kick in a few bucks to support the runners. I had the amazing support of the National Capital LLS Chapter, who put together a custom fundraising page for me (find it, and read more about our run here), and I set a goal of raising a thousand dollars.
The day of the run, we had hit 3K and were still climbing. It was supposed to rain, and instead, it was a gorgeous, mid-60s day: perfect running weather. It was my longest run since the second fracture, and with my Team Becky shirt on, I was a bundle of nerves as I walked to our makeshift start line. I wasn't sure how my legs would hold up. I wasn't sure how my emotions would hold up!
And then, it was like magic - I found my rhythm again, and I almost forgot why running had become such a painful thought. I was able to find joy in the quiet, sun-dappled bike path that's always been my favorite place to run in the District. I was able to look down at Becky's name on my wrist without immediately needing to stop to cry. And I couldn't get the grin off my face for the rest of the day, as pictures from around the country rolled in and the fundraising amount continued to grow.
It wasn't until a week later, when I read the passage in Sheryl Sandberg's book, that I realized I found my option B. There's no subtracting the pain, loss and intense sadness of the last year of my life - but suddenly, I was able to see in sharp relief the way I've carved a path out of those moments. I didn't cap my "year of shit", as I've eloquently taken to calling it, by running a marathon or even a half marathon - but I did find a way to turn my grief into a force for good. And a force for happiness, even. And I have to say, Option B may not be a marathon medal, but that sunny Thursday, it felt amazing just the same. I'm looking forward to a lot more option B's.
So thank you, Sheryl, and thank you, Lindsay. Those words came into my life at the exact right time.