Sunday, April 6, 2014

Lessons In Patience: Twin Planks Edition

The past year has taught me many lessons. A few of the lessons were easy, but the vast majority were not-so-easy. I mean, nothing can really be easy when you go from being ridiculously active and always on the go, to having a broken back with an incomplete spinal cord injury. Physically, emotionally, not the lessons that I could have ever imagined dealing with... at any age. This past month, I've had an extra dose of the not-so-easy lessons. While I know the bionic life is going to be full of lessons of all shapes and sizes, the month of March sure was a doozie. 

There's Always Next Season...

To be honest, it's been coming for awhile. I waited 9.5 months to get back on skis for the first time since breaking my back, only to deal with the most brutal conditions and spraining my gimpy, nerve-damaged ankle. The bright side of that whole ordeal was that I got on a lift (it had a safety bar AND the lift operator was doing their job) and got in a few turns. That in itself was huge. Since that weekend in early December, I hadn't been on skis again until Dave and I went tame ski touring a few times in the Mammoth Lakes Basin around mid-February (see previous post). The tame skinning adventures were baby steps in the right direction. Well, sometimes when you're taking baby steps, you have to do-si-do around those steps.

Breaking trail on the way to Little Lakes Valley

While my body is adapting to having skis on my feet again and getting use to the feeling of having a free heel, sometimes you need to know when to call it and save locking the heel for next season. In early March, my back started flaring up. It was similar to previous flare ups, but at the same time was different and more intense. It felt like a very tight, sharp pain running down my lower spine, near the hardware. Unlike previous times when it was the upper hardware that was irritated, it was the lower region of the hardware, around the L2 area. I tried my go-to tricks that helped with previous problems - heat, ibuprofen, rest, etc - but nothing seemed to really work. I had a few extra tame weekends. I took some unpaid time off work to rest it to see if it would help (not good for someone who has massive bills to pay, but I've gotta listen to the body). Finally after about three weeks of a very grumpy back, it seemed to calm down a little. Chris, my PT, seems to think that it's most likely stress on the joint below the fusion. It makes complete sense and so we're focusing on exercises and such to help. While I can't pinpoint the cause of the flare up and it's most likely a combination of things, I'm just going to have to accept that it will happen from time to time. Welcome to the "new normal"... again. 

It's no secret that the Sierra is having a crappy snow year. That, along with the bionic back still adapting to things, made it a relatively easy decision to just spend the rest of the ski season skinning around rather than hitting the slopes. I'd still be able to get a great workout and strengthen muscles that need it, but I'd also get skis on the feet time. It's been just over a year since both surgeries and I'm still healing. With all the progress I've been making, too much could go wrong on the slopes and I don't want to take that chance. Backpacking season is quickly approaching and I don't want to risk anything happening before then. I didn't get to backpack last year and I don't want to have another year of that. So, the decision was simple... there is always next winter! Needless to say, I thought I'd be perfectly fine with that. The truth is, I'm still bitter about not being on the slopes again this year. The bitterness is very much alive and kicking. It's not bad when I'm skinning around, but when I read reports of fresh powder it hits hard. When we are around Mammoth and I see people skiing, it hits really hard. I know that I made the best decision for me. Sometimes the best decisions are the toughest ones. I'm going to keep doing tame ski tours while I can, but the major focus is on getting myself ready for skeeter season in the Sierra... err, I mean hiking season!

I always smile when I see snow-covered mountains.

Learning To Listen

Not only was the past month all about learning to listen to my body, but it was also about learning to listen to what really matters. Listening to what makes me happy, listening to those that matter to me,... and tuning out the negative. The past few weeks, the financial stress from the bionic back situation has hit really hard. The fact that I needed to take time off for my back didn't help the situation. I've been pretty down lately as a result. It's been hard to focus on the positive instead of all the negative, when that's what's looming in your face. I know that somehow it will all work itself out, it has to, but it's not easy to deal with. It also hasn't been easy to let go of those in your life that aren't really who they appeared to be. After months of hanging onto friendships that I thought were genuine, it's time to let go and move on (I don't like fake people). Luckily I have some really great friends and coworkers that are always encouraging me and are so supportive. Dave has been an amazing strength through this too. The past year hasn't been easy for either of us, and he's been like a rock for me through all of the ups and downs. 

I'm learning to listen to my body. I'm learning to tune out the negative. Now it's time to listen to and focus on what makes me happy and really matters. Friends. Family. Nature. Hiking in the Sierra. Spending my days with Dave. Lunch dates with Sandy. Having Laura yell "don't look at the trees!" Being bionic buddies for life with Summer. Talking about EVO with Karen. Planning a return trip to Precipice Lake with Terri. Getting harassed at the PT office by Chris and Laura. The list goes on and on. I know that there are still going to be many rough days ahead for me, but I just need to remember to listen to what matters. What really matters is that I'm alive and walking again. 

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