In the blink of an eye
Lisa Kruss on Friday, January 9, 2015 at 7:00:00 am
Five years ago today, I had one of those experiences that forever changed the course of my life.
The commonly used phrases, 'I never would have expected it' and 'it was over in the blink of an eye' both applied to the scenario. It happened during one of my travels, and while on an exhilarated exercise high.
One minute I was jumping and playing and having the time of my life, the next I was collapsed and crying in the fetal position. I'd just had my first very real, and very debilitating injury.
Having trained in highly-competitive sports including ice hockey, boxing, grappling and Muay Thai for over a decade, I'd built up an extremely high tolerance to physical pain. Like many other athletes, I was expected to embrace the 'no pain no gain' mentality, which essentially taught me to ignore and push past my body's natural signs of strain, fatigue, overuse and exhaustion.
In fact, I'd lived a good part of my life as an extremely ambitious and driven entrepreneur, athlete, adventurer and traveler, pursuing such a wide variety of interests and activities I barely made time to sleep. I became an expert at successful goal achievement fueled mainly by a combination of enthusiasm and determination while specifically ignoring any cries of discomfort from my physical being.
And so, after I fell down into a crumpled heap that day, I did what I thought I should do, and what I had always done.
I got up. Immediately.
I continued my life. I even walked several miles on that leg of mine that was swelling like an elephant's to transfer between the Megabus and the train station to get to my next destination – thinking everything would get better in a few days.
It wasn't until 5 days later, when a concerned family member insisted I go to the orthopedic surgeon's office, that I learned the severity of my condition and what my options were. I opted for reconstructive surgery.
As calm and accepting as I was of my hopefully temporary condition after surgery, I couldn't escape the frustration with my inability to walk, run, workout or even go to work each day. I was used to a fast-paced life, and numerous outlets for expressing my highly-creative and physical energies.
The details regarding the months of excruciating pain that followed are largely unimportant. I was frustrated by the isolation of being temporarily disabled. I despised being limited in movement or freedom as I was forced to adjust to this new life with a new routine which was mainly comprised of grueling physical therapy alternated with bed rest. In spite of this situation, I was well aware that the changes occurring in my life then signified the beginning of a very long road toward rehabilitation and healing – for both my body and my mind.
Although half of a decade has already passed since the injury, the lessons I've embraced when I was forced to stop in my tracks stay with me today and will continue to be carried forward in all of my life's journeys.
Perhaps you'll recognize some of these as your own adopted truths.
Perhaps you've had a similar experience and can relate.
Or perhaps, you're one of the billions of people currently living a hurried, fast-paced, driven life as I was, ignoring the repeated signs from your body that some of your choices may be doing more harm than good.
Either way, here's a few of the things that sustaining an injury (aka a message from the Universe to sloooow the fuck down) showed me.
- The world does not stop because the To-Do List isn't getting done.
- Life is a series of events that happens for you. Not to you.
Your attitude, thoughts and beliefs will shape your entire experience. Choose wisely.
- The only constant is change.
The sooner you can learn to embrace healthy change, the easier you'll be able to adapt to the inevitable ebb and flow.
- It is less important what you are doing than who you are BE-ing.
Since embodying this awareness for myself, I find little value in judging others based on society's notions regarding formal education, career path, physical abilities, financial and social status, geography or appearance. I've come to realize that the two characteristics I now find most attractive in another person are integrity and kindness.
- It's an honor to graciously accept help from those who choose offer it.
Since being of service often pleases the giver as much, or more, than the recipient, allow those who care about you to show it.
- Eating clean can improve your life in every way.
Processed foods, grains, dairy and sugars cause inflammation in the body and delay or prevent healing. A better option is to build your diet around whole organic foods, while avoiding anything that is sold in a box, package, jar, can or bottle. How do you know if it's a whole food? It doesn't need an ingredient label for you to know what it is. The produce section of the grocery store, your local farmers market or CSA have an abundant array of whole foods that will contribute to your health rather than hinder it. Our bodies are incredibly resilient, relentless healing machines when given the proper rest, fuel and focused intentions.
- Acute and chronic pain makes people feel very, very tired.
Have compassion for those whose bodies are not functioning to their optimal performance. It can be a difficult place to be.
- There are some really amazing people in the world.
And some of those people have a much better understanding of the human body and how it functions than I do, and I love and appreciate all who choose to offer their service as healers. I was fortunate to encounter several of these people who have, and continue to help me on my journey toward recovery.
- Build a routine of healthy habits.
Small changes done with dedication and consistency have better and longer lasting results than infrequent and inconsistent ones.
- There are always others with greater challenges than you.
No matter what you're going through right now, it will inevitably change.
- Be nice.
Small acts of kindness from strangers can have a tremendously positive impact when one is feeling out of sorts. If you are nothing else, be sure to be kind to others. It's not always obvious to the onlooker when someone is going through a deeply challenging time.
- You are perfect just the way you are.
When your ego identifies very strongly with a role we have worked hard to achieve, such as being an athlete, boss, employee, spouse, parent, teacher, musician, etc, it can initially be a challenge to feel 'good enough' when you're no longer able to fulfill that role. During the transition, it's very rewarding to volunteer your time to the betterment of others, and to pursue activities which can further develop your unique skills, perspectives, talents, insights and creativity.
- Surround yourself with greatness!
Consciously choose the activities, people, environment, nourishment and thoughts which feed your soul, bring positive energy into your life and light you up!
- You are not your pain.
Sometimes the pain feels like more than you can bear, but if you make friends with it, practice visualization techniques and allow it to be felt fully rather than fighting it, you can reduce its effect significantly. The same is true for emotional pain. Sit with it. Breathe in. Exhale out the tension.
- Listen to your body.
Your body is constantly sending you feedback signals, sometimes subtle, sometimes not. It's important to pay attention to your body's signals at all times, consider what each means, and act accordingly.
- Food affects your mood.
Some more significantly than others. Pay attention to how you feel in both your body and your psyche after eating. Consuming organic whole plant food in its natural state makes me the happiest.
- Clear out the clutter.
The body stores energy from anything unresolved in our emotional lives. In order to truly begin healing, we need to address, feel, communicate and deal with or release the situations, issues, memories and people which are causing additional unnecessary stress. If there's any person or situation which creates tension, anxiety, anger, frustration or other strong feelings for you – consider how communicating honestly and directly with them, or finally letting them go, could alleviate this stress once and for all from your life.
- Move your body.
Mindful and regular stretching is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your body.
- Do everything more s-l-o-w-l-y.
Slowing down promotes presence, mindfulness and intention to each choice you make in the moment. Slowing down provides a unique opportunity to check in and observe your own and others' priorities, and make more intentional choices for moving forward. Slowing down reminds you to check in on your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being and relationships before expending additional energy towards achieving your goals.
- Practice doing nothing.
It is very enjoyable to do absolutely nothing except be fully present to each moment. This may take some practice at first, especially if you have become accustomed to multi-tasking.
- We only get one body in this lifetime.
It's up to us to make daily choices about how well we care for it.
- Love yourself.
Many of us find it easier to care for others much more lovingly than we do ourselves. We may be an enthusiastic cheerleader who supports our best friends or family members til the end, but find that we are completely critical of our own actions.
- Do what you love.
We can change our emotional state instantly by doing an activity that gives us the feeling we want to experience. Dancing to your favorite music, walking, bicycling, weightlifting, playing a musical instrument, painting or drawing, body movement and exercise will give you an instant energy boost when you're feeling sad, lonely or lethargic.
- Pay attention.
Make time to sit still more often and notice how your body feels. Inhale deeply into any tightness in your body. Hold the breath in for several seconds. Exhale and release any tension you may feel. Repeat. When you've finished, hold your hands to your heart, feeling the pulsing rhythm of life within and give gratitude for something beautiful in your life.
- Learn to accept what is.
We can release much of the suffering we experience by simply accepting what is happening in the now. Finding ways to be completely at peace with each moment does not mean we are complacent, or that we stop making plans for a better future. Rather, it allows us to have gratitude for all that we do have and for every day we are alive.
- Life is precious.
Time is precious. Health is precious. If there's something you've been dreaming of doing, do it. Now.
May these words inspire you toward even greater connection with yourself and others.
Travel light, live the light, spread the light, be the light.
Your lover of life,