After visiting family for the holidays, I took a road trip to Jackson Hole with a friend over New Years. The resort reportedly had decent snow during a lackluster ski season here in the West and I was bound and determined to enjoy one of my favorite sports during vacation time. I bought a multi-resort ski pass this year with big plans to follow the winter storms when I could.
As they say, life had other plans for me.
Late afternoon first day on the hill, after a glorious day in sun and snow, I hit a large patch of ice and went down with an awkward twist that landed me at the medical center. “I’m so sorry”, the examining doc told me as he tugged on my leg – “I don’t feel your ACL" (ACL is the major ligament that provides support for your knee and when it ruptures you have few options other than surgery). Oh NO! Please don’t tell me this on my first day of ski season! This was not my idea of Happy New Year. Groan. Sigh.
As I spent the rest of the week in a brace and crutches, leg up on ice waiting to meet my friend après her ski, my mind went through that roller coaster of emotion…disbelief, denial, despair, acceptance, positive self-talk, a shot of whiskey, then back to despair again.
Yet deep down my optimist self knew there would be some silver lining that would come from this injury. I had a similar ski accident and blew out my other knee 22 years ago on the exact same day in Sun Valley and what ultimately came from that experience was my big decision to exit the corporate world and study holistic medicine. Acupuncture and herbs helped me recover quickly from a sports injury and I knew I wanted to help others do the same. That was a pivotal turning point in my life that led to more professional and personal satisfaction, and a new understanding of how the body and mind heals optimally.
I’ve been hobbling around on a weak knee for a month now and what I can already feel shifting inside is both a slowing down and new awareness, not just physically, but spiritually. As it is now necessary to walk very cautiously and deliberately to protect my knee, I am utterly mindful of my surroundings, people near me, and all my personal relationships. I can’t rush through anything or stack my schedule full. Can’t race out the door late. And I certainly can’t multi-task like before. My power yoga classes and long mountain bike rides have now been replaced by gentle yoga and 20 minutes on the exercise bike. I am reminded what it must be like for elderly or disabled people when they watch others rushing madly around them and thinking “I used to be able to do that…” Gratitude for an ability to run and move has taken on new meaning.
I am allowing others to do more for me, like carrying heavy bags, driving me around, and I'm getting bodywork and acupuncture. I'm going to bed early. My kids do more chores around the house. Wonder Woman is definitely on sabbatical. As a result I feel more inner peace and stillness than I have in quite some time.
There is such grace to slowing down and taking it easy during certain times of life. Giving yourself full permission to not take on so much in the name of self-preservation and wellness. Sometimes I think the body gets injured as a messenger to remind us to revisit ourselves- to do things differently than we were doing on auto-pilot. Each time I’ve had a major injury I can look back to what was going on in my life during that time and there was usually a bit of a storm and chaos in the background- which quickly came to a halt when I was forced to turn off “doing” and focus more on self-care.
If this resonates, I encourage you not to wait for an injury to slow you down this winter, but take time to be more reflective, less reactive, and hibernate a bit if necessary. Give yourself the gift of rest and restorative time your body probably needs, particularly during this nasty flu season. Get acupuncture to heal your own injuries and immune system. I promise, this is all better than a flu shot!
My knee reconstructive surgery is on Groundhog Day, if you can believe that coincidence! No more skiing for me on New Years…I think you'll probably find me walking slowly on a warm beach instead :-)
*Post-note, post-surgery on 2/2: Now 12 days into my recovery and back to work after many days stuck in bed on pain meds and ice, and relying on the kindness of dear friends and my children to care for me, I think I will need to write my next post on pain. As someone who treats pain for a living this experience is already giving me such new insight and empathy.