22 Apr The Long War Of Injury
Injury. It can eat at your mind, at your soul. Surviving a shattered ankle and reconstructed knee, I’ve struggled with injury.
The pain: constant. The discomfort: subtle, nagging, hard to pinpoint, yet ever-present. Your body is out of alignment. Your circulation is cut-off. I can’t tell which muscles are tight and bracing, which are hurt, and which are weak, unused, and disengaged. And so, I sit uncomfortably. I walk uncomfortably. The tiniest twinge of discomfort plants a seed of doubt, a thought of weakness. It plants a belief of inability and defeat. As that discomfort stays with you, as that injury lingers, the seed grows into a sapling of doubt, inability, and defeat. It is stronger now, more palpable, and more consuming. Something is broken. You are broken. Somewhere, you’re not functioning as you should.
Time passes and you endure that injury. That constant discomfort nags at your conscious and your subconscious. There is a steady stream of signals to your brain telling you that you hurt. It is a caustic static that burns holes in any serenity you try to attain. It nags and it grows. It ebbs and flows, comes and goes, but is always there. Its constant presence allows it to feed on your conscience and implant bigger roots in your soul.
The sapling of doubt and inability and defeat, that sapling begins to grow into a tree. The weight of a tree rests on you its roots wrapped around your chest, compressing you, fighting your each and every breath. The trunk of this tree shoots out of your head and up 100 feet into the air. Its branches uneven, you struggle to manage the weight of this tree. You tense your neck and shoulders to carry it straight. You’re unbalanced when you walk, when you squat, when you kneel, when you sit. You list unconsciously to one side feeling twinges in your back trying to support the great weight of this tree. The simplest of movements could send you tumbling off balance it seems and so your body strains under the great weight of injury.
This is an evil tree that feeds off your discomfort. It grows the fruits of doubt and inability and defeat. The fruits grow big and ripe then fall and burst all around you. Their seeds and juices splattered at your feet, you slip and slide through beliefs and nightmares of failure, of your body betraying you, of another injury at every turn. When you walk, you think of falling, slipping, twisting and breaking ankles shattering hips. When you run, you think of pounding, grinding joints deteriorating right under your every step, cartilage dissolving with each kick. When you leave the house, you imagine getting hit by cars and your limbs being torn violently by the rough metal grill of some truck, your calf popped like a water balloon as a tire flattens it. When you sit, perhaps you don’t think of injury, you just fight the nag of pain, imbalance, and general discomfort. It whispers in your ear interrupting your thoughts, the grainy cold voice of a demon reminding you of the chains he’s tied to you, the weight that hangs from you, the tree that wants your life for its own. It tells you what you can’t do. It speaks of your future failures, your falls, and your fragility. It laughs like a hungry hyena in the night. The sound sends shivers deep into your aching bones.
The pain starts in your ankle and you feel it in subtle throbs, creep up your calf. It spirals and intertwines with your muscles and tendons. It drills deep into your bones and the dull barely perceptible ache moves even higher. It reaches your knee and becomes barbed wire encircling your kneecap. It digs deep on the soft underside of then wraps around again and again. It chokes out the circulation and your joint becomes dry and brittle. You fight just to bend it and it rewards you with snaps and pops, the grinding of rusty gears.
It moves further up. That discomfort turns to rebar and smothers your muscles, up your hamstrings and quads. It is pulling yet unmoving, like the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge, a constant tension, a hardness marks the absence of relaxation and the presence of strain.
Finally it reaches your hip. Here it splits, part rebar wraps up into your lower back, part barbed wire embeds itself in your groin and the front of your hip. Stinging pain of lightening bolts shoot down the length of your leg as the barbed wire finds your nerves and begins to constrict like choking vines.
It is gradual, not quick. Yet it happens as the tree grows, its barbed roots invading your body and squeezing the peace and joy from your soul.
For the small trees planted from small injuries, these trees die with the passing of the seasons, your body healing naturally with time and the roots of that tree rotting away from you, finally falling to the ground. You feel the freedom with each day that passes and you get stronger.
The big trees planted of the traumatic injuries, the cutting bloody surgeries, the bone shattering, the skin puncturing, and the tendon tearing, they consume you. They have no intention of dying naturally. They are the forest of 500-year-old redwoods towering above at 300ft as you struggle beneath to stay upright throughout your day. Only a great force will bring down that devilish grove of discomfort that grows from you.
And so, each morning you must don all the armor of a warrior and go to war. You must battle to heal. You must feed your body good foods, allowing it to avoid the distraction of toxins and begin delivering the healing nutrients where they are needed. You must find ways to recirculate the energy, the blood, the life force of your injured limb. The grove of trees grows from the death of your tissue, the death of your joint, of your bone. So you give it life. With your hands you massage life right into it each day and begin to dig out the roots of that great terrible grove.
And each day you battle to heal. You battle the destructive compensation that your body has learned in response to your injury. It is no longer needed. And so you stretch and you exercise, you build the muscles that have withered and you twist and saw at the rebar roots that have implanted through your big muscles. You take your warrior mindset to yoga, to the gym, you take it in every step, reteaching your body what it once knew well, reminding it that it can be free again someday. The tree feeds on your atrophy, on your unbalanced gait, on your twisting spine and your bracing psoas. So you give your body balance, you build it strength, you untwist the twists and search tirelessly for your body’s center.
And each day you battle to heal. You battle with doubt and the defeat. The fruits of the demonic tree drop all around you. And so you pick up the chainsaws of love, one in each mighty paw of yours. You begin the glorious pruning. You saw through branches, big and small, the purr of the chainsaws make your soul sing. The grove feeds off of your hate and contempt for your own body. The frustration with your self and your limitations is the sunshine on its terrible leaves. You feed your body love and compassion, and cast a dark cloud over the grove as you drop its branches one by one.
And I imagine, if I battle daily, if I battle long enough, if I battle hard enough, if I wield the chainsaw of love, build my body’s strength and balance, rub life into each cell, if do that, one day this weight will lift. One day the great grove will fall, tree by tree from my shoulders, from my head, from my mind, from my soul. The barbed wire and rebar roots will uncurl and loosen from my joints, from my muscles, from my tissue. One day I will watch, in my mind’s eye, the burning of the great grove of my injury, and it will warm my soul. The great weight will fall away. I will feel light on my feet again. I will feel balanced when I stand in place and even in my gait. It will feel easy to walk and easy to breath, as it should.
Years have passed since my injuries. For years I’ve battled. The roots are deep in me and the war will be long and bloody, still.
And so I battle. Every day I battle. For the alternative is to leave my body to the wolves, to watch it worsen, watch my body rot in injury. If I sit by, with resentment and contempt for my body, in the constant and growing discomfort, I’ll watch it taking my sanity and the peace within my soul.
So, like a warrior, I go to war.