Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sabbatical

At the beginning of August I started a walking program. At first I think I did so just to see if I could do it. I am not athletic. I do not enjoy sports, and my thoughts about exercise are better left unsaid. I knew, however, I needed a physical activity. Walking seemed to be the answer. I clocked a route and bought a pedometer.

The first week my legs burned. Actually they were screaming at me at the midway point. Sweat became my new fashion statement. I learned to find places on the way to be mile markers of my daily journey. I would mumble a quiet hello to the people putting out trash. I would wave at the elderly couple and their Jack Russell sitting on their porch reading the morning newspaper. They saw me at the beginning and end of my walk. They were my cheerleaders.

Change was slow, but real. I could feel my strength and stamina grow. But there were mornings when the round trip was endless, and the markers seemed to move.

I walked in silence and solitude six days a week for five weeks.

Early. Routine. Habitual. Disciplined.

Rarely ever was my silence broken.

Not only was something happening to my body, but something was happening in my spirit. This change was more subtle, harder to detect and pinpoint. I prayed on these walks—a different kind of prayer. My prayers were disjointed, fragmented, unconnected snatches and phrases that seemed random. Yet, intimate and conversational. Often my ideas for this blog would begin on these walks. Not only did I find that my legs burned, but so did my spirit.

The daily walk became a very special part of my morning office. What started out as an attempt to add some much needed physical activity became a sacred time for me. I was enjoying what this discipline was doing for my body and my soul.

On the evening of August 26, I decided to take my girls to get something fun for breakfast for our first day back to school the next morning. The girls were putting our dogs in their crates and turning off lights in the house.

I went to the car first. I rounded the front fender of my car, and before I actually realized what was happening I was falling. My left knee twisted, and I fell on the unforgiving asphalt. My purse and keys flew into the grass behind me. The immediate pain caused me to curl into a tight ball.

The porch light seemed far away and dim in the darkness. Time stretched. I tried to get up, but could not. My daughters were coming out of the house, and I did not want them to find me on the ground. I did not want to scare them. They were on the porch and almost to the car before I said something to them.

I dropped my purse and keys. You will have to help me find them.”
Notice what I did not say. They still lovingly tease me about the calmness of my voice that night.

They had to help me up. We still went to Wal-mart, and they wanted me to drive one of the motor carts. I did not.

I did not walk the next morning.

I consulted my wise yoda, and explained what happened. He asked a lot of questions. And then he told me what to do and what not to do. He knows. He has been injured before.

His recommendation? Ice and then heat. Do not walk for a week.

The first day I was glad not to walk. My whole body hurt. I kept finding scrapes and bruises. I even had a knot on my head.

The second day I did not walk. The wise yoda had warned me I would be even more sore on this day. He was right.

The third day I did not walk. And I wore the wrong kind of shoes to work.

The fourth day I was getting restless. My knee felt better and was not as tender as earlier in the week. No more falls or spills.

The fifth day I was beginning to really miss my morning walk. Frustration started to mount. I was aggravated and every twinge in my knee irritated me more. I was told I had been injured and my body needed to heal. Injury implies trauma. I fell. This did not seem like trauma to me. My left leg told me otherwise.

The sixth day a good friend came early in the morning, and we walked. No, I didn't wait the full week, and stubbornly I walked the full route. I walked the next two days. The second day I could only walk about a third of what I had been doing. I had to wait three more days before I could walk again.

Because I did not listen I was forced into a longer sabbatical. And I have been restless and in denial. My sacred time has been interrupted. I have been so afraid of getting out of the habit of my new found discipline that I have ignored wise counsel and my body's signals.

During this forced sabbatical, I have learned that we often have two approaches when dealing with our injuries:

We do not allow enough time for healing. We rush the process. We deny that there is pain. We try to deny the severity of the injury. We want to seem strong and have a high pain tolerance. We carry out the advice of the yodas for a short time—forgetting that they are prescribing the best course of action for us to be able to regain full mobility and range again. We deny ourselves rest. We are impatient and restless. Surely idleness can not be aiding the recovery here. We have to work this thing out. And we risk more damage and injury to an already weakened joint.

We nurse the injury long after it is healed. We do follow the well meant advice and instructions. We even add to them. We allow the recommended time for healing and then add some. We are overly cautious. We become afraid. We are frightened to test the injury. We avoid anything that would force us to do so. We need just a little more time and a little more space. We continue to limp. We keep the heating pad and ibuprofen nearby. Just in case. And atrophy begins.

I am guilty of both approaches. I have rushed, and I have nursed. I have benefited from neither.

I have had to learn the wisdom and balance of a sabbatical.

Bones, muscles, and tendons must be allowed sufficient time to heal, but they must eventually bear weight again.

I have been injured, and I simply needed time to heal.

I did not walk yesterday or today. I will start again tomorrow.

Early in the morning I will tie my new walking shoes (a gift from Yoda), slip my cell phone in my pocket, and write my girls a note.

Then I will walk. Both my legs and my spirit will burn.

And I will listen closely because my body and soul will tell me if the sabbatical has been long enough.

3 comments:

Marty said...

Nursing the injury long after it has healed....
this was a moment of clarity for me. Thank you.
Marty

Mac Goddard said...

I find it intriguing that, just as you reached the place where your walking was physically and spiritually exhilarating, God caused you to stumble and fall, not to hurt you but to remind you that the Christian life is one, wonderful, eternal sabbatical--a rest in His finished work! Hallelujah!

elmogus said...

Truer words were never spoken my friend, and I have been there in more ways than you can imagine.

The lesson I learned most recently: Stop pining for what you *could* do and do what you *can*, finding happiness and contentment in that.

In the blink of an eye, your life can change and what you have now can be the greatest treasure on earth, whether your knee is swollen, your heart, your spirit are bruised, or your 'brain is broken'.

Suddenly the status quo is a joyful thing.

God's timing is perfect. Our frustration makes us fiddle with the hands on the clock, but it does not change God's timing.