I’m one of those people who instantly assume the worst in any given situation. If everyone else sees a half-empty glass, I see a completely empty one. I imagine catastrophe first and ask questions later. Part of me wants to overcome this habit, but part of me thinks it’s just being realistic.
In an earlier blog, I talked about how I tore cartilage in one hip. The specialist I went to see told me to limit my running. How do you put a number on that? I tried my best to be careful, but one day when I was out running, I felt the same pain in the other hip. Without going to the doctor again, I immediately assumed that I was a complete disaster area and gave up running altogether. It’s been a very painful and difficult two years.
In my head, I magnified the tears to the size of the San Andreas Fault and imagined that I would need surgery followed by months and months of physical therapy and rehab, and on and on.
A couple of weeks ago, I finally got the courage to get some MRIs and see a hip specialist to learn what really was going on. I was happy to find out that this new hip specialist works a lot with dancers—I’m no dancer, but I prefer doctors whose patients actually move. He took some X-rays, and we looked at those and the MRIs together. I’m not the least bit squeamish about this, because after all, our bodies are beautifully put together, even (I think) as we get older. When I’m injured I think it helps me to see how my body tries to compensate.
In any event, this doctor showed me that the cartilage tears actually are quite small, that I don’t need surgery, and that I won’t have to undergo months and months of rehabbing, and on and on.
So the joke—both funny and painful, like the best jokes—was on me.
This doctor said to try running a little bit and come back in two months for a follow-up visit.
I was glad I was alone as I walked—or maybe floated or glided, I can’t remember—to the bus stop for the trip home. I wasn’t shouting for joy, but I felt as if a big, missing but essential part of my mind, body, and spirit had suddenly slotted back into place.
So now I’ve started back at the beginning, with a 10-minute walking warmup; run 1 minute, walk 2 (repeat four times); 10-minute walking cool-down. That’s a grand total of FOUR (count ’em!) minutes of running for each outing. Next week I advance to the mighty goal of running 2 minutes at a time. And on and on until I can count distance instead of time.
Of course, I dream of running longer distances—I trained for two marathons and ran one, plus about a dozen half marathons. But for now I’m happy just to rediscover the joy of being back outdoors, even when it’s cold and/or raining. Every running step feels like a gift and restores my being. And the humility—not humiliation!—of starting small feels like another kind of gift.