I used to strive for perfection. Pushing myself constantly, to be better. I was never satisfied.
It took me far. I got straight A’s in school, I was in student government, played in the band, I was in 4-H, played tennis, and volunteered at my local church in my spare time. I continued this trend through undergraduate school where I majored in Organic Chemistry, played collegiate tennis and studied abroad in Spain becoming fluent in Spanish. I had to be constantly busy, and constantly pushing to be the best, to be more involved, to be more.
It got overwhelming. I never had a moment to just be, relax and enjoy. In fact, I didn’t know what to do with down time if I wasn’t moving, if I wasn’t doing. I struggled a lot with this while I was in Graduate school, earning a masters in Neuroscience and structural biology all while picking up ultra-running.
Once I graduated graduate school, I got a bit better at settling down, realizing I didn’t have to do everything. But, that mentality still persisted and drove me crazy at times. I couldn’t be content unless I was doing something, and something usually turned into everything.
It wasn’t until my first serious injury that I really learned to be still. I had no choice. I had broken 14 bones and was left with only one leg to stand on. Not only could I not run, or walk, or drive, — I couldn’t cook or bathe without supervision or the help of someone. It was a very humbling experience, but in it, was an opportunity.
I had the opportunity to slow way down. To appreciate life when I wasn’t buzzing around constantly. I’m not going to lie, it was a challenge. I questioned my worth. I thought, who am I unless I’m doing something? But in those struggles, I got more and more comfortable letting go of my need to distract and do.
I gained new perspective. One not associated with ticking things off on my ‘to-do’ list. I became more connected to myself, how I was feeling that day, my motivation, what excited me. It gave me an opportunity to be completely satisfied curling up with a book, or spending hours at a coffee shop catching up with a friend, or simply doing nothing at all. It was wonderful.
I learned that progress does not mean being perfect. It’s messy and not straight forward. I wouldn’t have expected an injury to help me connect with my soul. But it did. I was able to be content in my own human existence, without needing to be constantly achieving.
Even after recovering and getting back to more movement at training, I took that lesson with me and allowed myself the freedom (and permission) to just be, and not constantly weigh myself down with responsibilities and tasks. I found the creativity to make new, different goals, still pushing myself, but in different ways that were vastly more fulfilling. It’s helped me live more fully.
So, as I face this injury, breaking my fibula, and the recovery time associated with it – I look back on my past year. I look back on what I’ve learned and I’m able to shift into a slower pace of living. I’m making new goals and shifting my perspective. It’s a positive one, too.
Some ask how that’s possible – to maintain my positivity. I say I have no other choice. Of course I’m angry and disappointed, and the transition to recovery is difficult – and it’s certainly not automatic – but I am happy to do it. I know I’ll learn something from it – I’m positive of that. It’s an opportunity for growth, to learn – that’s progress.
It’s all a matter of perspective and I chose a positive one. Because progress is not perfection; progress is messy, progress is caring, and to be better – to soak in all that progress – I’ll take all the unexpected twists and turns of life, happily.