This morning I woke up to an aching lower back; sore and stiff muscles in my legs, abs, and rear; one painful jammed big toe; the other big toe with the beginnings of an ingrown toenail; and a right hamstring that hasn't quite healed from being torn this summer. And I'm feeling pretty darned good about all this.
Maybe it's my unusually high threshold for pain after eight non-medicated labors and deliveries. Maybe it's because I've already strained or torn so many muscles that I've forgotten what it's like to not have them. But I think my aches and pains are gentle reminders that I am ALIVE. No, I've never had a near death experience--unless you consider the two times I THOUGHT I was going to die, but in reality I wasn't.* No, I just consider the aches and pains and sore muscles are part of the normal course of life and are reminders that I can touch, see, hear, smell and taste all the wonders of this world. In short, I'm alive.
Recently I tried to explain my enjoyment of pain to my physical therapist when I was being seen for that torn hamstring. I first tore it on the 4th of July weekend when I was at the park with my kids. The grass was so green, and the sky was so blue, I decided to do a cartwheel with my kids. The first one was great, but my husband told me it didn't look as good as my 16 year old daughter's cartwheel. Something about my legs not being as high as hers. So I really put myself into the next one. At some point, as I was kicking my legs up into the air, I felt and heard a tear in my derrière. (No, I didn't enjoy that pain, but I managed to limp home and sit on an ice pack for an hour or so). I was recovered enough to dance at my eldest daughter's wedding two weeks later. After the wedding, while sparring my 14 year old second-degree black belt daughter at taekwondo, I threw a round kick to her head and felt and heard that awful tearing again. This time I didn't limp home. I drove home in agony and sat on the ice pack for a couple of days. (Still not enjoying the pain). A few weeks later, thinking I was fully recovered, I decided to teach the little kids how to do the Russian splits off the diving board at the pool. As soon as I kicked my legs out I realized this was a BAD IDEA. When I was in the water I knew I wasn't going to be able to walk out of the pool. (No, I didn't enjoy this pain at all. I crawled out of the pool like some primordial fish trying desperately to evolve into a land creature but destined to die, gasping and groaning, on the shore.) But this third injury taught me a valuable lesson. I really needed to listen to my body and give it a chance to recover. It was at this point I decided I'd better have an expert take a look at it to tell me when I could resume normal activities. After giving the doctor the gory details of my three injuries, he gave me a wry smile and a slip of paper referring me to a physical therapist. He suppressed a chuckle as he told me I had given him "a great visual."
While telling my story to the physical therapist at my first visit, I explained my delay in seeking medical attention was due to my rather high threshold for pain and how sometimes a little bit of pain was actually enjoyable. I didn't want to come across as masochistic. But I needn't have worried. She understood. She told me how she ran a 10k with a broken foot and didn't even know it was broken until after the race. I had found a kindred spirit!
Now that I've been given a clean bill of health, with an admonition to listen to my body, stretch the hamstring carefully and avoid cartwheels, round kicks to the head and Russian splits for a while, I'm back at taekwondo trying to keep up with the twenty-something male instructor who barks directions at us every nano-second. "Fifty push-ups side kicks jumping jacks sit-ups spin hook kicks on each leg...GO!" Which means today I'm feeling those aches and sore muscles. And it feels great.
Today I'm thankful for the aches and pains that mean I'm ALIVE.
*Maybe those experiences could be topics for future postings. Both were traumatic. One had a happy ending, the other a sad ending. I'll stick to happy endings for now.