Falling: A Running Lesson in Self Acceptance

I fell today. Not I tripped and stumbled but I completely ate dirt. My foot caught on something and I went mid stride face plant right into the mud. Let me be clear, when I fall it is not a graceful fall. It’s always a utterly unattractive flop and sprawl out across the ground with limbs flailing in all directions. So, I fell.

A little background . . . . I used to run. Not the oh, I like to run every now and then but run, marathons and ultra marathons. Every weekend I would be running somewhere new. I was not competitive but I enjoyed it. A few years ago I was in an accident while in the Army and broke my foot. Unfortunately my doctor at the time didn’t see the break in my foot and the huge lump sticking out of the side of my foot didn’t seem to bother her. Three months of going in every other day I finally was sent to a specialist who took another x ray and saw the break. Long story short I walked on a broken foot for six months before I had to have surgery to remove part of a bone and have things reconstructed. No running. The surgery went well but the recovery did not and my foot didn’t return to full function and even now I don’t have feeling in it all the time. (And when I do most times it’s just in pain.) Needless to say during this time I also found out that I had a spinal injury from the accident that I had aggravated because my doctor didn’t believe I was in pain. (I switched my doctor.) I was told that I would be lucky if I would be able to safely run again and if I did I would never be back to where I used to be. I would be lucky if I would be able to run two miles.  

I may not have always know who I was or what I wanted or where I was going but I knew I was a runner. Running was me. Running was the one constant thing that I could depend on. Running was my stress relief, my friend, my everything. Running was my identity. In one fell swoop it was all taken away. I entered into the deep dark place of depression and not knowing what to do.  

Fast forward three years.  

I’m here and I’ve fallen. I live in Colombia . . . not the Columbia, South Carolina . . . Colombia the country in South America. My husband is from here and when I retired a few months ago we moved here to spend some time with his family. We live on a farm with dogs, cats, cows, chickens . . . no one is around and it’s just us. It’s peaceful no one watches you. So I woke up and decided that I was going to try and run today. I’ve mostly been terrified that I’ll fall and hurt myself more because I can’t always feel what’s going on in the left side of my body. (I walked with a cane since the surgery. I recently started walking without the cane all day. My family says not to rush things but I’m not necessarily a patient person.) So I get up and I put my music on and I start. It’s muddy and I’m trying to be careful as I move away from the house. I can tell my muscles hurt because I haven’t really used them this way in a few years. And then . . .

Wham. Smack. I’m down in the dirt. I spring up faster than I thought I could move and I try to keep running. First reaction is I’m embarrassed and I’m scared someone saw me. Really? They only thing watching me are the cows who are more interested to see if I have food for them. I’m not hurt. My ego is hurt, I’m embarrassed and I’m ashamed. Why? Why do I have these feelings?

Why? Because I’m more interested in who I should be or who I think others want me to be than who I am now. I really should be proud that I fell and I got back up. That I’m trying to do something instead of sitting and feeling sorry for myself (like I do some days). I fell, so what? I fell and now I have to accept that this is me. I will never be my old self, I will never run the same again or move the same but I can move. But, that thought doesn’t make me feel any better. I’m upset because I can’t do all the things I used to be able to do. I feel like punching the ground and screaming, why? Why me? I’m so frustrated in feeling like this . . . Feeling weak and constantly surviving through pain. Why me? I know there’s no answer. The ground doesn’t know. The cows don’t know. The sky doesn’t know. 

In that one muddy fall I realized that this is me. I have to embrace that difference. Unless I accept who I physically am now I will never move forward. This is me. Accept yourself . . . mud, falls and all the dirty stuff that you don’t like.  

Then the cows mooed . . . I looked over to see them there staring at me. They accepted me so why couldn’t I accept myself? I could, I just needed to open my heart to myself again. I had to embrace myself and love myself now. I was in a relationship with a memory and I needed to let it go and move forward with the present me.  

Deep breath in and I start forward again. This is me. I am different.  

So I fell today. I got covered in mud. I ran. I was me. I learned to love myself again. 

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