What Do You Want?

Biggest had an assignment this week from school in which he had to interview himself and three other people –  one of the questions was “what do you want?” As an interviewee, I responded “peace” without hesitation. It felt authentic and trite all at once leading me to wonder if there was an expectation in this category – should it be something simple? Something you could be given? Something someone could make or buy for you? Should you be able to get if for yourself? Rather than overanalyze (or at least not beyond my internal dialogue) I decided to ask for a reference point.

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His own answer to the question was, “a dog.” This was a response to which I could totally relate, having shared the story of my long-awaited childhood dog-acquisition finally happening at 11. Now one year beyond that hopeful age for biggest, he is still in love as ever with canines, doting on his growing collection of stuffed dogs, but clearly unsatisfied with the lack of the real thing. To the best of my knowledge, the main stopper of my dog ownership was the allergic response of my siblings, limiting the ability to have a pet in the house. Through the generosity of my aunt and uncle who made both their home and dog mine, I had a pup in my personal life from six years old and, in my final year of sibling cohabitation in my childhood home, I was granted the great privilege of a puppy.  She was with me for the next 17 years, with a few spent in the extended care of my mom and another aunt, through the arrival of oldest in fact, though her passing came before he remembered her much more than through pictures.

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We tried twice to acquire puppies, both times resulting in a flare of asthma for biggest and the grave concern that, as these were “hypoallergenic” breeds, he might in-fact be allergic to dog saliva, rendering us unable to welcome a dog into our home.]

After the heartbreaking second failed attempt at puppies, we paused for a good long while, until the 11thbirthday of oldest. Reflecting on my own youth timeline, observing seeming reduction in his allergic response to animals, having met a most lovable pup named Einstein and having stated out loud that if his parents were ever to have a litter, that would be the dog I’d choose, we found ourselves on the list for a sheepadoodle puppy.  As fate, or perhaps more accurately the infinite wisdom of the universe, would have it, this turned out to be a false pregnancy and no puppy was to be had. Looking at the timeline of an arrival in July and the insanely chaotic summer and school year of transitions that has ensued, we most certainly were not puppy-ready at that time.  And so here we are, one year later. Him still wanting a puppy. Me seeking peace.

Allergies have prevented me in my own childhood and now as the parent of children from having a dog in my home. The forced pause and distance created from the animal obsession of my youth has awakened me to the notable work, potential mess and added logistics that a pet can add to the already busy and unconventional life we lead. I also understand so acutely the deep desire, the love and joy that are part of the experience. To have something so dear to your heart beyond your control and outside the realm of current possibility. I am sure the path will be revealed – for now, I listen for the infinite wisdom of the universe and help tend to the 13-strong stuffed canine collection and the heart of my 12-year old.

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I reflect with him on the challenge of the wanting, feeling the pangs of the child and the mother in the experience and stand by my own response to the question – extending the possibility on both the micro and macro, local and global scales and to his heart, seeking peace in acceptance of that which we cannot control.

I choose peace for me – within – stillness and calm in my soul, listening, loving, accepting myself just as I am with gratitude for the limitless potential for what, who and how I can be.

I embrace peace in my family – harmony composed of the uniquely beautiful chords that come from the notes of biggest, middlest, littlest and their caring father, practicing daily, fine tuning and listening carefully to each other to find balance in volume, tone, character and rhythm.

I honor peace in my community – goodwill and generosity of friends, sharing the tasks of daily life, offering encouragement, support, giving and receiving with open hearts adding love to the human experience.

I reflect peace in the world – seeing and being the good in humanity – asking and listening, sharing and understanding, helping and accepting, learning and teaching – stewarding the responsibility and privilege of creating our thoughts, feelings and actions and actively seeking to cultivate them from a soul nurtured and nourished in the foundation of serenity.

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May we answer with authenticity the question of our wants, make possible that which we can, make peace with that which we cannot and see, seek and seem the serenity the world holds for us all.

Best,

MamaTriDOc

 

 

 

There and Back Again

There.

And Back.

Again.

I’ve sat with these four words as a prompt for writing for as many months but my thoughts never came together on the page. I considered the physical journey from my home state to the state that felt like home and the abrupt boomerang that took us back. It seemed logical that the home state return was the invitation to write it all down. To share the learnings, experiences and insights of the to and fro. But it wasn’t – and so I waited. I’d like to say patiently, but expeditious has always been my tendency and so my waiting was in a state of active wondering, seeking and listening. I read more than I have in decades and found a creative flow that had been running just under the surface for some time. I journaled, spoke, recorded, programmed, administrated and planned. I gained clarity on projects and visions I had held for the better part of a decade and insight into elements of my character that, while useful in some situations, have been severely limiting to my capacity in others.  A tortuous and sometimes torturous course sent us there and back again again.

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When I consider the classic literature and cinematography from which these four words are taken, it is impossible to avoid comparison with the journey and mission taken by the Fellowship of the Ring, and, for me, the experience of Frodo in the epic adventure.

Comparative essays were my favorite assignment in high school English class. As often as I could, I was weaving Dave Matthews Band lyrics into the immortal words of Shakespeare and finding the correlation of human experience through art separated by genres, decades and cultural divides. My own journey these past four years has brought me to consider my there and back againand the likeness to that of the cohort in Middle Earth, brought so brilliantly to life by Peter Jackson.

As I consider Frodo’s experience – never wanting the responsibility but understanding it was uniquely for him to endure with success made possible only by the diverse strengths of the collective and particularly those of his greatest ally, Sam – I see my own. As I shared this consideration with my greatest ally, my husband, his response was that it seemed unfair, unkind to compare any of the locations we had lived to the fires of Mordor and I agreed, which led me to the realization that the likeness was not in the geography or the external encounters, but rather the internal struggle and transformation that Frodo experienced and so these words are now ready.

In the past few years becoming familiar with (and ultimately a super fan girl of) Brené Brown’s work, I found myself equally inspired and dismayed – I agreed wholeheartedly with her philosophy, mantras and recommendations, but it seemed to me that without a great fall, there was limited capacity to rise strong. I honestly remember thinking, “well, nothing that bad has ever happened to me, so I’m not sure if I can fully apply these principles.” Retrospectively I see this could have been achieved simply by daring greater or by applying a lens of relativity to the scope of “bad things” but apparently I needed a more obvious lesson in direct experience to feel legitimate in the arena of life and so the universe intervened, offering me opportunity to experience the proverbial dirt and blood of life’s trials and tribulations.

I’ve written previously about the various challenges of the past year – injury, mentorship gone wrong, apocalyptic smoke, the chaotic up-rooting and tenuous replanting of our family – and even through all of these, likely because of all of these, it was not until we were in a seemingly settled place – nice home, new work, walkable school, building community – that the moment arrived and it was time to see how I held up in the arena.

Long overdue conversations and concerns were continually pushed aside as the eye was focused on survival, on immediate, but superficial, threats, the distractions of daily life and the endless to do list of tasks that pushed one day into the next. Frustrations originating from internal chaos funneled into festering concerns about work and school, manifesting as the desire to revolutionize one system or another as my creative, problem-solving energy was likewise misdirected.

Ultimately it was on my birthday, with the review of a simple but profound book some 20 years after my initial reading, that the chaos paused long enough for me to hear clearly, for perhaps the first time, the true concerns that I had left unaddressed for the better part of my life – and now there were no distractions remaining.

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While the focus was turned, an army had been amassed – resentment, anger, disappointment, sense of failure, self-loathing, regret, shame – and the only path toward victory lay uniquely with me.  No one else could solve this or soothe this. No dialogue, achievement, praise, exception, qualification, book or success could correct, shift, undo or fix this problem, this crisis, this terminal threat that I faced. Adding to the challenge was the realization that I had enabled the power of this evil collective by pretending, perhaps hoping, I was immune – through avoidance and external victories, busyness and focus on others, seeing the possibility of health everywhere except within.

We have a household mantra of accepting the opportunity and responsibility that each person is 100% in charge of his or her thoughts, feelings and actions. This phrase I have so often shared with my littles now required my direct attention and immediate action. Whether I viewed myself as primary opponent or leading general of this ugly army was irrelevant – the lens of the oneness of life and the simple fact that it existed in my world created personal responsibility for my fate and that of my universe.  Would I brave the wilderness, rise strong and dare to lead from within, shedding toxicity, turmoil and torment to invite peace into my heart and, as a most welcome natural consequence, into my world?

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And so it was, led by the battle cry of many crucial conversations and moments of self-realization that I sent the ring of doubt, assumptions and ego into the fire and in so doing, the army was eradicated. The deafening void was overwhelming at first – the landscape looked so different – desolate from the toxic energy of the army that had occupied it for so long.  As the dust settled, there were patches of green and even the occasional blossom along with the allies who had long stood beside me, patient and hopeful for my successful return to self – unable to make the journey for me but willing to carry me as far as they could.

And so it was that I could return to the shire of my soul, never free of the memories of the experience, but strengthened rather than strained by them with a deeper clarity of self, story, resilience and whole-heartedness. We cannot hide from darkness or pretend it isn’t there. Just yesterday, as I worked through editing, I commented to a friend that I hesitated to publish this as it felt so dark and we agreed that it was necessary to know, acknowledge and stand together in the darkness and, of course, Brené affirmed this in her own post this morning:

fullsizeoutput_580fWe must support one another, especially in times of darkness. And just as There and Back Again was actually the prequel to Frodo’s tale, it serves as a foundation for me to honor my role in the story of life – as the bearer of the ring or a member of the fellowship for another on their journey. And as Frodo assured his dearest friend, there is certainly room for a little bit more.

I will not look away, I will look within, I will stand beside and I will go there and back again for the health of all things, starting with me.

May we find strength and bravery to endure through the darkness, to find the light within ourselves and for each other – united in the fellowship of the ring of the universe unfolding.

Best,

MamaTriDOc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women in Medicine

Today is the fourth annual National Women Physicians Day. Originated by Hala Sabry, D.O. to commemorate the achievements, to acknowledge persistent disparities and to encourage the full, equal and valuable participation of women in medicine. February 3rd was chosen as the official date as it is the birthday of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, born in Bristol, England in 1821.  Receiving her M.D. in 1849 as the first female physician graduate of an American medical school, Dr. Blackwell was a trailblazer and advocate for women in medicine throughout her life and we honor her leadership on this day.

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Dr. Sabry is also the founder of Physician Mom’s Group, which has grown since 2014 into a 70,000+ member collective providing support, collegiality, mentorship, understanding and has nurtured the progress of women physicians into leadership, entrepreneurship, politics, private practice, education and speaks to the heart of those balancing parenthood and practice.  Acknowledging the need for and demonstrating the power of community, PMG has been a leader in addressing the growing concern surrounding physician burnout, shown to impact women physicians more significantly.

I am proud to note that women have always had a seat at the table in Osteopathic Medicine – revolutionary on many levels, A.T. Still welcomed women into the first class of D.O.s and the concentration has remained ahead of the curve compared to allopathic schools  with 50% female enrollment noted for the first time by the Association of American Medical Colleges in 2017 while the same was achieved by osteopathic colleges in 1923.

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Feminine Touch: History of Women in Osteopathic Medicine investigates and honors the experiences and accomplishments of female D.O.s and inspired a documentary, available for free streaming through PBS. Featured in the film is Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee, who fought not only the uphill battle as a woman, but also as a minority and earned her place as one of only two African-American women in the inaugural class of MSU COM and eventually the first African-American female dean of an American medical school, striving to change the system for the better for the students, teachers, doctors and patients.

Even in the face of ongoing discrimination including income inequality, harassment and opportunity overlook, women physicians prove themselves to be excellent clinicians, brilliant educators, powerful leaders, creative innovators and produce results equal, and even superior, to their male colleagues.  While I hesitate to write this, as it feels competitive and potentially derogatory to men in medicine, I also reflect on the battle of my profession as a whole, gender excluded, and note that equal does not, and in my opinion should not, mean the same.

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In seeking a level playing field, equal opportunity and respect in medicine, many osteopathic physicians worked so hard to be “as good as” their allopathic counterparts that they minimized, compartmentalized, abandoned, ignored and even apologized for those things that made them unique and, in many ways, diluted the differences that brought the profession into existence and made it valuable. There is room to be equal, legitimate, qualified and unique. I would venture to say that there is a vast space carved out of the desperate need for variety in philosophy, approach, personality, style and delivery of medical care. We can be founded in common information, research, logic and reason AND deliver care with a broader view of the patient and humanity – seven billion people bring a level of diversity that calls for, and can certainly handle, a few different ways of looking at things!

Just as D.O.s and M.D.s can share space at the table of medicine, so too can women pull their chairs up amongst the men and need not fit into the mold of the masculine to be seen, treated and respected as equal. Quite the contrary – we are there not in spite of our differences but BECAUSE of them – asking women to postpone marriage, partnership, parenthood for medicine negates the balanced perspective they bring to their encounters with patients, understanding life from all angles and appropriately delivering health care to the whole person. Belittling women who choose to prioritize their career over personal life also minimizes the necessary contribution of a woman who is dedicated to professional advancement and advocacy and the fulfillment of full time, focused commitment. We can welcome all levels of participation, perspective and preference without shame, apology or resentment and embrace equality along with the amazing, beautiful tapestry of difference in medicine created through the presence of  women at the table.

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I was fortunate to begin my journey in medicine with powerful female role models – including an expert in Tropical Medicine, an educational leader navigating the M.D./D.O. cultural divide, a rare female surgical sub-specialist juggling three children with grace and ease, an expert in Pediatric Osteopathy and dedicated researcher. Many of my teachers during the early years of training were female and fabulous and my peers have gone on to chair departments, lecture nationally and internationally, publish studies, launch private practices, teach students, direct residencies – breaking barriers, elevating care and changing the face of medicine for the better through their participation.

With gratitude for those who took the first steps, for those who reinforced the way, for those who continue to challenge for equality, for those who seek, struggle, strive and serve – I thank you, I support you, I see you, I celebrate you, I am with you.

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Let us hold tight to the string of the difference that matters and may the kite of the feminine fly high in the sky of medicine, taking its place in the abundant atmosphere, enriching the splendor of the infinite space for the best health of all.

 

Best,

 

MamaTriDOc

 

 

 

Be, See, Feel, Heal

Three years, three months and three days later, I find myself in Michigan, returning on a one-way fare from Ashland, wrapping up a two-week farewell tour full of bittersweet moments symbolizing our last time through as locals.  Encouraged by the brave and aching heart of a friend, I share these thoughts, originally written in sharing of experience with an osteopathic kindred, both brought to me along my journey through Oregon…ever grateful.

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First day as locals…circa 2015

Reflecting on how life has unfolded, yes self, not unraveled, unfolded, I look back to a course in February and see that unrest was mounting even then.

 

Approaching The Power of Presence experience as a potential osteopathic revival with hope for a possible mentor relationship and leaving with such a contrary feeling was a defining moment, though I would not learn the true meaning until much later, a lesson that actively continues.

Though I received neither direct encouragement nor the supportive relationship of an osteopathic elder, I gained much in the way of resolve of my personal and professional values and the priceless realization that it was not those from the generation prior but my contemporaries that held the true comradery and insight I so deeply desired.

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Peer supported triumph – one and done!

I believe as strongly as ever in all that osteopathy holds to truly foster and favor the health of all things. A few simple tenets held in their purest intention can truly change the world. My place in this process continues to evolve and I see now that all that has transpired since my birthday month was part of a – painful, confusing and most challenging – growth phase to prepare me to be the person I, my family, my community and the world need.

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To have reached a point in my life where I was living in a seeming utopia – with dreamy school, beautiful topography, conscientious consumers, interesting food, pedestrian friendly commutes and enrichment of all types where my children were thriving – and to feel unsettled felt like a failing of the worst kind…my spirit was sighing save me, but I did not listen.

To have a practice abundant with patients alongside the development of a gym-based community, named after my favorite movie and successfully serving as testing ground for wellness principles I had envisioned for years yet still feel unfulfilled seemed an ungracious state, undeserving of the successes…my mind was calling caution, but I did not heed.

To have time with children for coaching, playing music, traveling, learning and to reach peak pinnacle of fitness but feel inadequate made me wonder what fundamentally was wrong with me that I could not accept, with gratitude, a most fortunate place in life and focus on solutions rather than problems, as I had long mantra-ed at work and with family…my body was whispering warning, but I could not hear for the deafening volume of my own expectations.

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Ashland even in Virginia!

And so it was, en route to my first ever attempt at the Cranial Academy’s Annual Conference, ironically, or perhaps aptly, named Discovering the Heart of Osteopathy, that a final effort to gain my full attention with a shriek of ear-piercing feedback ruptured the sound barrier and a critical core muscle, effectively stopping me in my physical tracks and opening floodgates of query:

Who was I without movement? How was I without coaching? Where was the athlete? Why would so many years of training leave me vulnerable to such a menial task? What good could possibly come from six weeks of zero activity and the elimination of exercise that had been such a critical source of my (questionable) sanity?

Clearly a one-sided inquisition; I realized spirit, mind and body had not been given fair playing time and, from this place of disintegration, patience and wondering were my only guideposts on the journey back to the whole.

Though I seek not to know, as that is a fixed state of being and I intend to remain ever in fluidity, powerfully potent but appropriately acquiescent, I hope to continue my understanding, seeing now even greater depth to the meaning of the sentiment that inspired me and beautiful art some 18 months ago.

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In an effort to see the health, I was forcing myself through a place of healing without yielding to the process. I did not need to be the best version of me, the ideal, the perfectly perceived. I needed to be the me I was in that moment, to sit, uncomfortably if necessary, with myself, where I was, for as long as it took to take a full breath and accept that I was enough – without external identifiers or relationships or expectations or excellence or even mediocrity. That I had to be okay with me in my most basic state of being to have any hope of truly being with and for others as I so deeply desired.

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This is me

The lesson did not come easily and when I tried to fight through, I was slammed right back down. False optimism was answered by unbreathable air leading to early escape and extended stay in my homeland. Time in the Wild West held life lessons beyond any I imagined and included an unanticipated return ticket to my state of origin.  The picture was blurry, the path muddied with turns and an undercurrent of fear for what I had asked of my family, but I can see, speak and hear to the whole for the first time and trust that this is change for good.

With gratitude in spirit, peace in mind, reverence in body, I acknowledge that I indeed received all that I desired and more that February weekend – a mentor within, support beside and wisdom beyond. Centered, grounded and present…finally now I can I truly move for, with and through myself, patients, friends, family and community from a place of evolving wholeness and true acceptance of health.

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Penultimate meal as locals – friends for life

May we listen to the whispers, be true to ourselves, see through to the deepest feelings, allow ourselves to heal and trust that when the purpose is true, the path will be revealed.

Best,

MamaTriDOc

The Table

Growing up, the kitchen table was the hub of our household. The iconic spot, immediately adjacent to the back door, primed for an elbow bump from the regular influx of a seemingly endless supply of kids, it was occupied most hours of the day and night by our dad. Trading hand-rolled cigarettes for pickled pigs feet (I have to believe his taste buds for the latter were primed by the former) he was always armed with a Zebra pen and notebook, stack of books, playing host to a wide variety of guests sharing conversation and advice, solicited and not. The booth was a proverbial clown car with endless capacity for bodies, especially on pizza night when there was a mad rush to rip open the paper of the Little Caesars double wide. Beyond daily meals and the dusty prepping of pierogi at Christmas, this simple round-edged square on a solitary pedestal has sustained and supported many discussions, decisions, emotions and evolutions over more than half a century and now welcomes the next generation for projects with grandma and sibling reunions.  It was over, around and under these sixteen square feet that I first learned about community, communication and collaboration.

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During orientation week of medical school, I was the lucky winner of a raffle for an Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment table, a serendipitous moment brought me early ownership of the tool that would become central to my entire professional career. Able to have a direct impact early on with family and friends who were willing candidates for the practice of techniques, this portable table was a constant companion.  With the patient upon and the doctor beside, a therapeutic relationship ensued. Four folding legs and cushioned teal leather supported structural corrections, optimal function and served as guide – for the health of the patient and my personal quest.

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This journey included a three-year round trip to the State of Jefferson including one where a year of independent practice utilized an identical folding table while two years in collaboration saw me rotating among four more permanent, customized to the needs of my colleagues, teaching me adaptability and stability all at once.  Navigating difficult diagnoses, welcome solutions and steep learning curves, I eventually landed back in my home state to a town previously experienced as a tourist, stepping before the path was revealed. Taking a chance on casual greeting of fellow osteopaths, their generous reception led to the introduction to Table Health. Intrigued by the name and enthralled by the mission, I offered my experience and alignment was found.

Visions of wellness centers as the solution to health crises facing the world have had many iterations – in my head, in writing, in proposals, in the rooms of my clinic and on the floor of my gym. Though health was enhanced, the concept never reached its fullest expression. On walking into Table Health, I saw the fruition of this dream. Calm and bright, the structure was sound, encouraging clear and full function. Substance supported style and the patient-centric, health-driven mission was everything I had envisioned manifested in reality – and they were looking for a physician to join them on the journey.  Abandoned meals and work plans of fasting were replaced by a bounty, inviting me to fill my plate and have a seat at The Table, welcoming my contribution and offering opportunity in return.

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The tasks are daunting, but equally inspiring as the potential is limited only by true reverence for the health. Trusting in my osteopathic roots, this is indeed abundant. While there will be no Little Caesars or hand-rolling tasks, pig’s feet might find their way back in a whole food model and there will certainly be books and notebooks aplenty. Though the dimensions have changed, and the advice now explicitly solicited, collaboration ensues and care for humanity remains a constant.  Temporary or permanent – over, around, under, beside and upon– the table positions us for relationships and roles as we require and can provide.

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May we be nourished, body, mind and spirit through our contribution to community as we make space for all at the Table.

Best,

MamaTriDOc

Core Strength

Foundation. Structure. Function.

As an osteopathic physician, I often counsel my patients that there are external supports that can be utilized when needed, but first line is to see what the body can do on its own. This can be in reference to a bite splint, orthotics, braces, wraps, tape, walking sticks and other implements. One I used often during my residency was a heel lift. For a short leg, a heel lift can be used, but only after mechanics, strength and flexibility are optimized. Patients can find an external support to be inconvenient or unreliable, serve as a crutch and, if not utilized appropriately, allow underlying imbalances to be untreated or ignored. Sometimes it is a reset – allowing the muscles of the body to adapt around a new neutral and can eventually be removed.

Sometimes it supports a temporary situation – for a pregnant patient where asymmetry results from the postural changes of gestation or in a patient with post-traumatic joint degeneration that is eventually treated with joint replacement surgery, the use of the lift is discontinued as the acute leg length discrepancy has resolved. Sometimes it is simply needed. We are not symmetric creatures and, though we have tremendous capacity for compensation, something, or more likely a combination/accumulation of many somethings, pushes the limits and a person simply cannot maintain balance without a bit of extra help.

From a young age, I found myself practicing independence and self-reliance. Making life decisions as they came with minimal counsel. From college and scholarships to medical school and deferment to residency location and modifications. To be clear, I was not alone, but prided myself on managing responsibility on my own.  I have felt strong and capable, confident especially in my physical capacity. Even through knee surgery, that did require assistance in driving and a forced respite from training, there was a finite element that made it seem manageable. Fast forward to June 14 and this all came crashing down when a perceived bought of severe indigestion, after a curious week of severe pain and wondering, turned out to be a significant tear of the deepest, most critical stabilizer of my abdominal muscles.

With the announcement that the only treatment was complete physical rest, I could not fathom the state of incapacitation and lack of independence rendered by this dictum. Given the severity of the pain and the desire to banish it as quickly as possible, I committed to the prescription and surrendered to the process. With grace and kindness, my family, friends and community offered the help I needed and, with the salvation of working through the additional support of an abdominal binder, I crested the 42ndday with much smaller muscle mass but much larger appreciation for the ability to accept help as freely as I might give it.

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Best external supports ever!

Embarking cautiously on a rehabilitation program and gradually gaining strength, I began to feel whole again and it seemed I was in the category of “in need of temporary support,” now able to do for myself, shed the binder and resume life as I knew it. All was going swimmingly as I prepared to reenter the pool and dust off my triathlon gear upon my return to The Great Lakes State. I targeted race dates many months off, setting reasonable goals as key motivators on the path back to full fitness. One week ago, on a rainy night that would prove paradoxical to an earlier comment I made regarding the reliable dryness of middlest and littlest, a momming moment of mattress changing illustrated the incomplete healing of my midsection as a familiar, and most unwelcome, searing pain reemerged.

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Day of (gentle) first run

In disbelief that after such disciplined recovery and rehabilitation and while feeling so strong, such a simple action could send me back to square one, I was quite literally rocked to my core. Was I really that weak? So vulnerable that I couldn’t handle a simple task of sheet-changing without re-injury?  I was defeated and deflated – overwhelmed by a rush of anxiety that couldn’t be quelled by the release of running. I turned again to friends, family, community and was met readily with encouragement and understanding. I realized that injury was not synonymous with weakness and vulnerability can actually be a marker of strength because only in the acceptance that follows can we truly heal.

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Running by the lake = happy place – there again soon!

While my core muscles might be far from perfect, my core values are reinforced and my core people as robust as they come. I will continue to optimize the mechanics of my body, strength of my spirit and flexibility of my mind, but as it turns out, for me support is simply needed, for now, for longer than I’d like to admit and maybe even forever. I am appreciative to have the external resources and will provide them for others with a more gracious spirit when called upon. Function. Structure. Foundation.

May we embrace our own needs as we seek to help others and trust that we truly are stronger together.

Best,

MamaTriDOc

 

 

Pain Cave

We talk often in the gym about time in the Pain Cave – an elusive and sometimes dreaded place where the hardest work, and by natural consequence, the most magical things, can happen. It is the place to push limits, to find out what you really can do and how much you can truly handle. It is by nature a dark, often solitary, place and you almost certainly come out transformed. Unlike those used for hibernation, however, this cave has always been an active space. There is no frigid dormancy, endless slumber or reliance on fat reserves – it is a place of sweat, grit, movement, physical and mental engagement and (a perk to be sure) mid-or-post-exertional refueling.  With the side-lining of a most unforgiving injury these past two weeks, the pain cave has taken on a whole new, and not particularly favorable, meaning.

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Rocking an electric scooter in the Oregon Zoo!

My coaches and I work hard to keep our athletes active through a wide variety of injuries and ailments, recognizing the benefits of movement in the healing process physically, mentally and emotionally as well as the importance of social integration in the success of recovery. With an ironic sense of humor, or just plain bad luck, the universe sent me the one injury for which there is no modification other than strict rest. So, with an abdominal binder to get me through clinic, the rest of my time has been spent lying down, icing my abdomen and making the most out of seated calf raises and supine quad sets. With relentless consistency, the pain persists as a reminder to follow my physician’s advice explicitly and unpredictable shocking stabs of severe pain provide (unnecessarily aggressive in my opinion) reinforcement should I attempt to move beyond the boundaries established for optimal recovery.

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Unable to reckon with spending time in the space that I have always associated with power, speed and endurance in a state of complete physical incapacitation, I retreated. Reassigning my coaching sessions to a most helpful staff, I just stayed home. I pictured the sweat, the barbells, the chalk, the rig, the bikes, the rowers and the boxes and, somewhere between ego and frustration, simply couldn’t handle that snapshot with my image absent from the activity on the floor.  I posted workouts, e-mailed potential new members, admired pictures of athletes from the week and received updates from my coaches, but I didn’t make the trip over (conveniently blaming my walking ban for not covering the 2-block jaunt by foot as usual, but that really doesn’t hold water…I could have had a ride at any time).

 

On a recent trip to my childhood home, I discovered my high school journals and it seems little has changed these past 20 years – I was waking early for aerobics class and visiting the gym after sports practices for extra workout fun. I couldn’t believe my friends were satisfied with only one athletic endeavor on the day and, clearly then as now, relied on all things physical to support maintenance of my whole self.  Other than the 20 weeks I spent trying not to exacerbate contractions when pregnant with biggest, the past 23 years have been underscored by consistent (in some opinions obsessive) exercise. Considering laws of energy conservation, what happens then the usual outlet is suddenly obstructed? At least in the time prior, that energy could be converted into the growing of another human, a meaningful and tangible task, but now I found myself waffling, wandering and wondering into dangerous lands.

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I’d like to blame this look on the cave…but mostly just me and the sun attempting to co-exist.

Dark and solitary, there was a faint familiarity in this cavern, but it was overall unsettling. Lacking both the promise of renewal that follows hibernation as well as the exhausted victory celebrated post-max effort, this cave was pure emptiness, creating the perfect setting for a pity party with the focus on a farewell to muscles developed over a dozen years, now withering away in as many days. Always one to lead the start of a race, I blasted the first stages of the grief process, crushing denial early on as I attempted to power through the pain, sprinting up the anger hill with some less-than-ideal-momming moments and mentally unpacking that too-heavy suitcase, but there was no bargaining back the injury, no matter how fast I coasted down that hill. And then I hit the wall – of sadness. Between the shift in my relationship with the dynamic events of the summer season, the stolen independence of my primarily pedestrian transport and the crisis of identity as an athlete abruptly stripped of activity – I was at the edge of a deep, dark crevasse and I painfully lowered myself into a corner and stayed put.

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Breakfast in bed – the cave has a perk or two…

Disappointed, dulled and despondent are a powerful trio, but they are no match for the support and encouragement of dedicated friends, athletes, colleagues, staff and, of course, family. Their efforts created a glimmer of hope beckoning me slowly, cautiously, to the mouth of the cave and, squinting, back into the light. Returning to my home-away-from-home at CrossFit Inconceivable, I could genuinely and happily celebrate the effort and achievements of the athletes, pushing themselves for a couple more kilos and those final few reps. I saw that my presence in the space was not limited to performance, but still significant in participation through presence, contributing to the positive spirit of the community.

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Hearing the echo of my own advice, supported by mounting research, I could finally see why social integration is even more important than exercise in promotion of health and longevity. Placebo effect perhaps, but I truly felt better being around the action – watching my coaches in their glory, coaxing greatness from each individual; seeing athletes push themselves to a better result than last time; appreciating the space that has grown so much in the past 10 months to create a positive environment for mind, body, spirit to achieve beyond what we ever thought possible – and realizing that the challenge might not come in the form of a gymnastic movement or heavy barbell, but in the test of endurance of the soul through unexpectedly treacherous terrain.

 

Just like that, I was back in the picture and the pain cave was once again a safe, though challenging, space, softened and strengthened by the presence of my extended family and positioned once again to achieve transformation, this time through the acts of resting and healing. Opportunity was reclaimed to yield a better me than yesterday – repairing a physical weakness that has likely been lingering in the shadows for some time, fortifying a vulnerable spirit to know itself as true with or without a daily dose of exertion and enlightening a mind to concepts often shared but not always heeded. With the darkest moments behind me, it turns out the wall had a gate and with the guidance of community, I had moved through, energized to hold on into acceptance of this new normal and prepare for that hidden kick, knowing the finish line, though not quite in sight, is just around the corner.

 

 

May we see our limitations through the lens of opportunity, accept help where it is offered and emerge stronger than when we began.

Best,

FitMamaDOc