Two weeks ago I got to report that I returned to hiking after many moons of healing the terminal knee injury. That was a big deal. Brace yourselves. I have more news. I did a little running this weekend. It was just a smidge and completely unplanned. It was a shuffle, at best. Easy. Gentle. Barely a trot. But in a race I would have been disqualified as a walker.
The Chef and I are dogsitting. Walking the guest dog and Tucker at the same time required me to shift gears suddenly and frequently. The guest dog isn’t used to walking very far on a leash. Every bird, squirrel, or crack in the road was rushed with untrained excitement. Then there were the constant adjustments required to keep them from tangling the leashes, plus extra legs, and no turn signals. It was a workout all its own.
A few times I quickened pace to move ahead since Guest Dog is smaller and younger than Tucker. This required a light jog. Since the point of the walk was to make her a) tired enough to sleep away from home and b) poop before bed time, I kept up the light jogging off and on over the course of the journey. My knee didn’t collapse, complain, or self-destruct. So I celebrated by playing an hour of tennis with The Chef on Sunday.
Again — easy, gentle, nothing crazy. The blessed knee was slightly sore but the rest of me was slightly delighted to do something besides walk. My heart rate zipped along in the Been Too Long zone. A little nostalgia mixed with sweat. Everything above and below the waist seems happy today (Monday), no pain or locking or palpitations. While I’m certainly not jonesing for the good old days of heavy training and competition, the variety is nice.
Of course, after all these weeks off my tennis prowess was noticeably diminished but how lucky am I that I get to start over? I used to dread/regret this phase in my younger days; going back to square one. Starting over was a frustration back then. These days it feels like a privilege. Not everyone gets a 557th chance, ya know? Some of us only get 556 chances. We neglect to realize how precious those chances are until we start running out of them.
At some point most of us get told we’re done (either as advice or a diagnosis) — no more chances — we’ve swung our last swings, taken our last shots, played our last play, run our final miles, and won’t ever get on base again. Every post-injury restart before that final verdict is a chance to do it again — swing, shoot, pass, run, slide; again. While we’re grumbling about starting over again we forget that the greater point is AGAIN. We get to do it — any of it — again. It’s a luxury we don’t see because we don’t believe we’ll ever have to stop before we’re ready.
Everything I still get to do feels like a bonus now. A walk, a hike, an hour of yoga, a light jog, a gloriously horrible game of tennis, another day to draw breath, eat good food, read books, and laugh. A snail’s pace, a terrible swing; I used to begrudge them as not good enough and resent them as a phase to pass through as quickly as possible. I’m so grateful to have them now. I get to do them. With knees that still work. Shoulders and elbows and ankles and spine that still work. It humbles me now that I ever complained about starting over and over again. I never realized how lucky I was to keep getting more and more chances. Truthfully, I’ll be happy to suck at tennis forever as long as I keep getting chances to suck at it. And everything else at which I still get to suck.
This is exactly why we practice — not to get better but to appreciate it more.