Tag Archives: Fear

Horseshoes.

Aren’t you lucky?

My, what good luck you’re having.

Boy, you are so lucky!

I love cataloguing the reactions I’m receiving from so many when I share our latest endeavor. So many exclaim, “My, aren’t you two lucky?”

To a certain extent, absolutely, we are. I firmly believe that an elaborate, delicate sequence of events had to occur in order for us to be where we are now. It’s exhausting to trace back the catalyst for this chain reaction, but here’s an over-simplified journey.

My husband experienced a very, very nasty injury at track practice in college, requiring an ambulance, emergency surgery, and months of extensive rehab. As a part of rehab, his athletic trainer and good friend suggested he join a fringe sport, Highland Games {the big guys in the skirts kilts who throw telephone poles cabers}. He did, and he fell in love with the community, the sport, the potential. There, he met an athlete who had just returned from competing as a professional weightlifter {sound familiar yet?} who was opening a personal training studio in the city where my husband already worked, and was looking for more trainers. A few months later her coach called, seeking leads on any young men who had a throwing background, the ability to personal train, and most importantly, the physical and mental attributes of a professional weightlifter. Did she know anyone who fit that description? You bet she did.

Sure, this opportunity could have found him a different way, but who knows? Without the injury, would he have focused on improving his overall strength and not relying on his {broken} legs? Maybe. Would he have honed and sharpened his mental edge, enabling him to compete successfully on a national level? Possibly.

I remember the morning of the accident as if it was yesterday. Senior year, and I was surprisingly awake and in attendance at an 8 am class. Two missed phone calls from his mother? Something’s wrong. I knew it without even listening to the voicemail. My stomach plummeted to my feet and I could feel my breakfast churning. I don’t remember a single inch of that 200 mile drive, but god bless my friend for having the instincts to go with me. I’m still in disbelief I wasn’t pulled over anywhere along I-88, my car edging close to 90 miles per hour when I remembered that boy lying underneath a scalpel. I arrived just as he was wheeled back from surgery, a total success, the doctor had remarked. I remember holding his gym shoe, bloody and sliced open from the paramedic’s scissors, sitting right in front of his bed for us all to gawk at. In the twilight of anesthesia, he was more upset about his shoe than he was at almost losing a body part.

We laid in that hospital bed and cried, my salty tears falling onto his hospital gown, his falling into my hair. We cried for what was lost, for the terror we felt that morning, for the fear of the unknown. What would the future bring? Would he ever run again, or was the doctor wrong? Would he ever get those All-Americans he had worked so hard for? Did he really have to say farewell to football, his first athletic love?

Who knew that one day that ambulance ride would bring him to the edge of the Olympics? That an eight-inch scar would introduce him to those five gloriously interlocked rings?

Lucky, indeed.

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Body Armor.

Fear is such a funny emotion. It can ebb and flow, it can surge suddenly, or it can build slowly, creeping up on you like ivy, quietly choking you off before you realize what is happening. Fear can motivate or paralyze, it can spur anger or kindness, it can masquerade as happiness, love, worry or denial.

Whether it’s provoked from the jarring 2 am phone call or sudden heavy footsteps behind you in the dark, fear cloaks you, physiologically manifesting in your veins before your brain can begin to process and decode the danger.

Last night, fear found me. I don’t like to poke at these demons, because I know that despite valiant efforts, I can’t outrun the worry that befriends danger. I was doing a pretty good job camouflaging myself, wrapped up in a quilt, insulated and protected from the chill in the air. Then the words found me…”I blacked out during practice, holding 400 lbs.” His good nature and decidedly positive outlook helped me battle the fear for twelve hours, offering me respite in the sweet shelter of denial.

And then I saw the video.

And I watched it again. And again. And again.

After staring for the fifth time as 400 lbs pressed up against his windpipe, my throat hurt. As he fell backwards onto his elbows, mine burned. My stomach absorbed those 400 lbs, feeling heavy with worry and fear.

“It’s not a big deal. It happens occasionally.”

The knowledgable and respected veterans agreed, enjoying the video like they would any good episode of Jackass. But the wife? The wife worried. Yes, the wife is green and raw, new to the experience and disrespectful of the process. But the wife is also powerless and ripe for a revolution, ready to declare Martial Law. {Martial/Marital – not a coincidence!}

“If it happens again, you’re going to the doctor.”

I watched it again. I watched his body sway, the five feet, eleven and three-quarters inches looking like a twenty story skyscraper. His head tilts back, his eyes, I imagine, are rolling the same direction. The loss of grip comes next and the bar slides down his massive arms. Arms that could deadlift 700 lbs now look like limp noodles as they fall to his side. One last awkward, unconscious attempt to brace for impact is made by his elbows before the camera cuts.

“I told you, it’s not a big deal. My coach says…”

I replay it again. Quick, powerful…cheers from the crowd encouraging his feat of strength. And then I’m taken by surprise again when he starts to sway. I watch it intently, mesmerized as the iron giant’s tight form slackens and falls. The onlookers’ shouts turn to bellows as they rush towards him, the image going black again.

“I don’t care if God himself told you it was fine. One more time and I will fly to California and personally escort you to the hospital.”

Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Probably.

Has it happened to others in the sport before, and will it happen again? I’m sure of it.

But there is something so terrifying about watching the video that it makes me want to hop on a plane, grab his sweaty, chalky hand and bring him home with me. No, you can’t play with that toy anymore, it’s dangerous.

I am not his mother, I am not his god, I am not him. I cannot tell him what to do any more than I can tell him what to wear, who to be friends with, or how to drive {though I do try on that last one!}. Tucked away in the wrinkles of my brain is the recognition that he knows it IS a big deal, and he would probably be at the doctor without my goading if a repeat episode happens. But I need to feel the power behind delivering a rule. I need the safety net of his promise, the assurance that his common sense wasn’t knocked out when his head hit the wall.

I need the nightlight to protect me from the dark of fear, from the boogeyman who steals Olympic dreams and ends careers too soon.

I need to be able to add another tool to my kit, because fear will return. And it might even bring more friends. And maybe I won’t be completely prepared, but I’ll battle it anyway. Maybe I’ll use the shield of nagging again, or whip out the sword of ultimatums. It’s an ongoing battle against fear, and while I might be temporarily wounded, there’s a lot of fight left in me.

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Onward, the Signs Say.

“There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.”
Most of us believe in something: fate, karma, God, juju, Allah, Buddha, or luck. I believe in a mixture of these, mostly fate and karma, with a sprinkle of a divine power. It’s something greater than me, greater than my dreams, and it has a hand in where I’m going. Ever the independent female, I refuse to believe that I have no control over my life — that this powerful something is directing me against my will. Instead, I believe that coupled with hard work, intuition, and confidence, this force will guide me to where I’m meant to be: towards actualization, towards ultimate happiness and self-satisfaction, towards the feeling of calm that washes over you and settles like a warm puppy at your feet.
I try to trust the direction I’m pointed in and not fight against the current, letting the analytical side of my brain make sense of the new path while my emotions overcompensate until an equilibrium is reached. The Great California Migration, as I’ve taken to calling it {for upheaval connotes the negative and journey is overplayed}, is one of the most emotionally intense situations to manifest in my life thus far. At the ripe age of 25, I expect nothing less, and I don’t pretend that this will be the most complicated that I encounter, either. What started with the spark of hope, a forty-five minute phone call that meant more to the young man on the other end of the line than anyone could have ever imagined, settled in my soul and began to multiply. This hope, watered with excitement and nourished with whispered “what ifs,” slowly grew. The more I thought of it, the more I shared. As I shared our growing secret, a strange combination of denial and passion set in, pushing me into my traditional patterns. Research coupled with calculations led way to the “I think we can make this happen,” which led to more research and spreadsheets, which ended with “We will make this work, no matter what.”
The decision is made, our compass reoriented. Then the denial begins to melt away, slowly, revealing the core underneath the excitement. Terror, fear unlike any other, anxiety…each new emotion burrows into my stomach until I feel ill. Previously, the unknown in our life has been greeted with a smile on face, grit in my soul, and grace about my body. But this…the unknown of all unknowns, is heralded by the quaking of my organs, the smoke from my overwrought brain, the uneasiness in my face.
Marriage? I was made for this. We’ll make it. There’s no reason we wouldn’t.
Medical crisis? Give me grace. So many have it worse, I will persevere. Unknowns? Oh well. We move on.
California? Yes. Yes a million times. It’s new, and exciting, and we’re starting over! Wait, what? It’s new, and expensive, and we’re starting over. Too late to rethink. Impossible to not go. Yes. No. We can’t NOT do this. I can’t do this. Can I do this?
And then the power reappears. The signs. Not the signs you look for and convince yourself are real, but the signs that creep out of nowhere, sneak up on you in the dark and reveal themselves in the most unlikely of places…those signs appear.
California! California! California!
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