Acromialclavicular joint degeneration. Or, as I prefer to call it, ‘shark bite’. It’s easier and lighter to explain away the sling. The out-of-balance. The absence. The frustration. The silence.
My left shoulder carries the memories of trauma that is more than a decade-old. It stopped carrying the load nicely about four weeks ago- and simply let go. The clavicle is fragmenting, frayed, deconstructed.
It comes as no surprise: if one is carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, indefinitely… at some point, something’s got to give.
Patiently, I ground my way through the labyrinth of western medicine. X-rays. MRI. Consults with orthopedic surgeons. Lack of mobility, lack of strength, lack of circulation. I’d been walking around with the hand tucked into the pocket of my vest for… months. Using the arm less and less. When I could no longer throw a left hook (or tie my shoes), I knew it was Time.
The good thing about western medicine is it’s relatively comprehensive at diagnosing what ISN’T wrong. It’s absolutely useless for addressing a Whole Person, a complete body-mind-soul-spirit composite that’s fragmenting in plain sight. I didn’t talk about the chest pain. Or the waking up in the middle of the night feeling as though I’m suffocating. I didn’t talk about the cortisol that’s raging out of control. Or the corresponding weight gain. I didn’t talk about the lump in my armpit, or the pain in my sternum. I let the X-rays do all the talking: there’s “nothing wrong” with me.
Ahhhhhhh. As the massage therapist gripped my pectoralis minor and held the golf-ball sized knot that used to be the foundation of my chest strength, all I could do was exhale agony. My body feels like it’s broken from the inside out. Training didn’t do this. Trauma and heartbreak did this. More than a decade ago. It’s just now (finally) reached a point where I can no longer ignore it.
Scar tissue. Adhesions. Torn, scrappy muscles. I’ve tried so hard. I’ve given everything I have in order to do all that I’ve done. I gave myself permission to come to a complete stop. I gently set aside all of the obligations, all of the “should” and “could” and “would”. I let go. I couldn’t teach Level 2 Krav with one arm in a sling and my head on sideways. I couldn’t continue training without a clear understanding of what is wrong and how I’m going to make it Right.
Yesterday, my custom mobility brace arrived. Last night, for the first time in four weeks, I sweated my way through a workout at Elite Urban Fitness. Sweat is good camouflage for tears, and there was plenty of both. It let the hurt out. It took everything I had NOT to stay for the Krav classes that follow on Monday nights. I know better. There is a lot of work between here and there.
It’s always going to be a balancing act: the AC joint is crumbling. The surrounding soft tissue, tendons and ligaments can be convinced to support it more comprehensively. It’s not my first rodeo, though. I have a crushed sacro-iliac joint (sciatic nervvvvvvvvve) in my right hip from a little encounter with an angry horse. I’ve climbed mountains and rock and ice with that leg, raced my fat bike on snow covered rivers and trails, run an ultra-marathon and become a Level 3 Krav Maga instructor. One thing I’ve learned? There is pain that is more intense and more horrific than that of using a damaged joint. It’s called ‘sitting still’. So long as I stay in motion, I have decades of good years left.
I’m finding my way, slowly but surely. None of the stress factors have changed, none of the difficulties have sorted themselves out. There’s something about these Middle Places. These cauldrons. These crucibles. Learn the lessons. Move with intention. Do no harm.
I have something now that I’ve never had previously. I have People. Friends, capitalized. A tribe of strong, powerful, fierce, capable, independent women and men who are fighting their own battles and STILL have time to steady me when I stumble, pick me up when I fall, carry me when I can’t crawl any further.
So this broken place? This is a Gift. A beautiful, dimensional, tactile, tangible Present from the Universe. This is what it means to be Awake. Aware. Present. Here. Now.
Since June of this year, I have represented myself and my daughter in court, as my own attorney, in an effort to give my daughter a Voice. It continues. Since June of this year, I’ve carried an inordinately heavy caseload at work, navigated the loss of 25% of our staff, the rehiring, retraining, liaison work. It continues. Since February of this year, I have been injured and broken and fractured and healed in more places than I can list. It continues.
Thank you. To each one of you. You know who you are. You’ve sent emails and texts and flowers, you’ve walked beside me to places no one should ever have to go. You’ve sat with me. You’ve translated for me. You’ve been my voice when I lost mine, you’ve been my hope and light and determination. You have been my Never Quit.
If you see me training and it looks like hell, don’t feel sorry for me. Be glad. Be happy. If I’m sweating and crying and swearing and grinding my way through… I’m engaged in The Process. I’ll be back. Not to where I was, not to something I used to know- but to where I need to Be. This is where it’s at.
Thank you. Yes, you. For reading, for taking a moment (or eleventy-nine) to listen and understand. It matters. I calculate it will take 100 workouts for me to find a new normal. Last night, I made it 99.