Jogging Writer: No Sprain, No Gain?

It finally happened. I’m running along, happy as can be, and the goats are up on the hillside doing their goat thing. They meeaa-aa-aa at me. I meeaa-aa-aa back at them. Around the far side of the barn, I see Bang Bang, one of two billy goats on this particular farm I run past. He’s aptly named, but not for the typical goat behavior of ramming into things, rather, for his two distinctly curled, blond tufts of hair that arc like styled bangs over his big, batty eyelashes. Yes, Bang Bang is named for his hair.

“Hey Bang Bang!” I shout. Goats have facial recognition. I love this fact. “How’s it goin’?” I ask. And that’s when my foot falls down on the pavement. But not the pavement exactly, more like that awful edge where the pavement ends and the grass starts. On this particular curve, the height difference between the two surfaces is nearly two inches…enough to make me roll my left ankle fully, stumble for several steps, nearly fall to the ground, then regain balance.

How bad it is? I run a few more paces to gauge and I can’t tell. Experience has taught me that “no pain” means “masked pain” and so, although every cell that ever played sports or trained hard is telling me to go-go-go, I stop. Look up at the sky. Let out a growling yelp of exasperation, and turn around.

Up on the hillside, Bang Bang comes around the other side of the barn. Spring-green grasses trail from his mouth, tangled in a prize branch. I look away, mournful. Already, I’ve gone to a dark place. Already, I’ve leapt to conclusions–no training for months, pounds of weight gain, permanent chair-butt. I have experienced so many foot and ankle injuries in my life, I know this dark place well. It lacks the voice of reason. It’s a well of stagnation. And it’s horrible for my writing, too.

I limp back to the car, stumble into the house, and eat two pieces of gluten-free cake left over from my Bridal Shower. I lick the plate. The cats stare at me, an inanimate object in the kitchen. That’s when it hits me–I haven’t stopped. It’s two weeks until the wedding and I’ve been go-go-go. I’m trying to work ahead so that my time off can be fully covered. I’m trying to finish the novel, too. I’m trying to journal and meditate and schedule massages and do it all right. But in my hustle, I’ve been doing something wrong.

Within a few hours, I’m clear-headed enough to see there’s not much swelling around the ankle joint and bruising is unlikely. I treat it according to Tom Bisio’s Chinese medicine approach for sports injuries, a text that has saved me many times before. I rest. I elevate. I use moxibustion and trauma liniment. I call Shihan Baker and tell him I can’t come to class–weight bearing is too painful, let alone rapid movement–and he calls me off Mercy Me Hill anyway, saying he has a salve for injuries that increases healing time. Brad takes me to town, I bow into the dojo and to my teacher, he dabs the ankle, and I go back home.

For the next two days, I try hard to ignore email. I try not to overeat, but fail. I forgive myself. I eat some more. I don’t forgive myself. But through it all, I’ve finally pushed through the dialogue scene in Chapter 17 of the novel. I’ve figured out how to deal with the flashback in Chapter 18. I’ve fully revised Chapter 19. And although every page I’ve touched will need to be looked at again, this is still something I can call progress.

Or maybe slowing down is a better word for it.

Brad brings me flowers in a vase. He sings me ridiculous, rhyming songs about ridiculous things. The cats sleep on my lap. I watch a movie. I watch another movie. (This happens approximately once ever 24 months…a big deal!) By the end of the week I’m walking with a bit more ease. There’s still a limp. Still pain. But I’m here. I’m breathing. I’m slowing down.

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