I am taking a short break from my mindfulness series to do a bit of a reflection. Three years ago I had my spinal fusion surgery. Reflecting over the past three years really makes me sentimental. Going into that surgery was terrifying. What if this? What if that? I had painstakingly gone through the process of finding the right surgeon for me and one who believed I would get back to my old self. There was no hesitation and his confidence allowed me to let go of my own fears and literally put my life into his hands. I cannot stress to you enough the importance of a second, third, or fourth opinion. And I cannot stress to you enough the importance of rehabilitation after the fact. Since my surgery three years ago I have once again competed at a national level, have had the ability to go on 12+ mile hikes, taken part in crossfit workouts that include Olympic type lifting, continued to do light gymnastics tumbling, have had the ability to be on my feet all day whether at a museum or other event, and I could name a hundred more. Pain free through it all! Of course I can get sore on occasion if I overdo it, but doesn’t everyone? I learned how to listen to my body. I learned patience and perseverance and vulnerability. I have since recovered from an eating disorder because this surgery allowed me to realize how much of a hold it still had on my mind when I was forced to give up daily exercise. I started graduate school and am on a path towards a career I am passionate about. I have grown so much as a person and I continue to strive towards what makes me truly happy. It was nowhere near easy, but it changed me as a person and really had an impact on my life that makes me thankful I had to go through it. If you are in the midst of a difficult situation in life, keep enduring. Take it that one day at a time and soon you will look back and realize things are for the better. Everything takes time.
Year one of graduate school complete! I don’t get much of a break, but I can breathe a bit. I know year two will be more challenging due to thesis work and more difficult courses, but I have learned a lot about life and myself in the process to feel confident. I truly feel balanced. I went into grad school not knowing how I would fare. Prior to grad school I had spent a lot of time physically healing from back surgery and mentally healing from the eating disorder. I had a few classes and completed some important certifications, but ultimately this time was focused on recovery and building a solid foundation. Jumping back into the real world was both exhilarating and frightening. It hasn’t all been perfect, I know it’s not supposed to be. In fact, it has been a bit messy. Messy and beautiful. Difficult. Agonizing. Tiring. Wonderful. Amazing. All of it. I haven’t written in a long time because of this last stretch of projects and tests. Also because I was trying to stay afloat. I should have been writing and reading and coloring and using all those self-care techniques, but stress got the better of me. I have enjoyed not being paralyzed with stress and able to do some things not related to school. This is important for me to remember and realize going forward that taking time to myself and putting school work aside is not selfish. Stopping to go out to eat and put down the journal articles is not selfish. Going to bed early is not selfish. I am so grateful for the people in my life and grateful for my life itself. My field of work can be difficult some days, but it has taught me a lot about patience and a lot about making your life worthwhile by doing things you love. So for me, please stop today and take time to do something for yourself. Reflect on the past few weeks, months, years, and think about if your life is in alignment with your passions and desires.
So the real reason why I am on this vacation in the first place – my sister! Today was the first day of the AAU Junior Olympic Games where she is competing in jump rope. We are both competitive jump ropers and it always feels good to get back in the gym and watch competitions after not competing myself for a few years. I am and have been considering competing again next year. I feel I owe it to myself to have at least one competition where I am healthy again. We will see. Anyways, we got up early and my dad made cheese omelets (with salsa), half an english muffin with peanut butter, and raspberries. Of course with coffee on the side. We then drove to the complex where the competition was being held, but we ended up being earlier than expected so we stopped for even more coffee. Not that it is relevant but my favorite drink at Starbucks is an iced caramel macchiato! Back to jump rope. If you have never seen a jump rope competition, just google it. Really….go google competitive jump rope and then come back and read because it might make more sense! Today my sister competed in four events. Speed and power. During speed, a jumper alternates feet for one minute and the judges count only the right foot. Top people in the sport are hitting 175+ to give you a bit of an idea. Power is where jumpers do as many double unders in a minute, or triple unders for older age groups. There are also partner events which are more like relays where one person goes for 30 seconds and the next person goes for 30 seconds. I am a very proud sister because it is awesome to watch her fall in love with the sport that I did. I am also easing back into coaching and it is wonderful to see all the younger jumpers experience competition for the first time. For everyone though it can be a very long day. I almost feel like it is longer sitting in the stands than competing. We broke the day up a little by going to Panera in between events where I had a turkey avocado blt and a side of mac and cheese. And you guessed it, more coffee. I usually don’t drink this much but I was very tired after not sleeping well the night before. The day ended with awards and my sister finished in the top ten in every event. This is a smaller compeititon for her so she only has one event tomorrow and one on Monday.
I spent a lot of time reflecting today on my experience with jump rope because today is exactly two years ago that I had my spinal fusion surgery. I was diagnosed with dysplastic spondylolisthesis (vertebrae were slipping off of each other and compressing spinal cord and nerves) in 2012, the same year that I represented Team USA at the World competition. The whole ordeal left me frustrated and in pain and the competition was one I would like to forget. That is the last competition I competed in which is half the reason I want to compete again. To end on a more positive note. I held off and finally had surgery in 2013. I have never felt better or stronger physically and mentally since then and for that I am grateful. It was a tough recovery, but worth it. Between the physical recovery of the surgery and mental recovery of the eating disorder, a whole new world has opened up to me and I am blessed every day that I can still train in a sport that I love. As well as try out new sports. I have been involved in crossfit for over a year now and it is a community that I love dearly. Stepping away from competition and trying new things gave me a sense of self that I had lost. I no longer feel that I have to compete. I want to because I am strong and because I want to see what I am capable of while being in top physical and mental health. We will see what happens as the future unfolds, but I am grateful every day that I have the option to jump if I want to.
Everyone was pretty tired from the day’s events so we can back to our friend’s and we were treated to bbq chicken, squash casserole, and baked beans. Wine and dessert too of course. All of which I indulged in happily. I did have a stray thought about not deserving such a nice meal after just sitting around all day, but I let that slide in one ear and out the other and continued to enjoy a very nice evening. I look forward to the competition tomorrow and wish my sister and teammates the best of luck!