Have you encountered days when you feel as if the universe is conspiring against you? When everything that could possibly go wrong storms into your life, leaving you befuddled, questioning … why me?
Well that’s what happened to me over the past few months…
It all started when I decided to make some alterations to the house. Having planted roots for over 10 years, it was desperately in need of revamping. First on the list was the tatty kitchen followed by the children’s outdated bathroom. After much consultation, twisting of arms and legs, I finally got the go-ahead from Neil, my financial manager/husband.
I was ecstatic to set the wheels in motion on ‘operation beautify’. Pinterest became my new best friend as I hunted for kitchen ideas. I couldn’t wait for it all to commence… not to worry about cooking every night, washing dishes, fantasising how it would turn out.
Once the carpenter and plumber were contracted, the groundwork began. Everything had to be packed up with only the bare necessities around. Sadly, one is never prepared for what happens next. An arch had to be removed between the kitchen and dining area and as much as I tried to protect the furniture in the house, dust permeated the air, seeping into every cavity. It didn’t matter how many times I cleaned, it refused to be intimidated, each day leaving layer upon layer of grey matter in its wake. At first it unsettled me, but as the days progressed I stopped caring, trying to limit my time at home.
The process was harrowing, not only for me but everyone in the household. Our home had become a building site and since we had to live through it, were confined to our rooms, feeling displaced. It took a toll on Neil and I, we bickered on delays experienced; lost days and the inaccurate estimation when it would be finished.
As this upheaval was unfolding, I also found out I was injured … again. For the past three years, during the month of September, I’ve been side-lined from running. Prior to this, I was doing so well, worked with a running coach for months, was at my peak, running times I never thought possible. The only thing I did differently was change my running shoes from Asics to New Balance (a light, cushioned, neon number) I fell in love with. I was also increasing my distance steadily as I was aiming to run the 21km Gun Run in October.
Unfortunately, the shoe didn’t agree with me and I started to feel pain in the knees especially running downhill. I iced them regularly, lathered on creams, popped anti-inflammatories, hoping it would miraculously clear up. Then one day as I was walking my dogs I felt the joint in one of my knees grind together, emitting a searing pain and I knew I was in trouble.
I went to see a podiatrist to examine my knees and advise on the shoes. He enquired whether there was any knee problems in my family. “Yes,” I replied, “my Mother has osteoarthritis and suffers in constant pain”. I was advised to have x-rays done to determine whether the injury could be picked up on a scan.
Subsequently he called delivering the news that I was indeed injured. The diagnosis being “runner’s knee” which normally occurs when the patellar runs off track due to overuse, weak muscles around the knee or problems stemming from flat feet. He went on to say I have signs of early osteoarthritis! I was advised to curtail long distance running as this would lead to early knee replacements as the cartilage was steadily wearing away.
I already suspected I was injured but hearing I have the same diagnosis as my Mom set my anxiety off. Knowing how much pain and suffering she endures offered no comfort. Having to accept the fate that I will never be able to fulfil a dream of running a marathon or even comrades, hurt immensely.
It all became too much, the renovations, the injury, osteoarthritis … I couldn’t handle it. I shut down … didn’t exercise, write or want to be at home. I couldn’t make sense of it. Being a passionate runner who works incredibly hard to achieve her goals, why did I encounter so many setbacks? Is my body sending warning signs I’m overtraining and need to back down?
As much I’ve tried to come to terms with what this means to my running, I still cannot accept it. It’s hard to imagine I won’t be able to run a half marathon, something I’ve been able to do a few times and wished to repeat. It felt like everything I’ve worked so hard towards had fallen apart and I didn’t know how to fix it.
The silver lining is that I can still run, albeit only 10km distances and not overstress my knees. Exercise plays a vital role in the maintenance of osteoarthritis and I need to explore other fitness areas to ensure I preserve my joints to take care of me for the rest of my life.
For a few weeks, I ambled around aimlessly. Not having the luxury of losing myself in exercise any longer, I threw myself into fiction writing. I was tasked to write a short story by a creative writing group I belong to and had less than a month to get it done! Since I had no idea what I was going to write about, I prayed on it and asked God to help me.
As I was driving into town, dropping my daughter at varsity, a song by Adele came on, titled “All I ask”. The song captures the notion of what it would be like for two friends to be lovers for one night, because for whatever reason they may never be together again. The lyrics was laced in emotion, conveying a deep sadness. It sparked my interest and became the inspiration I needed.
I have never felt so exhilarated writing a story before! Since I wasn’t exercising, cooking or cleaning, I committed to the process 100%. Everything locked into place; the characters, plot and setting. I gave myself a deadline to have it written in two weeks to send off the first draft to a group of writers I trusted for honest feedback. I worked day and night on it, not giving myself time off until it was completed.
Something profound happened when I wrote that story. The characters came to life, they became people I knew a lot about and they were communicating how they wanted the story to go. Even though I had a plot in place, they didn’t like the ending I had in mind. I became engrossed in them, their story, their message. I was not the writer, merely the scribe. As I edged closer to the denouement, I cried as I didn’t think it would turn out that way.
I’ve questioned for a long time why fiction writing was so hard to break into. I always put it down to my limited experience and not having sufficient time to commit to it fully. Now I know differently, I was writing things that was forced, that didn’t appeal to me. When something stirs my soul, when it makes me care, when it forces me to take a stand, a voice appears that guides me to write my best work.
This story diminished the doubts and fears I’ve harboured for far too long. The belief that I wasn’t good enough to be a fiction writer, that I didn’t have what it takes to make a mark for myself in this world. The journey that unfolded before my fingertips is one I’ll always cherish. It was a time when I had nothing to lose, when inspiration coursed through my veins, when my purpose was illuminated.
During my discovery, the kitchen took shape, transforming into something spectacular. My injury cleared up and the knees were smiling. I was sitting with a short story that hadn’t been reviewed by my creative writing group, yet I was immensely proud of my effort, no matter the outcome.
So perhaps when things don’t work out as anticipated, when we stop feeling sorry for ourselves, we get to see the rainbow glowing in the distance. A blessing from God declaring the storm is over, we’ve made it… wiser and stronger than before.