Finding Gratitude in the Dark Spots

“When you stop moving, you die.”

It looked like we were ballroom dancing, our arms meeting to form a circle. It was his job to push me out, it was my job to hold my own. He was stronger. He won. My shoulder lost.

November started with a lot of pain. As a Waldorf games teacher, I was sent to a training to learn how to teach Greek wrestling, javelin, discus and long jump to fifth graders. As with any good teaching, we learned by doing. However, I only made it partially through Greek wrestling before I sprained my shoulder. A small little muscle underneath my blade wasn’t as strong as my will. It tore in my stubborn resistance and released a flood of emotions. I cried. I was embarrassed. I sat out and watched with jealousy as the other teachers got to throw the javelin and leap through the air.

Still, even through all the pain, I was determined there had to be some silver lining to my temporary disability. The impetus, perhaps, to finally coax my determined toddler to sleep through the night without my constant soothing. A deeper empathy for how my students feel when they get hurt and can’t participate. An appreciation for being able bodied. Something. There had to be something good, to make sense of that much discomfort, that much challenge in doing the simplest tasks. Apparently you need your shoulders for just about everything. Even laughing.

Thanks to three weeks of physical therapy, my shoulder now only hurts in attempting to do things like push-ups or down dogs. The doctor was right. I was still young enough to heal quickly. But, she also changed my perspective with one simple sentence.

When I asked about keeping my shoulder immobilized, she told me, “When you stop moving, you die.” Of course, there was nothing imminently deadly about my injury, but her point hit home. It’s so easy for injuries to become our excuses to no longer move, which in turn feeds more dire health consequences. I get it. The healthiest old people  are those who haven’t stopped moving.

So, on this weekend full of gratitude, I’m choosing to be thankful for what’s hard. Hurting my shoulder was hard. Encouraging my daughter to sleep without as much comforting was really hard. A lot of this month sucked. But all these challenges made me determined to never stop moving. It was my weakness, my lack of upper body strength, that failed to protect a tiny little muscle that was the key to so much pain. I’ve avoided lifting weights pretty much my entire life, but now thanks to my shoulder and that doctor, I’ve learned an invaluable lesson. Move, even when it’s not comfortable.
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8 thoughts on “Finding Gratitude in the Dark Spots

  1. jeffo says:

    Last year I led a walk with a group from a local hiking club. At nearly 50, I was the youngest on the walk, as this group skews toward (well past) retirement age. It was a hot day, we did about 3 miles, and there were some fairly steep hills. The oldest person in the group was 93. I was afraid someone was going to drop dead, or that they were going to be worn out, but they all said, “We loved it!” I think they all recognize that the reason they were able to go out there on that hot day and hike those 3 miles is BECAUSE they go out there and hike those three miles, if you know what I mean.

    You have a great attitude, Olivia. I hope you and your family had a happy Thanksgiving.

    • olivia says:

      That’s an awesome story! So inspiring! And, definitely echos what I’m realizing… If you want to be able to do something, you have to actually do it! Thanks for the encouraging words. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!

  2. kingmidget says:

    Yeah, my groin injury from five or six years ago completely threw me for a loop. I continue to struggle with the ramifications from it and struggle with getting back on track with my running (or limited cycling) for anything longer than a few weeks at a time. Keep moving. Definitely.

    • olivia says:

      It’s so frustrating how long injuries can haunt you. I’m still worried I won’t be able to the majority of yoga poses that involve shoulders for awhile, but I’m just grateful to have my everyday functioning back. Pretty hard to chase a toddler around with only one arm available! Even if it’s challenging to get back into a rhythm, it’s great that you continue to try. A lot of people would just never go back.

      • kingmidget says:

        Yep, when you mentioned down dog, I wondered how an injured shoulder would impact a lot of the poses. One of the things I learned with my groin injury is that being patient and taking it slow is far more important than getting back into it as quickly as you can.

      • olivia says:

        Yep. I’ve pretty much given up on actual yoga classes for now because too much time is spent in poses that require shoulder strength. It’s easy to want to jump back in, but my shoulder immediately tells me no, so I’m trying to listen 😉 Patience is definitely not always easy! I’m just doing what I can and accepting that maybe power yoga won’t happen again anytime soon.

  3. Tanya says:

    There’s so much symbolism here, you are so wise…must always keep moving! I need to remember that. Hope this month is much better for you! ❤

    • olivia says:

      Thanks friend. You’ve always been an inspiration in the movement department 😉 I’m just starting to realize now is the time to do whatever it is we want because it’s not getting any easier from here, hehe.

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