Pushing Beyond Your Limits

We all see the slogans about overcoming adversity. We all see the inspirational quotes on Pinterest and Facebook and every other social media interface about perseverance, commitment, pushing the envelope, achieving your goals, etc.  And for the most part every person subscribes to the 144 character life changing moment for, well just a moment. Unfortunately those moments are short lived because “it becomes too hard.”

No kidding it’s hard. It’s easy in the beginning but after a fairly short period of time it becomes too hard to continue. We make excuses left and right–some are valid but most are just that, excuses. We say time and time again “Tomorrow. I will start tomorrow.” And some times we do and some times we don’t.

It is all easier said than done. Whether it is making a commitment to weight loss, better diet, consistent exercise, practicing your musical instrument, learning a new skill…the list goes on. It is easier said than done. The majority will start and then fail. A small minority will stick with it for a longer period of time. They will achieve a moderate amount of success but will then stop pushing to newer heights because it started to get too hard. Then there are those few–the ones who say / think: “I can and will do this.” And ultimately they are successful.

I am confident that I am a member of each category. It all depends upon the topic. Most recently however I find I am somewhere between the group of folks who achieve moderate success and then cease growth and those who keep pushing to new limits when it comes to my physical, let’s call them ‘challenges.’

It’s not a secret to anyone what life has been like for me since the fall of 2009. That was when I acknowledged to myself that the knee pain I was experiencing was not going to go away on its own.  Six years ago I faced up to it…but let’s face facts, the pain had begun a number of years prior to this moment of acknowledgement.  Without beating a dead horse, it is safe to say that the amount of arthritis in both knees, both hips, shoulders and yes, elbows, has reached a certain level of critical mass. (And while I have addressed my knees and hips you can forget about my shoulders for a while…sucking up that pain for as long as possible or I’ll be out of a job!)

But this post is not about all of that, it is about what happens AFTER you finish the prescribed amount of PT. It is about what happens AFTER you wake up on a rainy morning and struggle to get through the day. It is about what happens AFTER you drive from NY to DE and have to extract yourself from your car.

There is every reason in the world to take things slow, not to over do things, keep it all to a bare minimum…there is every reason to do those things because you hurt. But I can’t do that. I can’t sit back and watch the rest of my life drain away. I can’t mark time through the next 20, 30 or possibly 40 years. …and perhaps it is better for me to say “I won’t.”

I suppose there are those folks out there who see a woman, who is on the other side of the half century mark, logging miles on a road cycle and think “Mid-life crisis.” And perhaps they are right except for one part–this is NOT mid-life for me. What are they saying now–60’s are the new 40’s? Well then that puts me back in my 30’s! But all humor aside, for me, it is about a conscious choice.

Sure I hurt. If the sun comes up in the morning you can guarantee that one to four different joints in my body hurts. Am I being rebuilt? Yes. I joke about it of course–I call them “The Boys,” the team of men who I see for whatever ailment is the most current. I joke about them “patching me up” all the time. The truth is, they do…and only occasionally do I get Lecture 101: “back off at the gym” or “stay off the hills for a few weeks” or “cut back on the coffee and NSAIDS” or the best of the best: “You need to find a way to decompress.” I am quite sure I exasperate them all but, heck, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t make them earn every last penny insurance reluctantly coughs up to them.

But this is also not the point of this post.

I, like everyone else with OA, struggle with pain. But it is the choice one makes each and every day that defines me, NOT the pain. So I get up and I go to work. Either before or after work I put on bike clothes, strap that bike to the back of the car, drive out to the flats along the canal and LET HER RIP! …and then I come home, strap the bag of ice on my knee, lie on the floor and prop the leg up on the side of the couch (while a basset hound licks the salt off my face). And the next day or two days later I go out and do it all over again–each time pushing the sprint times a bit more and feeling the burn in every square inch of my body. Sometimes I beat a personal record on one of the courses, sometimes I don’t. But each and every time I feel ALIVE.

No, it is not a mid-life crisis. No, it is not insane either. It is about choosing to push the envelope a bit more every day and not giving into the things that could hold you back. It is about getting out there and living–pushing beyond your limits. Some will understand. Some will scoff. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks…except me.