It Is What It Isn't
I like to ski, I don't LOVE it. I wish I did. My husband and kids do. But they've also been skiing since they were big enough to walk. Had I learned at a younger age, no doubt I'd be more confident. The atmosphere is exhilarating, and it's a great family pastime. You're outside, active in the elements and the scenery is often breathtaking. I'm also a big fan of apres ski, the fun after the lifts close. Eating great food and playing games while warming up in a cozy lodge or little cabin by a fire is the perfect end to any day. Addy, Mia and Ben are only nine, ten and eleven. They can't be left on the mountain alone. Although they're more than proficient on skis, they still need supervision. So do I. My confidence plateaued a few years back. You don't get many opportunities for consistent practice of your own when you're keeping up with three kids!
Carl and I try to go away once or twice a year, just the two of us. Now that we don't drink as a pastime, we're exploring new ways to have fun. He LOVES to ski, and since I want to, it only makes sense to dedicate some time to developing that shared hobby! We decided to take a chance on the East Coast and planned a short trip to picturesque Stowe, Vermont.
Not only did I want some time to improve my skiing, I wanted to enjoy something Carl loved with him. This past year has been all about me. He watched helplessly as I surrendered more and more to my addiction. He drove me, cleaned me, reassured me, placated and protected me. All the while he held fast in continual prayer. He sought the help of others and asked for guidance. He loved me unconditionally, brokenness and all. He's always been my biggest supporter and advocate. Now that I'm sober, ever more so. He's genuinely interested in what I'm learning in recovery. He's taken the initiative to learn about being married to an addict through family support groups. He listens intently and encourages without ceasing. How can I ever express my gratitude for all he has done and continues to do for me and our family?!
This past Friday, February 19, our trip began like any other. After a couple of early flights and a short drive through the green mountains, we made it to Edson Hill. We spent Friday evening renting our gear and resting up for an active weekend. We were up early Saturday morning, dressed and at breakfast by 8:30. It's amazing how much quicker things happen without kids! The weather was not ideal. It was overcast and too warm to snow. The day's forecast was calling for drizzle and nothing about the scenery was "picturesque." Despite all of this, I was surprisingly optimistic. I was excited with our freedom and had no anxiety about schedules or plans.
The clouds and fog reduced visibility significantly. It was the warmest weather I'd ever skied in. The trails were patchy with ice from days of fluctuating temps. On our very first run, I hit one of those patches. I lost control and somersaulted multiple times with skis still attached, tearing my ACL.
I didn't know at the time the severity of my injury. I was cold and full of adrenaline. Unable to feel my left leg, I prayed for a blackout should something be broken. I could hear the fear in Carl's voice as he removed my ski. There were people around calling for help and it wasn't long before I was pulled down the mountain in a medical sled. Ski patrol determined it wasn't broken, but when I attempted to lean my body weight on my left leg, it collapsed. There was little to be done in a local facility. I'd have to wait until we got home to learn more. Over the next two days, Carl nursed my swelling knee with bags of ice every twenty minutes, resting only for a few hours of sleep a night.
He commented many times on my attitude. He said I was "handling it great" and that I was a "good patient". What choice did I have? Sure, I'd heard nightmares about the recovery and rehabilitation process of repairing an ACL, but it didn't matter to me. I hadn't had to feel (or see) my shin bone sticking out of my ski pants! Long, slow recovery versus instant pain and suffering-I'll take it!
We flew home Monday morning. Between my injury and our departure I rested a lot, icing my knee for hours. With the brace and crutches, I was able to take short breaks to visit a few shops and restaurants. I enjoyed being forced to take it easy, read, and play cards by the fire.
Throughout the weekend, and still today, I find myself correcting people when they apologize for my accident or express concerns about my recovery. I know they mean well, they're simply being empathetic. The truth is, I just don't see it the way everyone else is. I don't really know why. I've always been a "half glass empty" kind of girl. Now, I'm seeing all the positives in things, without even trying. Rather than focusing on what terrible thing did happen, I'm thinking of all the more terrible things that didn't...and still aren't!
The visual that keeps coming to mind is Rubin's Vase. It's the famous black and white optical illusion developed in the early 1900's by psychologist Edgar Rubin. The image is two dimensional and symmetrical. Some people see a vase, others see two faces. Is the black the positive print and the white the negative space...or vice versa? Either way, the brain chooses (without our preference) which way to see the image. Do we see the positive or the negative? And which is which?!
I'm feeling like everything is a Rubin's Vase right now. Without even trying, I'm seeing the positives in my situation, not the negatives. This can only be of God. It's counterintuitive to how I usually operate! Monday, someone looked at my crutches and frowned with sadness, "I'm so sorry for you!"
My reply, "it's ok, really. It is what it is."
Later, thinking of that exchange, I was disappointed with my apathy. Sure, I wasn't complaining, but I wasn't rejoicing either. I felt like someone who'd just opened a gift, looked it over quickly while mumbling a petty thank you and cast it aside eager to move on to the next. How selfish and ungrateful of me!
Yes, I was injured while on a romantic weekend getaway. It prevented us from doing all the fun things we'd planned. It's very inconvenient, leaving me almost completely incapacitated. I'm missing out on some plans and can't really do anything for myself. My injury will require surgery and a very long, involved recovery. There are more things, however that it isn't.
It isn't going to confine me to a hospital bed for a long time.
It isn't going to jeopardize my long term involvement with my kids.
It isn't going to require expensive medications to treat.
It isn't going to require care that will limit Carl's ability to work or function.
It isn't going to require us to make life or death decisions for our family.
It isn't restricting my diet.
It isn't restricting my ability to communicate.
It isn't so debilitating that it is alarming to my children to watch.
It isn't really even painful.
Sure, everything happens for a reason. I've heard and acknowledged that it could be worse and if I don't laugh, I'll cry. I understand that, I might as well make the most of it, and what doesn't kill me makes me stronger.
This too shall pass.
But, I don't really feel any of those things. I'm too small and insignificant to stamp a single catch phrase across my predicament. I know these things make sense and are mostly true. That's why they're such popular recognitions. But I don't want to spend my life just accepting, indifferently, what happens in my life. I want to grow from it all, learn from it. Otherwise, what's the point? It's much easier to settle with present circumstances. But I'm learning it takes more energy to stay negative, conjure up the disadvantages and focus on the inconveniences. I can't control any of it, why waste effort whining about it?
I don't know why or how my reaction to this situation is different from past experiences. I'm not going to try and figure it out. I'm just thankful that I'm not reluctantly satisfied with it being what it is.
I'm going to rejoice in what it isn't.