The Uninvited Guest

Getting ready for the Get in Gear Race, April 2013.

It happened November 9, 2013.

It was a Saturday morning and I was out for a run—a longer one, I’d hoped.  Clouds settled over the Twin Cities region, with temperatures in the mid-forties.  No, it was not winter yet, no snow or ice.  I could still run on a clean, paved track along River Road.  It was good to be outdoors, doing what I loved to do.

And then it happened.  I’d covered four and a half miles when suddenly my right leg began to hurt—a lot.  Far more intense than simple soreness or fatigue, this pain was like I’d never experienced before, shooting down my leg with each step.  I wondered how I’d ever get back home, a mile and a half away.

Though concerned, I tried putting on a little optimism, if not downright denial, by clinging to an unlikely hope that the pain would subside all by itself, and soon I’d resume my comfortable run.  That never happened.

Somehow I made it home, every step on the way a throbbing one, until at last I was home, so glad to be off my feet.  Though I usually run every other day, I knew this time would be different. “I won’t be able to run Monday,” I thought.  “I’ll need more rest.  I’ll probably have to wait until Tuesday.”  That never happened either.

By Tuesday, I realized that this injury would need some help to heal.   Diagnosed with an injury to my adductor muscle, I underwent a series of chiropractic treatments, along with rest and frequent periods of icing, hoping I’d be pain-free in a week, maybe two.  After all, I’d registered for the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot 5K with my family, and time was getting close. Surely I’d be ready by then. But as time grew nearer, a healthy sense of realism told me that I would not run in this race.  With sadness, I wrote to my son, “I won’t be able to run with you on Thanksgiving, but I’ll be on the sidelines cheering you and Dad on.”  And so it was.

It’s now been two months since my injury, and I’m well on the path to healing.  Chiropractic adjustments, laser treatments, ice, rest, and appropriate exercises have helped me rebound.  I’m now in the “rehab” portion of my recovery.  I’m even running a little, and I’m optimistic that another run is in my future.

During this time of recovery, I’ve thought of the poem “The Guesthouse” by Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet.  Many of us are familiar with this poem, a beautiful piece of writing that encourages us to welcome everything that greets us in lifeeven illness, injury, and disappointment—because everything that life brings to us has something to teach us.  Here’s the poem:

This being human is a guest house

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

Some momentary awareness comes

As an unexpected visitor.

 Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

Who violently sweep your house

Empty of its furniture,

Still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

For some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

Meet them at the door laughing.

And invite them to come in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

Because each has been sent

As a guide from beyond.

Frankly, I did not welcome this injury.  It was an uninvited guest, an unwelcome intruder that stole my joy of a regular running practice.   It brought with it many fears that lingered in my mind while I was healing.  I worried that the damage I incurred would take too long to heal, that I would no longer run distances again or even run at all.   I wanted it to go away.

But if I seriously reflect on the words of Rumi (and maybe it’s easier now that I’m on the path to healing), and ask if this guest taught me anything, I’d have to say yes, I’ve learned some things.

These past two months have deepened my appreciation for running. When I run, my life is enriched.  And perhaps I have also grown in my empathy toward others who, upon being injured, are prevented from doing that which brings them life.  After all, an injury is a loss and all losses, no matter how minor or uneventful we deem them, affect us.  They deserve our respectful attention.

And so I continue the work of strengthening and healing.  And for those who also wait for healing and a return to what they love to do, I wish them well.

Good healing to all.

The Great Grape Race near Baltimore, MD., August 2013.
The Great Grape Race near Baltimore, MD., August 2013.

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