A few weeks ago on the Facebook page Outdoor Women’s Alliance a woman was moaning openly about having trashed her ACL, and she needed help walking her dog. Two things happened: offers poured in, and so did supportive advice from a great many other skiers/boarders/athletes who have had similar injuries.
Not long after that she posted again, in tears in her doctor’s office, because the injury was worse than they had thought. Two surgeries, time off. Her world had crumbled, and on top of that she’d had a bad breakup. It was the end of everything, sounded like.
Except it isn’t. This community quickly reminded this woman that first of all, lots of other woman have had this and even more serious accidents and have returned to their sports. We all survive jerk boyfriends (or girlfriends) and we move on. Many offered up my favorite examples: those who took the time to sculpt incredible arms while they couldn’t use their pegs, those who focused on different body parts and even surprised themselves with what they had accomplished. Funny what an accident will make you focus on.
Supreme world champion para climber Mo Beck, who is missing one hand, was interviewed on NPR the other day. I was reminded, as I often am when I listen to people who have already dealt with their limitations and rewritten their entire lives making a disability their strength, that we spend an awful lot of time complaining about what happens to us as though we assume that nothing ever will.
OWA’s community (which includes Beck) is full of damned powerful women who take chances. I’m one of them. Those chances nearly cost me my life several times last year. I had horrific injuries, but I wouldn’t pull the throttle back for anyone for any reason. I’m perhaps a touch less resilient at 65 than some of these twenty-somethings in the body but mentally I’m unstoppable.
For me, taking it on head, the hips, the pelvis, the lower back are all part of how we build that resilience. It comes with the territory. We pays our money and we takes our chances. Sometimes the price is high. My accidents are my best comedy material.
Not everyone rises after a fall. Famously and very publicly, Ronda Rousey, the supremely talented WWE mixed martial arts fighter who had such a powerful winning record, virtually went into a tailspin after she was beaten by Amanda Nunes. Rousey was so accustomed to being on top and winning all her bouts, she could not emotionally deal with being beaten. And it’s taking her a while to come back.
On the other hand, top American downhill skier Lindsay Vohn has repeatedly and severely injured her knees, her arm and other body parts yet has consistently returned to consistently win. Like her or not, that’s impressive. No matter how seriously she’s hurt she puts 6-8 hours a day into training- whether for a comeback or this week’s Winter Olympics. A great deal of this is pure emotional resiliency, drive, will to succeed and an absolute determination to get back on the snow, and win.
That is the same kind of extraordinary drive that gets a double- or quadruple-amputee back to the gym. A paraplegic pushing a heavy sled across the carpet. It’s pure spirit. The potential to tap into that spirit exists in each and every one of us.
We are all allowed a moment of Pity Party. Take a moment and let the emotions flow. It’s part of the deal. We have suffered a loss (probably our notion of invincibility) and we get a ticket to be sad. Then you can choose your path: work your butt off to get better, or decide you’re a victim.
If we are going to play hard, we have to be prepared to injure hard. I am currently dealing with an almost-total rotator cuff tear from two horse incidents. Right now my workout is all legs and core- anything not in a sling. Surgery will happen when it happens and meanwhile I have work to do. As does anyone who is injured. When we move, we send much needed oxygen rich blood everywhere it’s most needed. We are telling out bodies we want to be well. As long as we don’t work the busted bits, we’re usually fine.
I posted a photo on a different thread of the two women runners who helped each other out in a race when one fell in the 2016 Olympics. Then today I was watching the cross country skiers, the men, race. One crashed into the other but they did NOT assist each other to get up.
I guarantee you the latter video is not going to make it around the world as an example of Olympic spirit. Showing up – as we do on OWA and in other places where radical women are determined to kiss trees at high speeds on Black Diamond runs and other foolish (but wonderful) endeavors which leave us broken and hurting- is what women do for each other. Tonya Harding notwithstanding, this community of women is not only determined to push the limits but also pay for them, as well as be here when we heal.
OWA, SheVentures, Bold Betties and other similar organizations and communities are changing the conversation about women in sports. We erase boundaries and we pay the price. And when we’re busted up we pass the wine bottle and talk about what PT to use, what exercises to try, and can I walk your dog this week?
We want the Walking Wounded back out in the wild as soon as possible.
Note: Photo Credit TheClymb.com blog; please visit theclymb.com for radical gear and trip deals. I do. Often.