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Erin Silver Headshot

Sometimes You Have To Ride Through The Pain

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I either broke or badly bruised my pinkie toe the other day when I somehow smashed it against a door frame. This is no big deal as far as looks are concerned. Pinkie toes are especially ugly to begin with; in my opinion, they resemble a stubby, malformed finger. Now my stubby malformed finger of a pinkie toe was also colourful and swollen.

When I banged it on the door I had been asking my boyfriend's seven-year-old daughter for her opinion on which dress I should wear to dinner that night. I couldn't decide between a green dress and a black one, which she thought looked like a robe, incidentally. So, as I was rushing around figuring out what to wear I somehow banged my toe. Pain radiated from my toe and shot through my entire body. If ever there was a good time to scream a bad word this was it. So I let it rip.

"Fuuuuuuck!" I yelled as I collapsed onto my hardwood floor. I lay there, halfway between the offending bathroom door and my bedroom, flat on my stomach, my toe throbbing.

"Are you OK," she asked, genuinely concerned. She got a towel from my linen closet and gently placed it over my foot, as if it had died. She's probably heard the F-word before, but never so loudly, and my scream must have worried her. I lay there for a few minutes more, a towel on my foot, allowing the pain to burn. Then, because I had no other choice, I picked myself back up. I chose an entirely different maxi dress to wear at dinner, since the only pair of shoes I could now wear were flip flops. In the absence of my special towel, a maxi dress was the only thing that could cover my unsightly footwear.

The next day, my toe had turned purple, and I could barely walk. I limped around, testing out my new gait, trying not to twist my ankle as I now had to rely more heavily on the uninjured half of my foot. I realized then that I had a choice: I could mope around, complaining about poor me and waste a beautiful day cooped up inside with a bad attitude. Or, I could quit complaining, stop feeling sorry for myself, and learn to stand on my own two feet. I chose the latter. I taped my injured toe to its neighbour, winced as I squished my feet into shoes, and went for a bike ride.

I was so excited to be out, to have found a form of exercise I could do without relying too much on the muscles and bones in my feet, that I made it all the way to a far-off Starbucks for my medicine: a coffee light frappuccino with coconut milk. This drink is my reward of choice on a productive or hot day. It always seems to make everything better.

But by the time I began my ride home, the wind had started to pick up and I had to pedal faster and harder against this force of nature. At the same time, I could feel the sun on my back and I began to sweat under my long-sleeved shirt. As I swerved around cars and darted to avoid potholes, my toe began to vibrate with every bump. Still, I pedalled on.

I had to make it home on time to take my boyfriend's daughter to her first spa experience and I wasn't going to disappoint her by cancelling or even by being a minute late. I just kept riding through the pain.

By the time I got home, sweaty and sore, my walking had deteriorated further. I hobbled inside my house, gently slipped off my shoes, untaped my toes and traded my runners for flip flops. I grabbed my purse and keys and limped to my car, a grin on my lips. I was going to make it on time after all.

My experience made me wonder if this bike ride was somehow a metaphor for something bigger. Is this like going through a divorce and riding on despite the pain? Does it represent my ability to move forward in the face of life's challenges?

I know that in yoga, teachers will often remind us that our attitude on our mat is like a miniature version of life. If we are determined on our mats, if we don't give up, if we stretch and reach for a pose and hold it despite the overwhelming desire to quit, it means we will possess the same traits off the mat too. I'm not sure if this yogi mantra can be applied to bikes too, but I'm going to gather that it does.

I'm icing my ugly purple pinkie toe as I write. Perhaps I'm reaching with these highfalutin philosophic concepts. I just went on a bike ride with a sore toe, after all. Yet what I do know, from this experience and from other challenges I've faced, including divorce, is that I always manage to land on my feet.

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