Today is five and half weeks post op. How time flies.
At the beginning of this process, that was a major comfort for me. If the knee was or wasn't going to get better in time for the Olympics, at least I would know it much sooner than later.
And so I dove in, head first, on what I knew would be a wild ride with many challenges. What other choice did I have? When I had put so much into training for skiing, how could I back down on anyone else's terms but my own? I could never... I would never. My mom would always remind me that I was "uparta jak osol", Polish for "stubborn like a donkey", and I wasn't going down without a fight.
Three weeks post operation, I packed my bags and headed to Vancouver to continue my rehabilitation. But the week leading up to the move my heart was torn... in Montreal I was surrounded by my loved ones; my friends, my family. I was able to spend time with my amazing 92 year-old grandmother. I was working with a strong team, all in a city that I knew so well.
So why was I leaving?
To be honest, I wasn't really sure. Initially, I was asked if I would pick Vancouver over Montreal for my recovery. "No question," I replied, in a heartbeat. Something about isolating myself in a city that was foreign, leaving all distractions behind so I could focus solely on myself, where I knew very few people but had a strong team of therapists and trainers, seemed appropriate. But as the date continued to creep up, my gut wrenched. Even though it was ultimately my choice, I felt out of control.
The funny thing is, the year leading up to the injury, I'd put so much emphasis on creating, or simply living, my life without defining myself as any one particular thing. And there I was, making a decision based on (what felt like) solely my skiing. And that threw me off. Simply, my chances of getting better faster were greater in Vancouver, and deep down I knew it very well. It brought up a lot of emotions within; confusion, excitement to get on with the process, sadness for leaving my loved ones, determination to get better; an interesting and difficult mix.
I've read this one beautiful poem what feels like a thousand times. A striking verse goes like this: "I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy." What was it my heart really wanted?
Ultimately, my rehab would only go as well as it could when I was clear on what my motivation was. I could only be fully committed to Vancouver when I understood why I was going. And then I realized that my previous challenges, and my overcoming them, are what I am made out of. I am a believer, I am determined, I am always up to invite my challenger within -- that is a central part of my identity.
By the time I flew across the country, my plan to go all in for my Olympic dream was once again clear. The Games were five months away and there was nothing I wanted more than to be able to look back with no regrets. And so when I left Montreal and every one in my close entourage, I was faithless. And what's beautiful is that not one person who knew me well questioned my integrity; I was trustworthy.
And then there was another dip.
The first week in Vancouver was a struggle. On a gloomy, rainy day, I was uncomfortably getting my knee to bend enough to make it around the bike cycle. Motions, motions... there is nothing I hate more than going through the motions. It was one of those times when I temporarily lost my vision and caught myself thinking, once again confused: Why was I doing all of this? To return to a sport that had torn me apart, body and soul, over and over again? Skiing was the last thing I wanted to think about, yet it felt like that was all there was to concentrate on.
And then I took a deep breath. I focused on what was in front of me; the next workout, the next therapy session, and the coming week ahead. How could I stand at the bottom of Mt. Everest and stare straight up at the peak without even acknowledging where I was, or looking ahead at my immediate path? It didn't make sense. So I cut myself some slack (what a foreign concept to so many of us!). I opened my eyes to the good around me; my opportunity to experience life in a new beautiful city, my strong team to bring me back to health, my surroundings of lush mountainous landscapes that consumed the city, and I was learning to give myself space to flow with the program and just... be.
To say the least, it's been, and continues to be, one hell of a roller coaster ride. We all know it's only on the best rides that our hearts drop, often times stripping us temporarily of our senses, only to find our way back uphill as we muster up the courage to confront ourselves and the situation. I know there will be dips, but I also have faith that I will always find my way back up. Essentially, it's not the ride that we can control, it's how we live through it. It's a simple decision, this shift in perspective, and so I've resolved to take the heart stopping, gut wrenching parts with the exhilarating, fulfilling ones, in the hopes of making my way up to the peak of Everest, always carrying that irreplaceable "me" within.