The other week I started writing about the feelings that came with my most recent stress fracture. As with any injury, my mind replayed all the reasons, all the decisions, everything that I could have, would have, should have done. I tried to stay off the merry-go-round of self-flagellation, with limited success.
It’s a big injury – the most limiting I’ve ever had. Because of where it is on the femur (the lesser trochanter), I have a risk of displacement, so pretty much all forms of movement and/or cross-training are off the table. As devastating as it was, especially after the healthiest block of training I’ve ever had, it’s nothing I haven’t dealt with before.
“It’s ok. I’ll be ok,” I repeated to myself.
But I didn’t anticipate that the crack in the femur wouldn’t be the only way in which I was broken. Soon after, my relationship ended, not of my choice.
Broken femur, meet broken heart.
Talking about break-ups publicly is fraught with peril, and let’s be honest – it’s probably best *not* to. But he and I live pretty public lives with social media – it’s a hazard of his job and I’ve always been an open book (to a fault, some might say).
Note: “writing about a relationship is hard because it involves two people,” as I told my friend Waylon (Captain Obvious here!). Please know this post and its contents are with the consent of both parties. I’ve purposely sat it on it for a bit while time has started to soften the raw edges, and I’m purposely locking comments and not sharing or emailing out this one. Just letting it exist in the world.
We both wanted it to work – we both were convinced that we had met *our* person. We both tried hard because of how right it was. We did all the right things in terms of open communication, going to therapy, regularly checking-in. And it was a beautiful two years of my life and no one did anything “wrong” and at the same time, it takes both parties to want to be in the relationship.
There’s no anger, there’s no resentment: there’s nothing but love and respect and heartbreaking sadness that something so beautiful didn’t work out. That the life that we pictured and planned together won’t end up being that way. We both feel deeply, and we both are hurting. As we sat on the couch for hours crying and hugging, reliving old memories, and thanking each other for the gifts and lessons we brought into each other’s lives, it struck me: I’ve been told break-ups could be beautiful like this, but I never believed it until now. It doesn’t make the pain any less though. In some ways, it makes it harder.
As I laid on my couch the other day sobbing my eyes out, I thought about how the pain of an injury pales in comparison to a broken heart. You know that *visceral* pain that just grabs your insides and squeezes them so tight that you can’t breathe? You’d give anything to make it stop? As many times as my heart has broken, that pain never gets easier. I’d rather break every bone in my body all at once, 10x over: while femurs take a long time to heal, hearts never really do.
In that moment, all I wanted to do was to go for a run to clear my mind, to ease the pain, to see the beauty and the good in the world. But I can’t do that. Hell, I can’t even walk across the room on my own two feet.
Stripped of any coping mechanism, all I can do is sit, and FEEL. Really, really feel.
My brain naturally goes towards wanting to find silver linings: “well maybe the pain of this breakup will distract you from the pain of being injured?? Better to get them all out at once!” or “I guess since you can’t run or move maybe you’ll process this better since you can’t distract??”
But my thoughts are paper tigers.
And then my brain goes to the fact that I turn 40 next month, that we both thought we were in this for life, and once again, this whole “relationship” thing didn’t work out. Why does everyone else around me seem to be able to hold down relationships long-term, and my heart just breaks over and over? My brain whispers, “there is a common denominator here and there is something wrong with YOU. That’s why you can’t figure it out. You are too much. You have too many issues. You are hopelessly broken.”
It’s the same merry-go-round of self-flagellation that happens for me with injury.
I’m tired of that ride. I know I love big and feel big and while I’ve worked so hard on myself over the years, at some point I have to accept that’s how I move through the world. At some point, I’m going to have to appreciate it and love it and stop apologizing for it. Because the feeling of loving and being loved is far worth the agony of heartbreak.
I spent years closing my heart off and avoiding feelings through my eating disorder, and I know better now. I know that you can’t avoid grief – the only way to get through it is to move through it. And despite how utterly painful and all-encompassing it is right now, I would absolutely do everything over again in an instant. I’d run that 100 miler and ride my bike across Iowa without fear. I’d jump into love and dreams and love hard with no regrets.
Because the joy of running ultras and what it brings to my life is worth the grief of injuries like this.
Because being in love and that feeling and everything that comes with it is worth the grief of heartbreak like this.
You don’t expect for them to collide at the same time, and it’s going to take a long time to sort through this giant pit of grief. I lost what I love to do, and I lost who I love. But I can rebuild. I always do.
“It’s ok,” I still whisper, “I’ll be ok.”