Oh, What a Year – 2022

“People cannot discover new lands until they have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre’ Gide

In the waning hours of 2021, I could not have fathomed what awaited me in the year to come. I was so caught up in myself and giving my life over to pain that I could not see much past tomorrow. I could not imagine that the words of a stranger but fellow sufferer would bolster me on a journey that would change my life and change my way of being in the world.

“Right now, your pain has no purpose and will only get worse.

After surgery, your pain will have purpose and you’ll only get better.” 

Those words were shared with me in a Facebook support group by a fellow runner and now fellow hippie-sis just a few days before I became bionic and was having second thoughts and way too much fear for the seeming unknown.

While her words were meant to encourage me as I faced down total hip replacement surgery – they rang true for the place in life I had been residing since my annulment and the back-to-back deaths of my parents. For 6 years I had been living in physical pain – popping enough Advil to earn me a blood transfusion but it was my mental anguish that kept me running – running through life and running away from life. I was lost; I was heartbroken; and I had failed in life – in a spectacular way. I couldn’t face myself because I didn’t know who I was anymore -beyond the pain and beyond my failures.

As 2022 dawned I was resigned to more of the same until one day in February I could not walk. My right hip had had enough of me pushing through. I went to my physical therapist who worked me over and got me walking again but something inside me knew this was a turning point. When I finally got in to see an orthopedist and heard the words “never run again and hip replacement” and left with a prescription for Oxycodone (which I never filled) I felt like the earth had stopped but I was still spinning away.

I spent a few weeks on the DeNile River in the Land of Woe but it got me nowhere. My pain – physical and mental- served no purpose and the longer I let it control my life it would only get worse.

It was then that I started to catch glimpses of my former self – the one who could do hard things – who had lived through hard things before – even faced down death. The fighter who smiled and laughed and knew joy and had purpose. Where had she gone?

I decided to find her and embarked on what would be a significant year-long transformation.

With a surgery date on the calendar – I began a training regimen with my physical therapist. I was determined to go into the surgery strong so I would come out strong. This gave me purpose. I am a determined woman. Occasionally my determination is mis-guided – but not this time. I succeeded!

As my strength came back, I was determined to find – not my former self again – but who she became and can still be.

It was hell.

Thank goodness part of my recovery plan was walking because I took a lot of long soul-searching walks and spent time doing some serious internal excavation – digging up long rooted and now rotted ideas of myself and replacing them with good soil in which healthier ideas and ways of being can grow.

We don’t always end up where we intended in life. Long before reaching our final destination, life happens, and we are forced to change course. My naive college vision board at 18 and the “seasoned” 26-year-old me’s long-range plans seem foreign to me now. I’ve always admired those who had a dream at a young age, made it happen and then kept realizing it and living it. In truth, that happens to only a very lucky few.

A BBC article discussing the topic of identity says that some people “struggle to imagine their future self as a continuation of the person they are today… It’s almost as if they see their future self as a separate person that has little connection to their present identity.”

While I struggle with seeing my future life as a continuation of today or seeing it at all for that matter –given how this year unfolded – I don’t see that as a negative thing and I certainly don’t envision myself being a stranger to who I am today. On the contrary, it is because my future seems – at least right now – “unrevealed” – that gives me hope and something to look forward to discovering!

But creating a vision for the second half of life is not as easy as it would seem.

The questions of “Who am I” “What do I want to be when I grow up?”, and “How am I going to get there?”  have leveled up a critical notch to Who have I become?” and “What have I done with my life?’ and “What do I do now?”

When the future was a long way away, the answers seemed so easy. Heck, we could be anything we wanted anywhere we wanted (for the most part.) Dream away! But when we have less of a future ahead of us than we have behind us, there is far more at stake – or so we tell ourselves. Having lost a dear friend to cancer this year – who had so much life ahead of her and had lived her life so fully – really made me stop and think about those questions again.

“Who have I become?” “What have I done with my life?’ “What do I do now?”

But here’s the thing that brings me so much joy on the cusp of a new year. I am actually excited by these questions again!!

That I have been given the opportunity to make a course correction and say yes to life is positively thrilling and a bit daunting.

As I close this annual tradition of reflection and evaluation of where life has brought me and who and how I want to be, I am grateful for those purposeful words of encouragement that helped me accept the challenge before me, make the most of.it and emerge better for it!

I am grateful for the doctors who made my walking, hiking and yes even running again possible. I am grateful for my family and dear friends who walked with me in every sense of the word.

As this “unfathomable year” draws to a close I can honestly say I am so much better because of it! I feel wonderful, healthy, and strong. I feel like Erika again!

I am at peace with life – my life. That is so freeing!

I am finding awe in the present and joy in sharing life with others, in place of pain, regret, and darkness – my old friends. .

Having said that, I am so thankful for the journey that has brought me here today – to who I am! In the journey, I became strong.

There is much to look forward to. What that is – who knows? But I am ready to meet tomorrow with open arms, a smile, a skip in my step, and a warm embrace.

“People cannot discover new lands until they have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre’ Gide

Happy New Year!!!

Let your light so shine!!!

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