20 times, 6 sets; repeat until you die.
All the spells my therapists conjured for me- I had to do.
Eight years ago, I had severely torn my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) from falling down the bleachers. Since then, I have had consecutive knee twisting and popping or what my doctor matter-of-factly corrects as “buckling” or “giving way” of my knee. I never went back to him each time it happened because I was able to walk after a month or even three weeks. Plus of course, my fear of him the moment he told me an implant was necessary the second time my knee had buckled. Losing weight too was another matter of life and death then.
I did work on my weight until I dropped to 140 pounds (from nearly 230). As for the implant, it just wasn’t a welcome thought.
My life went on normally from high school, to college, and to being a full-pledged teacher, new level coordinator, and a graduate student- until one fine day when I was scheduled to observe a demo- teaching of a teacher applicant. I was merely about to sit when the sound of cracking knuckles resounded. My world darkened. I groped for balance, failed, knocked the chair down, and fell to the floor, consumed in an agonizing pose for the cries of my knee.
Slowly, the room filled with bursts of sympathy; teachers flowed in and out, and I was crying floods already for the life ahead of me. Then, I was wheeled on a pretentious wheel chair (an office swivel chair), down through the elevator and into the van for immediate medical tests at the nearest hospital.
I had all the thoughts of big dreams I’m supposed to be chasing, but instead were crushed by my agony as we swiftly fled to the hospital.
I held on to the accompanying nurse, Ms. Sara, for comfort, and prayed and cried, and tried to be still despite the pain from thoughts of the looming future.
Later, in my mother’s arms, I heard he result faintly: No bone fracture.
But a completely absent ACL. And some parts inside my knee, damaged.
How it started
All of us go through young-life crises- dramatic and mostly life- changing. Some of those are embarrassing moments bound to haunt us. Mine did- not just psychologically- but hard-core physically.
It all started 8 years ago when I was in highschool. It was a blistering August midday. Festive Linggo ng Wika. Classic Kundiman songs. Crowded bleachers. Fancy Filipiniana dresses. Cake make-up. Girls’ giggles.
Looking for my friend, Leslie, I searched far and wide, proud as I showed off my dark blue frilly skirt and white baro. Upon spotting her and an empty seat beside which was just some seats below me after all, I tugged her playfully by the hair, and in a split second decided to come down.
I took one big step, holding my saya by the pleats. The next thing I knew, I was upside down- my beautiful skirt parachuted, landed, and revealed God knows what. The crowded bleachers had a hole. I hit it bulls-eye with my right leg hyperstretched, the rest of my body in an odd, painful angle.
How a 200-pound whale was saved and brought to the clinic some hundred meters away, I don’t know. But there I was, with nuns and administrators around me, praying, almost chanting for my sanity.
More than the pain in my knee, and the long, glistening, bloody cuts on my calf, I think of the shame from my acrobat stunt.
But wait. I know I was wearing shorts underneath…
(Leslie, please tell me I was!!!)
The Power of Writing
Life is unalterable as it is. Only in writing can I brew what I would have lived in real life. It gets the unfinished done, brings fairytale-like love to an absolute reality, healing- miraculously possible, and victory- attainable. I am my own character- the meager warrior, trying to win my family, love, and my career.
Only through writing too can I document the life I’ve been living, reflect on it and on others’ notes, edit and revise for future purposes, and leave them as a trail for others tripping with the same young-life crises.
I’d want to keep grounded than to stay in the seemingly illusory world we’ve brewed up: overcoming problems quite easily after prayers and sacrifices, tears shed, beer bottles upturned. We all know it is never, ever as easy as when you read it.
This may be the only time where we can speak of life in the fullest sense of the word. I still haven’t set a vision of myself a few years from now- walking down the aisle, maybe, or ten years when I’d be caught up blissfully with a small family, or in my fifties sipping great coffee with friends, and the list can probably go on to cover the globe.
But not to confuse you- it’s not as if young-life crises arrive menacingly to steal away dreams. It’s not something that poofs and slaps your face, not something you trip over and lead you crashing into a wall.
Challenges come in two faces, the ones coming from some unforeseen, uncontrolled circumstances and the others, well, they come from us- most of them are from our stubborn, condescending, and overly care-free or careless selves. Whoever said life should come and go smoothly, that we’re here to earn degrees in no-hard-work attitudes, please our parents and teachers, manipulate our lives to fit our dreams and conquer whatever there is to overcome? They simply just don’t appear and disappear; they’re there to teach us or change our lives- only if we let them, of course.
See, we have a choice in everything!
On to Therapy
Straighten your back
Rise above it
Back to the wall
The more pain, the better
What I experienced in therapy, I take as I face my young-life crisis- falling in love and falling off the chair; working for a living but later working to death, dealing with regrets, and learning to choose my battles.
I wish to share what I went through at this exciting, turning point in my life.
I have lost a love for fighting for my principles; opened my eyes and heart to beautiful lessons on letting go and moving forward; I had to give up my job as the Lower School Coordinator, but went on with the same vocation, this time with a deeper passion.
Life does change at the most unexpected times. You find yourself one day being blasted off to space, and the next moment, you realize you’ve landed back- with missing parts. Still, life goes on. And though I face mine with a fashionable limp and with my classic cane, I carry with me lessons on being proactive, spending love and time wisely, letting go and letting God, and others more that I learned while my life was slowed down.
Relax. Life can’t be more complicated than it is. Choose your battles, too. Work your way inward and let your principles keep you grounded.
Lunge for your dreams. Don’t let anything, even physical injury, stop you from seizing the opportunities to grow, to love, and to fully live.
Straighten your back. Be strong. This young-life crisis is just a phase. The more pain, the stronger we’ll emerge.
A Whole Latte Love
I have relied on this ancient brew to power my days and quiet my thoughts at night, alone on the floor by my baby’s crib under the glow of my night lamp.
I reflect on how there’s so much love to be had and to share yet a lot of people are lonely and misconstrued. I reflect on where I am now and what I had gone through.
Young-life crises- we go through these, all of us. At times, we are obsessed with the need to arrive at our dream destination, forgetting the beauty of each step, and that there’s a mighty hand that has plans before we know of them.
We try to get somewhere else than where we are now. And we forget the gift of life itself.
Sadly, too, this stage we’re at is mostly about looking for something missing. We try to fill pockets of emptiness in us with what the world offers. We lunge at every glimmering thing- regrets on the side- after realizing it isn’t really what completes us.
Why I depend so much on people, and far-off dreams- in a world of uncertainty and impermanence, of winning and losing, coming and going. I have filled my young-life with ranting, fretting, and cravings, with killer calories more than the lessons I ought to learn.
Life is complicated already. With its twists and turns, and all the worldly wants and searching for self and uniqueness, I got tired of trying and working to be more.
I wish everyone would slow down and live. And hey, you don’t need to get injured to realize the need to balance your life! Learn to be proactive, too. Not the hard way, I pray, lest you lay someday in an operating, room where masked men and women in cute scrub suits stare at you, knife in hand, ready to cut you open to save you from what you’ve done to yourself- as how I did.
I never asked God to shed inches off my body, nor to walk perfectly back and travel successfully. I guess what He had always wanted was for me to walk to Him with a pained heart, still faithful in spite of the hard times.
I learned a lot because a teacher walked before me and loved me unconditionally.
He loved me to completeness and I became whole at His feet.
My God, the master over my young-life crises, and my Father of infinite second chances.