Monday, January 9, 2017

Starting Over

Ten years ago I had just started a 3 ½ month long police academy for park rangers. One of my fellow cadets recently reminded me. It’s hard to wrap my head around. Ten years! In many ways, it seems a lifetime ago. But then I think about being in the best shape of my life as if it was just a couple years ago. 54 full, consecutive pushups – that was probably my biggest fitness achievement, considering I started from 1.

And it was in May, returning to my park after graduating academy, that I responded to a collision between a car and RV with a fatality that changed me and the course of my life. So I’m approaching the ten year anniversary of that first event that caused my PTSD. (

For the past ten years I’ve been struggling, fighting, floundering, and healing. I only now feel like I’m able to start over. I think it is the rare individual who doesn’t have to start over again at some point in their life. As smart, determined, regimented, or disciplined as we may be, sometimes life smacks us to the ground so many times that it takes a good long while before we’re able to get back up again.

And now, at last, I’m standing up again. I have no savings and I have no house. But I do have this trailer which I love enough to stay in as long as it takes. And finally, finally I have a job that I love. I’m making ends meet, and just beginning to work enough to resume saving. It is daunting when I think about my age and limited number of years before retirement age, and how far I have to go before achieving any kind of financial security. But the worrying leads to feeling anxious and overwhelmed, which only makes me stay in bed with the covers pulled over my head. So I try to remind myself that I can only go at this new pace; pushing myself is a thing of my past, like it or not.

My well-conditioned body has fallen into neglect and disrepair. Even my lifelong habit of healthy eating fell away a year or so ago. My PTSD led to muscle cramps and joint pain that ended my running. And anxiety has led to a more and more reclusive life. While ten years ago I knew the confidence and rush of relying on my body to carry me through any challenge, now I fear to try anything that might lead to sore muscles, a sprain, or exhaustion that would simply make life harder.

But suddenly (perhaps it was the doctor’s weigh-in that made my jaw drop) I figured out how to start back on the path of fitness. Youtube brings the perfect workout into my living room, and allows me to stop when my body tells me that I’ve pushed it enough. I exercise immediately after work, before sitting down or eating dinner.

Once the medium occurred to me, the style was also obvious: kickboxing. When I was a park ranger, I struggled to learn our defensive tactics. So after academy I started working with a personal trainer and taking twice weekly martial arts classes. Over time the impact of kicks, punches and other strikes became extremely therapeutic. In fact I considered my martial arts to be my lifeline during times of greatest stress when I was a ranger.

Unfortunately, contacting full-force with a bag takes a toll on joints. I find a serious kickboxing class to be a good alternative. Your body still goes through the familiar motions of kicking, punching, using elbows and knees, all without the impact. And all the while the balance required is excellent for strengthening your core.

At times being on the starting line reminds me of how far I have to go – and that makes me nervous. But then I think about how good it feels to have a job that I enjoy, and I realize that I have every reason to believe that my finances are going to improve. And I think about how good the kickboxing feels, and I realize that every day I punch and kick the air is just going to build momentum – the way exercise does. 

If there’s been an enduring life motto for me, it’s been “live life at my own pace.” It’s as true today as it was ten years ago. But it sure feels good to get up off the floor and start walking again!

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