Thursday, August 20, 2015

Stop and Proceed

“When real people fall down in life, they get right back up and keep on walking.” - Michael King

This post has been on the backburner for over 6 weeks now and the drought has no correlation with my current location, 14,305 Kms (8,888 mi, can’t disappoint my negligible reader base in the US of A) away from home. 9 months; this length of time has never been more significant in my life.
Do we remember our childhoods? Yes, to a certain degree. I remember most parts of my life since the time I was 3. Not every single day, but the significant aspects of it. But do we remember how we learnt to walk, to run and perhaps, to jump?

I remember my first race. I had to run to one end, put my cap on, run back and pick up my bag, and finally run to the finish line. I even remember my prize, a disposable Kodak camera. As I stood on top of the pedestal, I felt light. Over the years, my parents would joke that the wind helped me get to the finish line quicker than everyone else.

In an instant, walking seemed slow to me. I would always sprint to my destination, be it at school, home and years later, at work. On a treadmill, I could barely walk for 30 seconds before sprinting for 90 seconds and stepping down. My contribution to the annual athletic meets would be towards the 100m, 200m and Long Jump.

When I played Cricket, my biggest asset would be running between the wickets. My focus would be on cheeky singles that would infuriate most close-in fielders. On the outfield, I would sprint towards every airborne ball within 20m of me. Later on, when I transitioned to playing Football (Soccer, for my ignorant reader base), I loved to play on the wings or as a forward. My attempts to play defence would always end up sour, since I would chase the ball to the other end of the field and would choose to catch my breath before a sprint back.

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Last year, on the verge of my 30th birthday, I pompously sprinted with a few youngsters (most of them in their late teens and early twenties) and beat them to the finish line. In Greek mythology, there is a story of Icarus. In order to escape from captivity, Icarus and his father built wings and used them to fly out. The new found belief encouraged him to fly higher till a point where the sun melted the wax on the wings and he came crashing down. And then, one day it happened. It didn’t slow me down, it brought me to a standstill.

For anyone associated with sport, injuries are a part of their life. But an ACL tear is the worst. The ligament is a central part of the knee and provides strength & stability to our entire body. When the Doctor recommended surgery, I felt a false sense of relief. I started to believe that the surgery would cure my ailment and I would be up and running.

The next 45 days were among the worst in my life. I was bedridden for most part of the day and my brief trips outside would be on crutches. At times, I imagined ants looking over their shoulder to watch me painfully cover small distances. 20 steps would wear me out and the frustration would unsettle me. Most times, my mom would hand feed me, since it would practically save the trouble of an additional trip to the bathroom. I would go through the exercise regime every two hours to get me out of my struggle.

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This is where I pause and ponder. How did we learn to walk?
When I injured my knee, my first instinct was to get back on my feet. As I stood up, my knee buckled under my weight. That memory instilled a fear that it might happen again. In theory, getting rid of my crutches was quite simple. But I no longer remembered how to walk. I had to take baby steps like infants with the dread that I might fall. I held on to walls, friends, sometimes clutching thin air with every step forward. My biggest fear had become my worst nightmare.

If only, I could possibly unlock the learning from childhood when I learnt to run, it would all be so easy. How did I develop the stride, the balance and the strength to catapult forward?
Over the last 9 months, I have progressed to light jogging for a few yards before fear catches up with me. I miss running against the wind and the adrenaline rush after a spring. I no longer feel light and my wings have been nipped. But, more than everything else, it's the acknowledgement that life has eventually slowed me down.

"We're all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children's game, we just don't... don't know when that's gonna be. Some of us are told at eighteen, some of us are told at forty, but we're all told." ~ Moneyball, 2011