Resilient: (adj.) 1. Marked by the ability to recover readily, as from misfortune. 2. recovering readily from adversity, depression, or the like.
As I type this I'm sitting in the stands at the US National Team Wrestling Trials in Council Bluffs, Iowa. They are introducing the finalists with spotlights, music, and all that associated pomp and circumstance that is appropriate for the best of the best in this sport in this country.
Most of these athletes are "kids" - of the 4 that are on in the finals on the mat as I type this three are 23 years old and one is 28. That's the oldest athlete other than me that I've seen here.
I wrestled one of the finalists in my weight class earlier today. Her name is Ali Bernard and she is the most recent representative of the US Olympic team in my weight class (she finished 4th in Bejing). She has a long list of impressive accomplishments in the sport. She beat the previous Olympic team member (Iris) - who I faced in the Nationals - after beating me earlier today. It will be interesting to see how she does in the Finals against someone I've never seen anyone even score a point against.
I have been injured several times over the course my life, although thankfully none of them have been very serious. I don't count my brush with melanoma last year as an "injury" per se, but growing up and playing football and wrestling I've had my fair share of bumps and bruises. I broke my nose one year playing football. I've dislocated both thumbs. I've certainly had my fair share of medical procedures and recoveries. But I don't know that anything equalled the pain or the sense of concern that I felt this morning when my neck was put into an awkward position and cracked with a subsequent stab of pain during my first match here.
I'm a pretty sturdy person - certainly few would describe me as "frail" even though I'm a fraction of what I once was in terms of size or thickness. The friend I'm staying with here has used the word "resilient" to describe me more than once in recent days and I'll agree that's true. I'm a very resilient person.
But - as far as my body is concerned - I'll admit that I've got one significant weak spot. My neck. My neck and back and shoulders creak and ache and make all kinds of clicking sounds that they never used to make. I've just accepted that as part of getting older. But I've done my best to protect myself and in day to day life the most significant strain on my neck is doing sudoku puzzles on a plane for hours on end. And, as I entered this wrestling competition I'll be honest that my most significant concern wasn't my neck - it was my jaw.
I'm not sure what I'll remember more - the sickening cracking noise in my neck just below where the skull intersects with the spine, or the pain of it. The crack happened first, and as soon as that happened - all bets were off. I was done. My coach walked me to the medical tend where they made me lie face down and put ice on it. We checked to make sure I was ok in my toes and my fingers. And I cried.
To make a long story short - as far as we can tell my injury wasn't skeletal - it was muscle. I'm still not sure that I agree with that prognosis - we'll see how it feels in a few days. But what I do know is that it hurts. The doctor eventually put me in something to keep my neck stationary and the best they could do to help in terms of drugs was a couple of Motrin. They've checked on me a couple of times and I've got about 50% of my full range of motion in my neck. That's what you get when you play with the big dogs....
Still - even with that - as I sit here tonight watching these athletes compete in the Finals I'm OK with how things have ended up - both in this tournament and overall. I've had a couple of people who have seen me compete come up to check on me and say that they hope I'll be back again next year - I'm not planning on that. But if there is any message from any of this it's not to be afraid to do, and that winning isn't necessarily measured in points or scores. I said yesterday that I feel honored to even be here and I do. What happened today hasn't diminished that in any way. If you're going to live life to the fullest then you need to accept that there are risks involved and that's just the way it is.
What I do know is that now that this temporary insanity has passed it's time to move on to something new. My body will be much happier when I gain the 6 or 8 pounds that I've forced myself to lose to make weight - I've been way too skinny lately. And I'll be happier to NOT have so many aches and pains. Somehow - hiking, camping, photography, just getting away - all those things seem very appealing to me right now. Recent weeks have been full of intense training and competition, surgery and recovery, travels around the country, significant personal changes, and any number of other things.
All things considered, I think one of the traits I'm most thankful for is that I'm resilient. What other choice is there?
Well, as I close this entry for tonight Stephanie Lee has won my weight class (women's freestyle 72 kg). They interviewed her right after her match about who her inspirations have been to help her get to this point. She named a number of people, including her father and her coach. And, her girlfriend. Rock on.