I got a text this morning, saying a friend needed a ride to the clinic. Medicine ball to the face. (Fitness is not for the faint-hearted, y'all; gotta stay focused!). So I picked her up, took her to the clinic, all nonchalant and thinking "ah, nose looks okay, it'll just be an hour or two, no big deal, I was probably only gonna blog or read, anyway." Until the doctor gets a concerned look on her face and says, "I'm going to send you to the hospital." Like, the emergency room? Gulp.
A few hours, CT scan and x-rays later, my friend is home with a mild concussion and a good story. She got lucky. Sitting in a hospital, you realize just how quickly life can change. This only threw off one day for me. For her, it may throw off her week, but she'll be fine. For many people, life changes in an instant and never changes back. It's easy to take things for granted until that happens to you, or to someone you love.
I took health and fitness for granted, for too long. It's part of the reason I make it a priority now. Not only am I trying to catch up, to make up for all the lost time that I wasted and to get myself to some arbitrary physical goal, I am also trying to do the most with what I have right now. I appreciate what my body can do, and I no longer take for granted that I will always be able to do it. I'm fully aware that I'm one knee injury away from being unable to exercise the way I do, to compensate for some imbalances in my eating. (That's my diplomatic way of saying I still indulge too often in ice cream and chocolate). If my knee pops out again, guaranteed the weight will go back on.
You really never know what is going to happen, and unfortunately fitness and healthy living are not guarantees that you'll always STAY healthy. Accidents happen. Illnesses are diagnosed. Life changes. My dad is one of the most active people I know. Always has been. But he's the one in the family who has had brain surgery (twice), radiation (twice), and skin cancer removed from his nose (twice). My sister had a terrifying spinal injury from a rock half her size falling directly on her head while climbing. The number of people I know who have MS diagnoses is now in the double digits. Let's not even get in to whether there's anyone left out there who hasn't been affected in some way by cancer. Health is not something we can blithely assume we'll always have. I now feel like it is my responsibility and obligation to do as much as I can, while I can, because physical health is more of a privilege than I ever appreciated.
I used to think about the fact that so many fit and healthy people got sick and injured, and think "so what's the point? Why even bother?" Glass half-empty, much? The point that I missed - aside from the enjoyment they got from their activities, and the daily benefits to feeling good - was that their healthy habits and their physical fitness helped them to cope, helped them to recover, and helped them to continue living life.
Take my dad, for example. It was actually a wipe-out in a ski race and the CT scan he had because of it that they found the pituitary tumor before he had any symptoms. It was caught early enough that when he had a bad headache, they took it seriously and were prepared for emergency brain surgery, and he avoided a lot of the potential risks that would have come had the doctors not known it existed. If he hadn't been skiing, being active, it might not have been caught. My sister was belaying some kids climbing a rock face when part of the rock wall dislodged, so it would be easy to say that it was being active that put her in harm's way. But it was also her physical conditioning that helped her to regain her strength as quickly as she did, and it was her competitive athlete's drive and desire to move again that kept her motivated until she was almost back to her full capacity. I am always talking about strength, about feeling strong. Exercise has given me that, and it's something to tap into when life throws you a curveball. Or a medicine ball in the face.
This day did not turn out at all the way I had planned.
If it had, I'd probably be complaining about feeling stressed, tired, doing too much work, or generally throwing a pity party.
Instead, I'm grateful. I'm grateful for the ability to pursue health and fitness in the way that I want, to have the freedom to say "I can make the time to work out," and to be living relatively pain-free. I'm grateful for the reminder to do all that I can, while I can, because I don't know when things are going to change and that "can" may become "can't."
It was a humbling reminder, that life does not usually turn out at all the way we had planned.