Today is the first day back in the office after 5 weeks living an alternate life. Not to be dramatic but I really feel like I stepped out of my life for a period and the learnings were extraordinary.
To give a bit of context I spent most of 2016 training and racing triathlon to qualify for the New Zealand World Championships team, with a growing business and more importantly an ongoing shoulder injury. On a day to day basis, it wasn’t an issue. When a goal is so large and important you tend to break a few rules and suck up a little pain. Eventually like any short-term tactic, I had to pay the price and that price was surgery.
For the start of the year, I had to work my butt off to get ahead, plan for 5 weeks initially in a sling and then another 3/4 months physio, rebuilding my shoulder and fitness. Oh, and it was my right shoulder; I am right handed!
Like anything in life it is easy to underestimate the impact of a small event – or so I thought. The simple 73-minute procedure turned out to be an experience that taught me lessons about my own character. I always knew I would was independent, but boy did I have it confirmed during this journey.
In a sling, with a pain pump, a lot of pain and barely able to dress myself – life was going to be tricky for a little while. So many people encouraged the mass consumption of Netflix and the like, to which I stepped up to the challenge. Little did I know that I was allergic to ‘free time’. With a 4-year-old in the house and a growing business, free time was a luxury I often dreamt about. But after a single day of Netflix on the couch, I found myself desperate to get back to work.
I even walked 3km to a meeting and 3km back just to create some normality, big mistake, the rest of the day was on my back exhausted. This is when the lessons started to reveal themselves. I was stuck at home, alone and felt isolated. In a way I never have. Being an only child I am very comfortable with my own company and in fact, my triathlon training gives me that balance in life. To digest the day and figure things out. Not a tool I could turn to during this process.
The family was amazing, all rallying round to ensure I could get to doctors appointments, dropping my daughter off at daycare and leaving me to rest when I needed… which at first was amazing, a novelty but soon it became a real challenge. The isolation started to make me feel miserable, a little too miserable in fact and felt myself become very low. I worked when I could but it was just too hard, too painful – yet it was all I wanted to do. I’m not good at being or feeling that vulnerable… as anyone that knows me will agree.
My wife even said I had changed and that my patience was far shorter than usual. Bare in mind I was only taking Paracetamol for the pain, I couldn’t cope with anything stronger as it just clouded my brain and I just couldn’t have that. It was something that I decided very early on, to try and manage the pain without the risk.
We had family events where I couldn’t get involved, beautiful days that I couldn’t go out and run or ride… activities that really pulled me out of the house and gave me my spiritual kick I suppose. It wasn’t until we spent the weekend away with the family that I really felt alone, very dark and down because I was watching from the sidelines and in pain at the same time.
Everything I read and enjoy is about movement and activity, my Facebook timeline is all cycling and triathlon, even my birthday present was a kayak I couldn’t use. Hence my feeling of being a bystander in my own life. I never lost sight that my plight was a chosen one for the future, but I had little idea that the short-term impact on my mental health would be so great.
It’s only as I sit here in my office (Not in the dark back bedroom) that I can really appreciate the simple things like driving. I used the Auckland public transport system many times and was very very happy, I achieved everything I needed with great ease and was very reasonable but once again, I was at the mercy of another persons agenda.
Don’t get me wrong I don’t feel hard done by – there are many many people that have far greater daily challenges that they face, maybe even for a lifetime, not a measly 5 weeks. But I do feel like a learned a lot about myself, my needs as a human to be happy and what independence and freedom of choice meant to me.
Sometimes we forget that the far majority of use live very privileged lives and that the ‘first-world’ challenges we ’suffer’ are not challenges at all, more an inconvenience.
As a soloprenuer/business owner, whatever you want to call it we can often allow ourselves to be isolated and with that comes feelings and actions that don’t do us justice. There is always something to be grateful for, even in the worst situation, and there is always someone there to help if we just look up and ask. Sometimes our pride must be left at the door.
I come away from the first part of this journey of recovery having learned a huge amount about what makes me happy and what makes me tick… something I have to apply to my business every day along with a large sprinkling of gratitude.
Day by day and step by step my shoulder will heal and get stronger and eventually I will be on the start line a stronger and more determined athlete.