Use it or lose it.

Three times in my life I’ve been restricted to crutches. As a function of having a more than active lifestyle and just by living so long I’ve hurt myself more than once.

Years ago I sprained both ankles in separate incidents just a couple years apart. If you’ve never sprained one, don’t: the doctors told me it hurts worse than a broken ankle and I believed them. Although I eschew  medicines and drugs in general I happily popped pain pills for a few days.

Later in life I broke my leg, twisted my ankle, stretched my ACL turning into a wheelchair-bound person for over a month. Its surprising how many people really don’t give a shit about people in wheelchairs, so if nothing else resonates in this aside perhaps you can check your attitude towards disabled folks you encounter.

In the last incident, certainly longer and more challenging, one of the things I noticed in going through recovery was just how quickly my leg muscles had atrophied. I run and walk a lot and come from a gene pool of healthy people: well into old age I’m athletic and firm. Or was.

One day struggling out of bed with my full leg brace weeks after my incident I grabbed my hammies to support myself, but… they weren’t there. Curious if other muscle groups had been kidnapped overnight I checked my quads: weak as well. Gastrocnemius and soleus (calves)? MIA. In a few short weeks I had one really nice leg (my “good side”) and one, well, listless limb. In just weeks.

How our work lives mirror this transition. The things we carry with us from our homes – the values our parent(s) gave us – can atrophy in a short while should we run with the wrong crowd. Crude I know but I’ve often told my own progeny its better to fly with eagles than run with turkeys. We are subjects of our environment.

We finish school filled with passion, enthusiasm and the latest skills but in a few months our senses are dulled by the constant refrain of “that’s just the way we do it” and the mindless salve of re-run television late at night to dull the senses. Passion and excitement lay dormant.

We struggle for a few promotions and learn to get along we must go along as our innate sense of wonder and curiosity and “why not?” are tempered by the size of our credit card bill and longing for a bigger flat. We make trade-offs.

Our own best features, those mental and emotional muscles we honed for years, can become dulled and useless in just a short while.

If we let that happen.

Dylan Thomas was right: do not go gentle into that good night. Take with you your character, your care and your concerns and yes, your laughter, and exercise all through your work day and life and you can maintain the strength and endurance that is you. The light that is you. You can do this.

If you choose.

Want to exercise your muscles? All you have to do is start.



2 thoughts on “Atrophy

  1. I have though of this story all day, and I have come to believe I can truly relate to every instance of that staggering occurrence due to body restraints. But, what has me understanding even more… is the way in which you fined tuned every word, so not to mis understand. I like the way you write. Thank you for sharing.

    • Very kind words Jen! Thank you for your comment.

      I do look over my posts again and again trying to find the right word – I enjoy writing.

      Thank you!

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