Pickleball. I started playing two or three years ago at my husband’s urging as a way to get some moderate exercise–and so he would quit nagging me. I figured it had something to do with the comic strip that follows the antics of Earl and Opal Pickles as they learn the ropes of retirement, and while it is popular with the retired set, don’t be fooled by the association. It’s actually a rather rigorous court sport originating in the Northwest, which shouldn’t be played by people with bad knees.
Some sessions result in more-than-moderate exercise. Ergo, six months in, my “all out or get out” approach netted me a severe sprained ankle that sidelined me for the next several. At least a month of physical therapy, followed by some personal maintenance, had me back on the court and registered for my first-ever tournament.
So I was devastated that my calf muscle seized when I stood to take the court for my second match of the morning. What?! A pulled muscle after just one game?! Just when I was…
- recovering from injury
- progressing in competency
- returning to competitive play
- experiencing the benefits of being active and fit again
I flashed back to the chronic thigh strains that had ended my recreational softball career before age 30, after which volleyball became the sport of choice. In my softball days, I was afraid to pull myself out of the line-up for fear of being replaced and forgotten. I had little knowledge or respect for self-care even if I had. In my world, therapeutic intervention was reserved for the pros. I never returned to the game that had provided so much enjoyment. Now it seemed pickleball may be ending in the same way–and almost before it had begun.
Except for this: I know more than I did at 20-something. Instead of ignoring the truth, pushing through the pain of injury and ending up permanently sidelined, I stopped mid-stride and retreated to my chair. It sent me to the end of the wait-list, but a little self-care was in order if I was to continue.
I spent the next 10-15 minutes gently manipulating the tight angry places. No ice, no wraps, just listening, nudging the muscles back to freedom of movement with teeny stretches in several directions. I accepted the gracious advice of a fellow player who happened to be a massage therapist, and did a few heel stretches on the stairs. The calf relaxed–and I played for the next two hours pain-free.
It’s the perfect metaphor for what can happen in the spiritual life. We get injured. We push through. We refuse to listen to our interior responses, unable to recognize how much it limits our ability to function in life and in love. We pick up the notion that acknowledging pain is a form of weakness, of shame; that to take one’s self out of the game to tend to the work of restoring or fortifying one’s own soul is unacceptable–something less than victorious, less than spiritual. Besides, what if we lose our coveted position in the lineup? So we continue to play through the pain until it screams so loudly that we stop altogether.
Have you ignored an injury that could benefit from a little attention and restore something that has been lost to you?