Progression

We’re coming up on the ten-month mark since I fell and broke/sprained my ankles. In the past few months, I’ve been telling those who ask that I feel like I’m back to about 93% of where I was, and that percentage hasn’t moved much. That reflects that although I have been mostly functional – I’ve been climbing and can usually walk out any ankle stiffness within a few minutes, etcetera – I have still felt limited. I am still hesitant to try running again, no matter how much I miss the trails, and after one dance back in the summer that left me with an aching ankle for a couple of days, I’ve felt like I had to avoid dancing, too.

I can dance now, however! I had a friend in town this last weekend, and he wanted to go hear a bluegrassy band play. Since they were playing at the Secret Society, I guessed it was probably actually a dance, so I figured I would wear my “dancing outfit” – Converse and dark clothes (to make my sweating less visible) – and, you know, at least try to dance once. To my delight, I was able to dance without any apparent problems, and I ended up dancing about two out of every three dances in the hour and a half the band played. For me, this was holding back; normally I dance basically every dance. I thought it would be best not to push it, so I sat a few out. Another friend showed up towards the end, and I bounced over to her, exclaiming “I can dance I can dance I can dance!”

I had almost forgotten how much I love dancing. I haven’t been missing it as much as I have trail running or climbing, because I hadn’t been dancing all that often in the year or so before I broke my ankle. Partly that’s because I was recovering from another sprained ankle from the summer of 2015, and partly that’s because dancing tends to take place too late for me. But dancing on Saturday reminded me of how surprisingly important dancing is in my psyche. (I say surprisingly because before my freshman year of college I didn’t really dance. It was only when I took jitterbug for a PE credit, and my friend B took it with me and essentially taught me a year’s worth of swing dancing in the space of a quarter, that I discovered how much I love it. So somehow it still seems new to me… even though by now I’ve been dancing for almost half my life.)

So that is awesome, having dance back in my life. And I might try a little gentle trail-running on the mulched paths of Mt. Tabor sometime soon. But I think another lingering issue may be here to stay.

Before I fell, I wouldn’t say I was a fearless climber, but when it came to bouldering at least, there wasn’t a lot that phased me. I both love and fear one corner of the Circuit gym in southwest Portland, because there are so often great stemming problems set there and because I’ve fallen from near the top so many times. But that was the exception, really.

Now, however – and I know I’ve said this before – fear has become a refrain in my climbing. I’d like to think that I’m getting better, that I am less likely now to really panic like I did in a Leavenworth weekend back at the end of September, but I still get hit at unexpected and usually inconvenient times with thought-scrambling bouts of fear. And while that hasn’t stopped me climbing and pushing myself to try harder things and risk falls from greater heights… I wish it would go away. This is now the primary thing holding down my “percent recovered” estimation. When any given climbing session will almost certainly contain some degree of fear, I just don’t feel, well, myself, my old self.

Maybe the fear will continue to recede. Maybe it won’t, in which case I’ll just come to grips with that being the new normal, and keep on keeping on. I don’t know.

It is gratifying, however, that on Tuesday of this week – one week shy of ten months since falling – I got my first post-fall 5. Not only got it, but flashed it. Despite being hit by fear one move from the top, when my hands were getting tired and I wasn’t sure I had enough strength left in one of them to remove the other to reach for the top. I went for it anyway, despite the fear (the fear that’s making my palms sweat as I type this, thinking back on it), and didn’t fall and did finish. …It wasn’t even that hard. I had been struggling – like, a LOT – on a 3 only minutes before this. But hey, it’s a 5! I’ll take it.

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