Saturday morning I sat at one of my favorite writing tables, happy for the opportunity, but a little disappointed. I was supposed to be leading a group of men up Guadalupe Peak that day, and let me say that I use the word “lead” very loosely since every one of the guys can hike the trail faster than me. Still, it was our annual Iron Men Spring Adventure and I didn’t go, my first time to miss since we started this, in 2004. I’m a bit surprised that the guys want to go up the same trail again - same mountain, same hike, year after year. But of course, we don’t really do it for the actual hiking; we do it for the time together on the trail. As William Blake wrote, “Great things are done when men and mountains meet; this is not done by jostling in the street.”
To be honest, I was worried all week about how far I could make it up the trail this year. In fact, I’d already decided my secret goal for the day would be the wooden bridge. I’ve been to the top of Guadalupe Peak at least sixteen times so I told myself a partial would be acceptable.
Here is what happened, and why I didn’t go hiking.
Friday morning after working out at Gold’s Gym in Cyndi’s Body Pump class, after we got home, I realized my six-week-old bicycle-crash hip injury had taken a turn to the worse. It went from being a slowly-healing surface wound to a quarter-sized hole in my skin that appeared to be about five inches deep … or maybe twelve inches deep. It looked like a superhighway for infection. It was kind of scary.
Cyndi made me go to the doctor, right away, that same morning, knowing I would try to walk it off in typical guy fashion and treat it myself. Thanks to her, I was in the doctor’s office by 9:00 am.
Doctor Willingham, my primary care physician for the past twenty years, took one look (It was his second time to see this particular injury because I went to his office two-weeks after the March 4th crash. He asked why I didn’t come in immediately after the accident, and I said, “Because I was afraid you’d tell me not to go to our vacation in Hawaii and I knew I’d have to disobey.”) and said, “This is what I was afraid would happen.”
He left the room and set an appointment for me to see the Wound Management specialists at Midland Memorial Hospital, Monday morning. Then he looked me in the eye and said, “Berry, no running, no cycling, no working out, no sweating.” He would have added, “No hiking,” had he known I had a big trip planned for the very next day. He didn’t know, so he didn’t say it, but it was clearly implied.
As I walked down the hall to pay for my visit the doctor followed me and reiterated, “No running, no cycling, no working out,” as if I were the sort of guy who would go out and do any of those things in spite of his admonition, as if I were the sort of person who would disobey his doctor and feel OK about it.
It isn’t so bad. I’ve had no pain from this injury, only messy inconvenience. But I’m disappointed that it has gone on and on. Healing has taken longer than I’d scheduled.
I always expect improvement to come more quickly than it does. I want to lose weight right away. I want to learn to speak another language right away. I want to get faster right away. I want to run further right away. I want to learn to draw right away. I want to heal right away.
I’ve lived most of my adult life under the assumption that if I’m disciplined and dependable, if I’m a good student of best practices, and if I carry through with what I learn, improvements should come quickly for me.
Yet, they seldom do, and I’m always surprised when they don’t. Apparently I’m not as good a student as I claim to be. At least, not a good student of my own past.
Does anything with lasting value happen right away? Not in my experience. Finding joy in cycling took many months of riding. Understanding the brotherhood created by men sharing a mountain trail took miles and miles. Learning to offer grace instead of judgment took years. Cherishing my one-on-one time with God has taken, well, my entire life.
Rick Warren said, “We overestimate what we can do in one year and underestimate what we can do in ten. Set larger goals and take longer to reach them.”
I suppose healing this physical wound will take longer than I want. Waiting patiently seems to be the grown-up response, and so that’s what I’ll do. But I’m ready to get back on the trail and back on my bike. Maybe next week?
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32