Running with Ruth

Stories that Inspire & Motivate...Not for New Runners Only! By Ruth Gursky


Words of Wisdom

Chapter 4: Sidelined with Another Injury
Article 3:
Words of Wisdom
Unexpected Sources Help Us “Find Gain in Pain”

"There is no better teacher than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time." -- Malcolm X

While no one in their right mind would think of Malcolm X as a sports coach, his words reached out and touched me, as I find myself straining to regain the strength and flexibility I took for granted before I fell on a broken sidewalk three short months ago.

And I’m learning from other “masters,” likes the great Hasidic Rabbi, Reb Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), who used to say to his followers: “Know that whatever you break, you can fix.” Well, his words are certainly ringing true, I’m pleased to say! Eight weeks after my accident, my doctors reported that the fractures in my jaw and elbow had healed. And with physical therapy continuing and intensifying, I’m hopeful that I will regain full use of my right elbow (which, at the moment, remains swollen and in a slightly bent position) as well as my other injured body parts (right shoulder, wrist and knee).

In seeking solace from my adverse situation, I was delighted to discover the book “Sacred Therapy” by Estelle Frankel, a psychotherapist, who uses Jewish spiritual teachings to help her patients (and readers) find healing from their physical and/or emotional wounds.

I was intrigued with Ms. Frankel’s thesis that traumatic events force us to develop new strengths: “Certain powers of the soul can emerge only when we struggle with adversity. Though none of us would ever consciously choose to be ill, when we are lifted out of the secure confines of our ordinary lives by an illness or trauma, we discover new qualities and strengths in ourselves that we may never have imagined ourselves to possess.”

While I never thought about it in such “high and mighty” terms, this notion also rang true for me. Twenty years ago, before injuring my right knee the first time, I was a couch potato; complacent and content to work, come home, have dinner and watch TV. An occasional night out shakin’ my booty at a dance club satisfied my need to exercise! But after sustaining the knee injury and enduring a lengthy treatment and recovery process, I felt a compelling need to challenge and prove myself physically once released from my doctor’s care. Thus began my first-ever exercise regime, which I stuck to like glue. Unlike my “Old Self,” the “New Ruth” loved the excitement of trying new sports, such as rock climbing, boxing and scuba diving and competing in road races and triathlons. And as I reached greater levels of strength and fitness, I became healthier, more energetic, and I daresay, a better person. I know, in my heart of hearts, that none of this would have happened but for my knee injury!

Ms. Frankel also address the age-old issue of “why bad things happen” in a fairly novel way, by asking questions such as: “What is God revealing to me through this particular revelation of divinity known as illness?” Whoa! What’s that she’s saying? That God’s talking to ME through my fall on the sidewalk? Could a slab of concrete be my “burning bush” experience?!

Not really!

To support her thesis, she explains that instead of asking “why me?” and seeing a trauma as “God’s punishment,” one can transform the negative into a revelatory experience, seeing it “as emanating from the same divine source to which we turn for healing.” OK, I may need a little more time to fully absorb this teaching…but as “basic believer,” I already see that as a result of my trauma, I’m developing a deeper sense of connection with my community…and in time, I hope, with God.

A friend of mine recently asked if I found it frustrating to serve as “head coach” of my loyal group of speed-challenged runners as they train for their fall marathons and ½ marathons while I remain sidelined with injuries. Quite the contrary, I explained! My being a part of their training is tremendously rewarding for me (and hopefully, for them, as well)! To share my knowledge and experience with friends and feel supported by them as I take them with me on my journey to recovery…well, that’s what’s helping me get through each hellish physical therapy session and weekend walking workout!

So, instead of allowing myself to spiral down the slippery slope of negative thinking, I’m doing my best to remain optimistic by complying with my physical therapists’ instructions, seeking guidance from books and support from friends, and in my own way, re-discovering the power of prayer…with the hope that it’ll all help me get to a place of “complete healing”...of body, mind and spirit. And in the immortal words of Sir Winston Churchill:
I promise to “Never give up. Never. Never. Never.”

(…Even if it kills me!)


Ruth's "Marathon Lie"

Ruth's "Marathon Lie" (as seen at GallowayNYC's 2004 post marathon celebration) Posted by Picasa