Dealing with Disappointment
A rant and a request for advice
Disclaimer – I’m going to complain and rant about a recent personal experience and then ask for some advice in this post. If you aren’t interested or lack the capacity to deal, I completely get it and certainly do not take it personal.
I pride myself on seeing the cup half full. I’m a happy guy, with lots to be thankful for and I am, indeed, quite grateful.
However, as events take place that I feel are not fair or meant for someone else or, for lack of a better explanation, shitty, sometimes I find myself sliding, scraping backward for an undetermined amount of time as the feelings and circumstances change.
This is a tale of one of those unfortunate events.
Of course, I know how to make myself feel better. It’s taken me nearly 36 years to figure it out, but I know. In fact, I wrote about it. Its good measure for me to understand how to systemically improve my reality and I return to the checklist time and time again as a reminder. Its a track where I know the final destination when my warped emotional brain is unable to comprehend what to do next in light of what, at the time, seems like an insurmountable problem or situation .. I simply resolve to do just these things and I will feel better. To settle and trust in that provides incredible support and hope.
Just now, I was unable to use many of the tools on my list, thus it didn’t do me a whole lot of good.
Ok, so I’m going to go on a rant here. I’m going to bitch and complain for a few minutes. And then, I’ll be done.
I was speaking to a friend about complaining and we came to same conclusion – no one really gives a shit about my problems and issues..or your problems and issues. I (we) have enough things to think about in my own life than to have to absorb your drama as well, nearly always. However, I also believe I must get it out of my body and brain. I’m over listening to my mind race from one dark corner to another rationalizing, what-if-ing, and saying “oh, but the silver lining is..”. I also want to heal. Like, now. And I have resolved to doing every possible thing, including having a good rant, to insure I am on the track health.
My outlet is writing. By writing, I am able to organize my thoughts, because you (mom) need to be able to read this. I am then able to process that organized information. By writing and getting those thoughts out of my head, I allow those thoughts to be set free. Once I click ‘publish’, I honestly feel like I’ve just taken a good hot shower after a long camping trip and then I get on with things again. When I keep it inside, it festers and I feel like I’m losing my mind.
Breaking my leg while playing rugby just now is the single largest disappointment of my life, for reasons that might not be immediately clear from the outside looking in.
I know, I know, I don’t have a terminal disease and I didn’t lose my leg, however one mustn’t discount that I did in fact, break my leg. So, I’m going talk about it what I’m feeling for a minute or two.
As I was saying..
It had been a couple years since I had been on a proper vacation. For nearly the last year of Apollo’s life I cared for him every single day. I did not leave the house for more than 12 hours in over 9 months. Then the training started to compete with Santa Monica Rugby Club for an entire season. Every week had multiple practices and most weekends were spent playing. After the season ended, I would go on to train and ultimately compete with the USA Maccabi team in Israel. Work filled up the balance of my time. Not much sailing. No real travel for pleasure. No creative projects to speak of. I wanted..I needed to let my hair down a bit. I really make a point in my life to do those things with regular frequency, yet I was head down. Focused. Neglecting, some might say, areas of my life I truly cherish in order to prepare for this journey.
I had it all planned out.
Everyone I knew. I mean everyone, knew I was about to embark on this journey. They supported my efforts. Cheered me on. Donated hard earned money. All of my closest world said “Go get it!”
I would work my ass off with my business, to provide real value for my clients and a living for myself. They knew I was going overseas to compete and some of them graciously supported my efforts in the way of real money.
I would play for SMRC and we would enjoy all the success we deserved.
I would travel with my mates to Israel to represent my heritage, my country, and my family as a vice captain of the US team.
My parents would join me.
It was my final competition, after all. Win, lose, or draw, I told myself, I would enjoy it. I would relish in the heated tests. I would deepen what I knew would be life long bonds with the men that would take the pitch with me. I would hug my mom and dad under the lights in the heat, as I said “sayonara” to competitively playing the marvelous game. …and then we would get good and drunk to lick our wounds or celebrate our victory after the final whistle.
Given I had not spent more than a lousy week with my parents in years, after Israel we planned to go to Istanbul, Turkey. We bought flights and reserved hotels. We made itineraries and discussed ad nauseum all that we would do. I was so looking forward to just a long dinner with no email or phone or texting or FB or anything else familiar to disturb us. I wanted to hold my mother’s hand and laugh with my dad..After Turkey, my parents would leave and I would continue on to Ukraine.
I bought tickets (in rubles) to attend a great music festival, connected with friends to host me, and planned on meeting a long lost love to enjoy the Black Sea for a week. The fact that my mother’s family is originally from Ukraine is what sparked the interest in the first place. Finding where my ancestors were from is very interesting and important to me.
While competing, of course, I would be on the down low, work wise, but while backpacking, I had planned on doing a bit of work here and there and generally staying abreast to things back home while enjoying a bit of a much needed break.
Finally, upon my return to the states, I would go Home to Burning Man yet again. I was the captain of a center point of our camp, Strangelove. I designed and made a Max (of Where the Wild Things Are lore) costume and had all of my various effects sorted. I volunteered at the Black Rock City Airport and with the Department of Mutant Vehicles. I even planned a short talk about ropes and knots for our camp. I would reconnect with 100 of my favorite people on this earth for an experience like no other.
You see, it wasn’t pie in the sky..this was a done deal. This trip I would do. Tickets paid for, rent and bills paid up in advance for the next 3 months, clients abreast of my departure from the normal world, friend looking after my place..I was taking a break from Los Angeles for a little while.
All of that changed 30 minutes into the first game against Canada, when I broke my leg.
I had the rock 25 meters out of the try line. I could smell pay dirt. Stiff arm to one fellow. Good. Could’ve, and in retrospect, should’ve given a baby pass to Elliot on my outside. It would have put him through. But I’d been here before. I was fine taking it along for a bit of a jaunt.
It happened quick. A maple leaf hit my right shoulder and another my left leg, just below the knee, as I was planting on my left foot, at the same time. I knew it as soon as it happened.
POP..no pain really, but I could see the spikes on the cleats on my left foot. Deep breath. Why.the.fuck.did.that.just.happen. Then everything seemed to slow way down. The lights. My face close to the grass. I was sweating..good fashion from playing for half an hour. The air was thick with heat. Humid, too. My heart was racing. I felt I could hear my pulse in my brain. Canada over there kinda looking, but not really. My teammates sort of coming and going to give me a pat on the head. Then everything sped up and I basically only remember being driven to the hospital in the back of an ambulance. Then the pain started. It was deafening. I put a smile on my face and made a corny joke as often as I could muster, but on the inside I began to sink. I knew it was coming.
I was fucking crushed.
No spending time with my friends on tour. No quality time with my parents. No travel to Turkey. No travel to Ukraine. No music festival. No relishing a trip home recalling all the memories. No Burning Man. No fucking break!
I had just broken my leg. I canceled everything. I had no other choice.
Initially, I spent a week in the hospital. I had a complex surgery to repair the bone and tendons that were severely damaged. I lost track of day and night. Sleep came only after exhaustion. Of course, nothing fights sleep as valiantly as searing pain. 3 hours was the max. I mean max. The fibula repair pain dulled to discomfort after about 3 days, but the tendons. Holy shit. The tendons. The three medial tendons had been detached and then reattached, along with an artificial tendon, all held together with a titanium device, screwed into the tibia.
If I moved anything on my body, it pierced my reality.
It happened during the first game and I didn’t want to be a distraction to the rest of the team, so I asked the coaches to forbid the boys from taking time away from their training to fiddle with me. The same was true with my parents. They had traveled across the world..not to sit in the hospital beside me, but to see all that is Israel. Really, what could they do? The boys did play valiantly though. They played their guts out. They took Gold in 7s and Bronze in 15s.
My coach would visit me and said the only (best) thing he could say, “I’m so sorry for you.” What else is there to convey? We had a laugh and watched a sweaty resident use what looked like hedge clipping shears remove one of the casts from my leg. He should be arrested for torture. Are you fucking kidding me? In the end, Shawn took the massive vice and did it himself, much to our delight.
A note about talking to people that are injured – I sure as hell don’t care about that one time when you did that, what’s it called, and then came out of it and had to go back for that, where’s that place..sorry, I don’t give a shit about what happened to you. Not right now. Not while I can’t walk.
I don’t want to hear, “Oh, you’ll be fine..” Because who can honestly say that? What is ‘fine’ after all. You don’t know. I mean, if the 60 year old chief of the orthopedic department of the largest hospital in the country doesn’t know, how the hell do you? Exactly. You don’t.
I don’t want you to sit there and stare at me. Its awkward and I can’t run away.
The vulnerability I experienced in the hospital was overwhelming. From having to pee in a jar and sometimes spilling it on myself to eating food that looks to be made from plastic to not sleeping for days to not eating waiting for surgery to being in extreme pain to not having been able to crap in days from the pain medication to trying to pantomime what a blanket is because the nurse doesn’t speak your language..to the shear numbness of my disappointment.
To say it was humbling and defeating is an understatement.
I thank the universe for my dear friends Haddas and Guy Dotan and their 3 beautiful children, who cared for me upon my release from the hospital. His parents have a wonderful home with a guest house in Hoffit, right on the Mediterranean. The guest apartment was clean and cool and quiet. Perfect. He was so patient with me and would check in with me as often as there was a chance, to see if I needed anything or if there was anything he could help with. Haddas was the best host and those miniatures..I loved having them come to say hello and laugh and run all around. I am ever grateful.
The following week the woman I was to meet in Ukraine changed her plans and flew to Israel instead. While it was beautiful, I felt pretty damned weird. We had not seen each other in 10 years. I am American and live my life in Los Angeles. She is Russian and lives her life in Chelyabinsk. I was high as a kite on pain meds and starving for communication with a human. I couldn’t sleep. I struggled with doing most anything beyond laying there and making sure that foot did not move. I couldn’t carry a cup of coffee. I felt like I was packing for college in preparation to make love. The fact she came to see me at all, knowing my current state, is a miracle.
In spite of my injury, she was still amazing. She was just so easy to be around. She to was ever patient and cared for me like few people I have ever known. In my head, sometimes I felt unworthy.
Remember that the entire US delegation and my family have now been gone for two weeks and I can’t fly with my leg in its current condition. I must wait one more.
My final week was spent at a flat I rented on airbnb.com in Jaffa, which is just south of Tel Aviv. Try and imagine the heat of the Middle East in August, where you don’t speak the language, can’t read a menu online or ask about the contents of a dish over the phone (skype), are without a car, can only call friends when its the opposite time to be awake as you have an 11 hours time difference, and you are unable to walk…with an incision about a foot long on the outside and 4 inches on the inside of your leg that you must clean every day.
Never mind the logical, lucid brain that shuns the effects of seriously powerful pain medication only long enough to remind you that you have tons of work that is being neglected..having brief fits of productivity cuffed by days of feeling worthless and attempting to sleep.
All I wanted to do was come home. I wanted it to be over and I wanted to be in mild Southern California with my friends and some leafy veggies and a solid steak and retire at the end of the day in a clean house and finally my own comfortable bed.
Stay with me here..I’m nearly done.
So after an 18 hour flight home and a leg that looked more like kettle bell than anything that belonged on a human, I arrived home and my place was gross. I had told this guy I would have a cleaning lady come over before I got there, because I am a freak about having a clean house. That’s in normal life. When I’ve been gone for 2 months, rode hard and put up wet, it had better be clean! I’ll save the details, but suffice to say that my dogs live better. Are you a fucking idiot, man?
I was livid.
So, I spent my first week back getting things back in order. Cleaning. Laundry. Moving furniture. Why was the furniture moved? I was losing my mind. All on one leg, mind you.
Meanwhile, remember those wonderful humans I mentioned earlier going to Burning Man? Well, they were just about to depart and the emails were flying around like crazy. Given I had volunteered to champion one of our major art pieces, that would still go, I had to remain engaged. Inasmuch, the feelings of loss were amplified again as I would miss out on the experience.
Done. Here we are today. Healing and settling. But, that is what just happened.
If that sounded like it sucked, it’s because it did.
The culmination of the experience amounted to what I am certain is the most significant disappointment of my life. It hurt on number of levels.
I’m done complaining.
Whew..that was a good one! If you’ve made it this far, thanks. I needed to get that out. If you didn’t make it this far, I suppose you will not know I think your haircut is terrible. I feel better already.
So, what to do now.
- I am acknowledging that which I’m thankful. Always. The list is long, diverse, and vast.
- I must heal this leg and I am proud to say that it coming along ahead of schedule (hat tip to mom and dad for great genes) Today is exactly 6 weeks since surgery and mobility is great and the pain is gone. My diet is full of green vegetables, fresh fruit, and organic meat. Rehab has started at the hospital. Walking in the pool has just begun. Finally, I can sleep.
- I must surround myself with people who love me and bring me up.
I need your advice.
What else can I do? What lessons are to be learned? What can I do differently next time?
Writing this and getting it out is the first step. Next, I need to figure out ways to grow from this and manage life better.
Seriously, please do write if you have ideas on how to cope with loss and heartbreak and anger. I’d appreciate it.
Life is an amazing ride, as it will it will fill your sails or drown you quick. This go round has been in the steel of the teeth. However, as I proof read this essay, its the friends and family that mark each bright spot. For those people I hold dear, I am thankful.