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Crawling Home

“You were in my dream last night.”

“Oh, really, what was it about?”

 

Here I am, laying on my physical therapist’s treatment table, telling him that I dreamt about him last night. Not very professional, right? Well, it’s too late now . . .

 

In a calm, steady voice, my physical therapist, Burke Selbst, tells me there is no pressure to share my dream with him, but he would feel honored by my trust if I chose to do so. I can’t get it out of my head, so I dive right in:

Burke Selbst, Physical Therapist, Focus

Burke Selbst, Physical Therapist, Focus

“Okay, for some reason the Deschutes River ran from up northeast of town and then down past my house. I was way up on the northeast side, trying to walk the three miles back home, but I couldn’t get anywhere. I kept pushing with all my might, trying to make my feet move forward, but each step would only move me about a half a centimeter. I kept pushing harder and harder, straining with all my might, but I just couldn’t go forward. Then I dropped to the ground and started crawling, gripping the dirt with my fingers, trying desperately to get home, but I was getting nowhere.”

None of this surprised him. Burke had been treating me for the past several months. He had seen first-hand how hard I was trying to “get my old body back.” Ten months earlier, a car accident left me with gnarly whiplash: for the first several months the slightest touch to my neck made me feel like vomiting. But that was nothing compared to my hip: the high-speed crash had knocked the right half of my pelvis out of place. As often as we put it back in place, it kept slipping out again. My pediatrist, Dr. Su, once eloquently diagnosed me with “excessively floppy joints.” These floppy joints, plus a car 

accident, meant little hope for healing or stability. The slightest jolt could knock my hip out of place and putting it back hurt almost as badly as childbirth. I had spent ten months trying to get better, but I just kept falling apart again. I gave up playing the viola. I gave up hopes of ever being able to run again. Physical touch of any kind that used to be comforting is now brutally painful. This dream of clawing my way along the path—part of me is still trying to get “home.” Part of me doesn’t want to give up.

Burke murmurs encouraging words, sympathy, hope. He is the only physical therapist who can work on me without sending me into shock. I tried two others, but it didn’t work out well. It wasn’t their fault: I have a nasty habit of putting up a mental wall when I am in pain. I act like everything is okay and then fall apart behind closed doors. How can anyone help me if I don’t give them feedback? During my third visit with Burke, he did a little work on my left side and then walked around the table to my right side. “Oh, that really hurts!” he said. He hadn’t touched me. I had not moved or breathed or done a single thing. He could somehow just see the pain emanating from the right side of my body. “How can you tell?” I asked. “I don’t know,” he said, “I just feel it.”

I can’t talk while Burke adjusts my neck. Breathe, just breathe. I know I will shake uncontrollably in the car on the way home, but for now, I hold it together. During the treatment, I can’t help but wonder why I haven’t slipped into depression. Day after day, week after week, month after month I have be immersed in pain. I will probably never play the viola again. I can barely walk. Sitting for more than fifteen minutes is a major accomplishment. Why am I not depressed?

Burke in the wild

The answer is obvious; in fact, my dream last night made it crystal clear. I pick up where I left off:

 

“It was weird, because, as I was clawing my way through the dirt by the river, I looked up and saw a kind of zoo. Zebras, leopards, cheetahs, tigers, bears, monkeys, all kinds of animals. They were so beautiful. Absolutely amazing! Of course, I know who the animals were.”

Burke in the wild

Gym owner, Renee Metivier

Gym owner, Renee Metivier

Burke’s physical therapy office shares a work-out area with a gym called Recharge. It just so happens that top athletes, even Olympic athletes, train there. My therapy happens alongside people who can run a marathon in well under 3 hours; who can jump and lift and flex like nothing I had ever before seen. These athletes, they were the animals in the zoo along the river in my dream. Renee was a cheetah: sleek and fast. Amanda was a leopard: mighty and graceful, she can jump across the gym in a single bound. Jamie was everything at once: a monkey scaling a tree, a mother hen protecting and comforting everyone around her, a zebra, exotic and powerful. Then there are athletes I don’t know by name, but I know that man over there was the bear, that 

Jamie Kruse, Central Oregon Massage

Jamie Kruse, Central Oregon Massage

 one was an antelope . . . whether I know their names or not, these athletes are much more than a show for me. They are my friends. They are my cheerleaders. They ask me how it’s going, listen intently, and offer advice on how to heal. They celebrate my tiny victories of walking and sitting on a chair as if these accomplishments were as great as the races they win; the records they break. They are the reason I am not depressed! God has surrounded me with a zoo full of blessings.

Burke listens to me describe the animals and who they represented. Cheetahs, bears, zebras—finally he gets curious and asks, “Which animal was I?”

 

“You were an ostrich.” Laughter spills out of both of us.

 

“It was such a cool dream. You know, I may not be where I want to be, but I might as well enjoy where I am! These people—I never would have met them if I this had not happened.”

 

Burke’s hands drop to his lap. My treatment is done for today. “When you are ready, you can sit up," he says, his voice overflowing with kindness.

 

I’m ready, but my body is not. Nevertheless, I force myself to sit up, put on my shoes, and walk through the zoo on my way out. Muscles are flexing right and left, I am surrounded by smiling faces as the zoo animals wave goodbye to me and shout, “Have a good day, Janet! See you next time!”

Renee Metivier, Athlete, Recharge

Renee Metivier, Athlete, Recharge

In the car, hot and cold and waves of pain course through my leg, hip, back and neck. Proverbs 18:14 says, “The human spirit can endure sickness, but a crushed spirit, who can bear?” My body is crushed, by my spirit is not, thanks to family, friends, students, and top-notch athletes who have time to cheer me on.

 

Crawling home. Crawling back to what I used to be. Will I ever get there? What does it matter if I can enjoy where I am, surrounded by my family and my friends at Recharge and Focus. Best zoo ever!

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 

 - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

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