©2019 THE SMILE PROJECT

Never Gon' Keep Me Down

April 2, 2017

On Sunday, March 19th, I hit my head against my bedroom wall. Hard. I wish it was a better story but the facts are as follows:

 

1. I used to have a giant pillow that my old roommate left at our old apartment. Naturally, I acquired it by common law of, “well, he left it.” It was one of those what I call, “video game pillows.” You know, the kind that have little arms that you would prop up against the perfectly good sofa after you’d decided to sit on the floor to play Super Smash Brothers instead of aforementioned sofa. Ah, childhood. Anyway, I used to have one of those pillows on my bed.

 

2. My roommate got pretty sick and couldn’t sleep like a normal person because he would start coughing and his nose would get all stuffy and, I mean, we’ve all been there – it’s rough. He texted me from his bedroom one morning asking if he could borrow my video game pillow to prop himself up. I obliged, brought him the pillow, and went on with my day.

 

3. Mid-morning on Sunday, March 19th, I excitedly decided I was going to crawl back into bed – and read a chapter of my book before my walk to church. It had been such a productive morning. I deserved this. I grabbed my book and jumped onto my bed – headfirst into the video game pillow. The video game pillow I had just lent my roommate 24 hours earlier.

 

4. My head smashed the wall and I fell onto my purple fleece blanket that I bought at a rest stop on the Pennsylvania turnpike once. I immediately grabbed my head and my phone – one for comfort and one to complain to my friend about how I just hit my head so hard!! :(

 

5. I thought nothing of it.

 

I went about my normal Sunday rituals and started the week with the enthusiasm of someone who got a good night of rest. I went to work. I ran every day after work. I took Smile Project calls and went to events with my friends and the next weekend, even had a Match Day with my Little Sister through the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program. It was a normal, active, busy week. I didn’t feel good. But whatever. It was fine.

 

On Sunday, March 26th, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I definitely didn’t feel well. Everything clicked on Monday at work. I stared at some fuzzy numbers on my computer screen and revisited the past week in my mind.

 

I think I have a concussion.

 

I checked every box on the symptoms page and then I panicked. I mean, there is never a good time to get sick on any level, but I had been training for a ½ marathon that was to take place on Saturday, April 1st.

 

I can ignore it for another week and then go to the doctors after I race.

 

This race meant a lot to me. I had been putting in hours of strong workouts and I had seen my times drop each week. To say I was excited to race was an understatement. There’s no way I wasn’t running.

 

I went to the doctor the next day. Thank goodness for whatever sense I had in me that told me pride shouldn’t win this war. The doctor told me that I most likely gave myself a concussion and – because I didn’t stop running and the word rest wasn’t part of my vocabulary – I was experiencing the post-concussion syndrome symptoms now. I tuned out her talk about getting a scan to confirm and insurance clearances and focused instead on:

 

Me: So can I run on Saturday?

Doctor: Do you want to get better?

Me: Yeah, but that doesn’t answer my question.

 

Okay, I wasn’t that abrupt but still. This race was important to me. It wasn’t the distance. I ran a half marathon in training the day before I hit my head. It wasn’t the location. In fact, its starting line in Brooklyn was annoyingly far from my apartment. The race was just symbolically meaningful. When I first had some health issues a couple years ago, I wasn’t able to run at all.

 

Last August (2016), I finally got to a place where I could regularly run. It was amazing. My first race back was a 5k in October and my time wasn’t anything earth-shattering but it meant the world to me anyway. It was being able to reclaim something that had been taken away from me.

 

In the months since, I was getting stronger and faster and I had a countdown my calendar of days until the half. It was the principle of the thing. I hadn’t let anything stop me. I had kept fighting. I had come back better than before. I was unstoppable.

 

And then I slammed my head into a wall.

 

By Thursday, I had kind of accepted that I wasn’t going to be running this race. By Friday, I thought I was maturely accepting it. By Friday night, as I went to bed without setting out my running clothes, I realized I still wanted to be emotional about it.

 

It isn’t fair.

 

I complained to the same friend I had complained to when I first hit my head.

 

I’ve been working so hard and I was so looking forward to this and it was going to be a really great race!

 

Calm as ever, he reminded me: Okay. But you’ve experienced a lot of things that aren’t fair. Just keep going.

 

He was right. There’s all kinds of things that aren’t fair. The quicker I accepted that and moved on, the quicker I was able to rise to the next challenge.

 

Okay, so I can’t run the April 1st half marathon. Good thing I live in New York City where there are races all the time. Good thing that if I really buy into this whole “rest” thing, I should be good to go again before I know it.

 

And then I remembered one more thing. The only song I ever called my “favorite” song was Tubthumping by Chumbawamba. Released in 1997, this song is a classic in one-hit wonders. Though the words are a little more grown-up than young Liz realized, this song has forever held a special place in my heart.

 

I have very vivid memories of running around the basement with my two older brothers and neighbor, doing handstands off the walls and pushing each other to the ground in good fun and laughter, blasting Tubthumping and Mambo No. 5.

 

The only lines I really knew from Tubthumping were…

 

I get knocked down // but I get up again // you’re never gonna keep me down

 

…which is probably good considering 80% of the other lines were about alcoholic beverages and I was a solid decade and a half away from legal consumption.

 

Still those lines – taken on their own – have always formed an important lesson in my head.

 

Okay. So I don’t feel that great now. Okay. So I missed a race that I was really excited about. It’s okay. Because I will feel better. And I will find another race. And like that annoyingly catchy song, I will get up again.

 

This is my pep talk to myself. Let’s go.

 

Love always,

Liz

 

 

 

 

Liz

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