Harbinger : “one that presages or foreshadows what is to come”

It had become somewhat of a fixture in our dining room. I’d pass by it pretty much daily. Can’t help notice it. It’s not small, my bike, given that I’m 6’3″ and it’s a custom frame. And although when clean, it does look somewhat like a piece of art, by no stretch can one pass it off as part of the room decor. But I wasn’t ready yet. Served me well last race, but just didn’t have it in me to get her ready to ride again. Fall came and went. Winter arrived along with the holidays and still it sat…collecting dust, patiently waiting.

The calendar year turned, and with it, renewed resolutions, dark days and cold weather. Ingredients to make indoor morning bike trainer rides somewhat more palatable. So the bike was moved (no roots had set) to the basement, and we (yes..for those on the outside of the world of biking, bicycles are people too) said hi to the computrainer.  Forty minutes later, in full biking attire (no small feat, trying to find my bike “kit” buried in a pile of summer workout gear), with the Husker Du song “New Day Rising” churning in the back of my head, I’m ready to go. This is it. Rising from the ashes…building a new “bridge” to 2015. I start spinning easily to warm up and then…ouch!

A few months ago, it was just a little “niggle”.  A little bit of pain in my right knee. Nothing too horrible. I mean, in general, the rest of the 5am workouts with the trainer (see Limits) overall were much more uncomfortable. But the right knee thing kept popping up. Harbinger. On sled drills, squats and so forth, it would rear its head. I’d work around it, go home. Rest, Motrin, repeat workout. After a month, these morning workouts were turning more into physical therapy sessions with the trainer than the beat-downs I had grown accustomed to. So I decided to take a little break. And after a few weeks, perfect timing to hop back on the horse (bike). Who would have thought that with every downstroke of my right leg, my knee would say (hey…don’t do that…what…cut it out…do you hear me…WTF are you doing…do u not understand English…hey…hey… HEY!!!) about 85-90 times a minutes (if the cadence monitor on my bike is accurate). So all dressed up and nowhere to go, I dismount the bike and directly walk into a state of denial.

Now “denial” for me is my “go to” mechanism for dealing with unwanted things.  Not very sophisticated for sure, and frankly quite counter-productive. Sarcasm is my other method of choice but that takes energy and thought…which is not my initial reaction. I mean it is hard to use sarcasm when late with one’s taxes. The IRS is not particularly known for its sense of humor. Returning challenging patient phone calls always seems more palatable tomorrow than tonight. Bills…well they can be paid next weekend. Comcast usually is nice enough to give a few warning calls before shutting cable down and sending my kids into a tizzy.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am a relatively high functioning, procrastinating denialist. (By the way, I think that would make a great name for a punk band.) The house has never been foreclosed on. I have managed to maintain my board certifications in medicine with some hours to spare before midnight deadlines. And if you allow for ALL of 2014 to pay 2013 taxes, then I’m doing pretty good. (Yep…I set the bar pretty high). But as a 44 year old child at times, it might be time to rethink this approach.

There is something about the shortening of days, the constant gray skies, and a perpetual chill in the air that makes me turn more “inwards”.  What else is a “niggle” in my life right now? What am I pushing off till “tomorrow”. Work is not hitting on all cylinders like it has in the past. Missed connections with friends keep popping up. My kids are growing up so fast. I find myself looking at their pictures from what seems like a lifetime ago, with my mind frozen in the past…But am I missing some of their present?

I had an MRI of my knee yesterday. I went and saw the doctor. Had the scan done in less than 24 hours. The meniscus is fine. No tear. Some bone contusion and a cyst of some type. Not “career” ending or threatening. I guess more Motrin or PT or rest or all of the above. But all will be good. But I think it’s time to start working on some of the other “niggles” in my life. Closing my eyes and looking in the other direction when things are suboptimal at work is not a successful nor fulfilling long term strategy. And just hoping for chance encounters with long time friends is a poor way for maintaining contact. Being present and in the moment with my teenage kids…well that’s always a work in progress.

So when my knee started to hurt, I thought it would be a harbinger of the “big” injury. The one that that tells me “you’re 44 years old, dude…you’ve done 5 Ironman races. Maybe it’s time to dial it back. Can’t cheat father time…”  But I think it’s telling me something else. Something far less ominous, but more subtle. That it’s time to stop ignoring the “niggles” in my life and start doing something about them. Maybe as a 44 year old adult, it’s time to move on from denial to action. From passivity to activity. At work. With friends and my family. Time to get started… But if only I knew where I put this years W-2’s?

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