I have just returned from a solo motorcycle trip in Southern California.

It’s early December, and I want to move fast into what’s next – karate belt promotion.

A previous injury to my right knee in a down-n-dirty beach volleyball match has kept me down for 6 months and slowed my progress in karate over the past year. The belt promo is in 6 days. I’m ready.

I had just returned from riding a 2018 Heritage Softail in SoCal, writing a feature article for Baggers Magazine. (November 22, 2017. Photo credit: Drew Ruiz).

But then, on December 3, 2017, I broke inside.

Actually, I tore. My anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tore – and I go down hard. In a karate class sparring match, I throw a kick with my right leg, bring the leg down, but keep going down. My leg gives, buckling underneath me. I try to get up. Only to fall back down. I try up again. Down again. More futile attempts. Logic gives way to stubborn determination and denial that my leg just doesn’t work anymore. My karate instructor tells me to stop trying.

I am on the floor, crying. But it’s not just my leg. It’s everything now. It’s like God/Universe/Something-Greater-Than-Me has pushed me down into a bone-dry well, wanting me to hit the ground hard, smack my face against the cold, stone bottom, pushing me head first into the issues I’m already wrangling with: relationships that aren’t serving my highest good; my divorce; the pain my children have experienced from divorce.

This is my rock bottom.

On the severity scale of rock bottoms, I know mine is pretty mild. But it IS mine, and I sit at the bottom of the dank, lonely emotional well of self-pity for three days, mourning the temporary loss of physical activity, of my beloved martial arts, and woe is me and what am I going to do about this busted up leg? When can I ride motorcycle again? It’s December. It’s Minnesota. It’s cold. It’s dark. And I feel lots of pain in my leg, and now, again, even more in my heart.

That’s when I decide, enough is enough.

I’m done crying about it. It’s time to get better. It’s time to take my hurt and my disappointment and my longing – in everything – and make it better. Make me better. Make me stronger. I must fix this leg, and fix myself, so I can ride motorcycle again in the Spring. I must get back to what I love — riding. Because when I ride, everything feels better. I am better.

This isn’t a terminal illness, it’s an injured leg.

It’s not an amputated leg, I still have a leg. It just needs fixing. As for all the other hurts that became suddenly more present and painful when I went down that day, I know that just like my leg, they will heal too. But it’s gonna take time. And work.

December 22, I undergo ACL reconstruction surgery.

It goes without a hitch. I have a cadaver tendon. I’m sore and in pain. But mostly, I’m grateful.

Six days post-op. Surgery involved, among other things, including drilling holes into my bones to anchor the new cadaver tendon. Ouch. (December 28, 2017).

Grateful for the person –- rest in peace — who donated organs and this tendon. Grateful for doctors and nurses and family and friends who care for me so expertly. Grateful for anesthesia, nerve blocks and Percocet. Grateful for progress. Grateful to God.

I attend physical therapy. I wear a brace. I ice my leg. I take a few steps. I bear a little weight on the leg. I binge watch Homeland starring Claire Danes and decide that I should definitely begin a new career as a CIA agent once my leg is fully healed. Dane’s character has such an interesting life. And she gets to travel a lot.

Physical therapy sometimes makes me cry, but ice afterwards always feels better. (TRIA Orthopedics, December 30, 2017. Photo credit: Gwen King).

Which I will do again soon. Even if I don’t pursue a new career, I know that my beloved motorcycle waits patiently and quietly in my garage for me. We will ride together soon. This makes me happy.

I slowly regain strength in my leg – very slowly.

The healing process involves a little progress, a little at a time. I stay true to my physical therapist’s instructions, and work the leg as much as I can. I break through the scar tissue, and bend the leg further than it wants to go. I start walking without crutches. Then without a brace. The stitches come out. I take more steps. I sleep. Pray. Step. Give thanks. Read. Work. Pray. Give more thanks. Step. Heal. More thanks.

Four weeks post-op. Stitches out. Bruising and swelling reduced. Looking good! (January 21, 2018).

6 weeks post-op, Dr. John Steubs, my surgeon at Tria Orthopedic, admires his handiwork and my range of motion. (February 8, 2018).

My torn — and now new — ACL has given me three things that I was running way low on before:

. . .strength. . .

. . .health. . .

. . .gratitude. . .

My karate family and the first responders who cared for me when I went down. My leg is strong — I’ll be back, guys!! (February 12, 2018).

I had to hit the ground — face first — and come undone.

I had to tear apart and get all busted up inside. I had to fall apart, so I could put myself back together in to a better version of myself. I’m hellbent on making this leg and myself, stronger than ever.

I’m coming back together. It’s all coming back together.

Spring is still a ways off. But its coming. And so is riding season.

See you on the road, darlings.

xoxo, Anastasia