Competing paradigms

“I’m on a vegan, no sugar-added, raw foods-only diet,” I declared on my second orthopedic visit.

The doctor smiled, a tiny little pity smile that made me feel as weak as a child. “But what do you eat?” he asked.

I went from proud to panicked in one breathless instant. “Uh..” I stuttered, caught unexpected like a deer in headlights. What’s my go-to list? “Lots of veggies and fruits? Legumes, uh, tofu…nuts and, yeah that’s pretty much it.”

I’ve convinced myself for a long time that that list is expansive, holistically healthy and just enough variety for me. I was somehow surprised, waiting there for my (still fractured fibula) x-ray results, that I could count all of the food-stuffs I eat one hand.

And then to get that pity look, the words “What do you eat?” reverberating in my head a week later, as I continue to crutch it along — bouncing back and forth from pain to tolerable mobility like an 80’s night strobe light.

“This is your life. Look how messy it is.”

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That’s my dear friend Kate, examining the competing paradigms of my current philosophy on life, and trying her best to come up with a solution for my sorry state of confusion.

I watched as she tried, oh-so deliberately, to re-construct my 4 principles — vegan; environmentally conscious citizen; no added sugar, only raw foods; and severely calcium deficient — into one, ultra Venn diagram to represent my life.

Can I really have it allI asked her, still moody from my MRI. Can I really achieve all of these principles all at once?

I gave her terms and conditions: severely calcium deficient was marked in green highlighter, the only that could not absolutely positively be taken out of the equation. As much as I like to pretend I am healed and that I am on my way, I am broken-bones inside. This is a reality I can’t take off the table just yet.

Circles. More circles. Even bigger circles to try and make the other circles fit.


 

“Well…” Kate slid the post-it note reluctantly across the table. “It’s possible, but just barely.”

I don’t drink milk because I’m vegan. I don’t drink soy milk because it has a lot of added sugar, and it’s undoubtedly farmed on a big-ag soy plantation and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. I don’t drink almond milk because of environmental reasons. I resisted taking calcium supplements for the longest time — just recently relented — for raw/natural food reasons.

Something had to give.

That giving was — is, continues to be — my left ankle/fibula/who-the-hell-knows-because-xrays-show-nothing.

I’ve been limping around campus for 7 weeks, going on 10 weeks for full injury. Every time I think I make some progress, I end up dragging my leg back to my room and biting back tears. Every time I think I see the light, the clouds come rushing in and I’m right back where I started at the beginning of the semester. No progress has proven to be promised.

Something has to go. I know on a rational, all-roads-lead-to-x level that what I’m doing isn’t working for my body.

So then, how do I reconcile my situation? I proudly proclaimed my veganism last spring, and yet in less than 12 months I have fractured two bones — one of which is horrendously behind its recovery schedule. Does it even matter that it’s a lifestyle I still believe in, down to my (broken) bones?

How do I heal myself? I keep thinking it could be worse, and yet I keep condemning myself to another week of painful destitute crippled-ness. Each week has been punctuated by pain and mini-crises and mid-terms and discomfort and slim slivers of recovery and more pain. And each time the cycle starts over again, I want to know: Will I ever recover?

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Everything happens for a reason. I thought that reason was my pace to life, and so I went slower, have been going slower, intend to keep going slower. That’s not enough. I thought it would be enough.

My challenge over the next few days, weeks, months — undoubtedly years, if I can make it — will be to settle the score of these competing paradigms. To not put “mind over matter” because my mind has deceived me, thinking I could make it work if I only tried hard enough, for too long.

And so, I will adjust my sails. Again. I will try to make it right again.

Because food and health and personal happiness is a commitment, not a prize. And it seems I’ve only just begun.