How Strangers & Heroes Can Change Your Day

Sometimes, you are just doing your thing. Keeping your head down. And someone walks into your path and shakes you up in a big way. This can be a negative, like a stranger cutting you off on the road and flipping you off. Or someone being rude to you when you are out shopping, getting gas, mowing the lawn, putting up Christmas lights. Whatever. Or.

Or, it can be someone stepping into your path when you need it most. “Watch out” a passerby says as you are about to step on a patch of unseen ice, “I just slipped there, be careful.” A stranger flashes headlights at you and you know there is a police officer up ahead running a speed trap. Or, more benign, someone leaves a coupon for you on an item on the store shelf and you happen to be able to use it. There are a million little ways that strangers impact us – for the better and for the worse. But sometimes, it’s bigger than the coupon on the shelf. Sometimes it’s even better than not running through a speed trap.

I was at my physical therapy appointment. Struggling through the set of exercises after seeing the therapist and getting worked over. She is wonderful, but if you have ever had PT you know what I am talking about. Ouch. Plus, it was the first day that I had PT without taking a pain pill before seeing her. Not entirely on purpose, but certainly a good sign – that I hadn’t needed one. So, there is some improvement.

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Oh, I should explain. If you don’t know me, or are new to my little blogging corner of the world, you don’t know that I had major reconstructive surgery on my shoulder 10 weeks ago. Major. When I say major, I mean it. They did 7 different procedures on my shoulder. I can’t even name them all. In fact, when I try to share with people – so they don’t think I am a wimp that it’s 10 weeks out and I still can’t hook my own bra – I can only list 5 of them. They rebuilt my rotator cuff, which was only 20% attached. They repaired my subscapularis. They fixed my labrum. They ground up the underside of my clavicle to make more room for the muscles (which are clearly so giant!). And, they cut my bicep off of the bone, removed the shredded part, and reattached it to the top of my humerus with these cool octopus anchor things. That’s the big one, I think. But, then, what do I know? I can’t even name all 7 of the procedures.

I hurt myself training for a powerlifting competition. So, I want to make sure to tell you that. For one, it makes me feel better. For two, it will help explain what I am about to share. I am not overly competitive, but I am very excited about powerlifting. I found it last year and really enjoy it. It is something that I can do with the other physical limitations that I have (not for this post), and it helps me feel fit, strong, and control my weight. Here is a sport where my size is a benefit! Why not do a competition? Hooray! I did one and it was awesome.

But, I hurt myself along the way. And, there was rehab. And, then when that didn’t work, there was surgery. And, I have been recovering. And I can’t even open some water bottles because gripping and turning hurts so badly. And, I am not feeling like I am making much progress. And, I have needed lots of help. And, I have been feeling sorry for myself. And, not feeling all that butch – at least not in being able to do some of the things that I like to do for me and my wife (again, that’s a whole different post). And, I can’t work out. And, where are all those positive endorphins? And, and, and!

Perhaps you can see where my head is. So, I am at PT and it hurts, but I am doing alright. I joke with Todd Durkin, the amazing man who runs the gym (where I train, and also there is PT), that he should call me “QB” because I had NFL quarterback-like surgery. We laughed and I kept doing my PT. I finished up and in walks a famous NFL QB whom I love, let’s call him Joe. That is not a big deal in and of itself, as Joe works out at my gym and has done so long before I ever went there. But, this particular day, I had an experience I have not had before.

I was getting some water from the front desk and Joe is talking to Todd next to me. Todd says to Joe, “She had worse shoulder surgery than you did, Joe.” He looks at me (has seen me around, etc.) and says, “What did you have done?” I stumble through the details (evidence my attempt above), and he asks how I hurt it. Powerlifting, I share, training for a competition.

Am I really swapping injury stories with Joe?!?

He then asks how long before I get back to it. 10 months, I say. “What is your interim goal?” he asks. Interim goal? I don’t know, I think. I don’t have any. Sleep through the night? Be able to walk around with my arm out of the sling and not have it hurt? I admit that I don’t have any. He says, you need an interim goal. A couple of them. Something to get me from here to the next couple of weeks, rather than from here to 10 months from now. They told him he wouldn’t play for 8 months. He thought that was ridiculous and so he set short term goals.

As an editorial aside, can you imagine how I was feeling during this chat? This pep talk that I was getting from Joe? One of the best quarterbacks of all time (trust me on that)? A future Hall of Famer? I mean, WHAT?!?

So, here comes a stranger (just cause I know who he is, doesn’t mean he knows me) to change my day. Here is someone that is a bit of a hero for me and he takes the time to say, “Watch out for the ice there.” He shares a bit of himself with me, and encourages me to set interim goals. In doing so, he changes the way I look at my recovery. He makes it about training. Getting back to what I love. Not about focusing on the pain, or the sleepless nights, or the water bottles I can’t open and the bras I can’t quite get on myself. No. In one selfless and giving swoop, he shifts my focus. Not on 10 months from now. He shifts it to this week. What is my goal right now? What is the first hurdle that I can get over?

I don’t have stats in front of me, but I know that he has been a better QB after his surgery. That he rebuilt his own shoulder and went on to do more than he did before. Maybe he would have improved that much anyway. Or, maybe he took the challenge and made himself better because of it. I think that is what he encouraged me to do today.

My shoulder still hurts. I still can’t easily open the door for my wife. But I feel different. More optimistic. Today, I am focused on returning to a full range of motion. That is my next hurdle. That is my focus. Not 10 months from now (how much will I be able to lift again? Will it hurt? Can I compete?).

So I was just doing my thing. Keeping my head down. And, into my path walked a stranger to shake me up in a big way. Today it was a hero of mine. And, now everything is different. Thank you, Joe.

About Tristan Higgins, aka Butch Jaxon

I am a butch. This blog is about what I think. If you do not know what butch means, you are probably on the wrong blog. In the interests of inclusion, though, I can tell you that “butch” means a lesbian that is big, strong, tough, more macho, less girly. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules – which is an ongoing theme in my blog (and in the comments), but those are the basics. A butch will most likely not wear makeup. A butch is often referred to as “sir” by someone who is not paying attention. What else? I am, after all, not just a butch. I am happily married to the most amazing woman ever, and the mother of two fantastic kids. I am also a lover of, in no particular order, beer, bowties, breasts, movies, hiking, bookstores, travel, dogs, geocaching, polar bears, the gym, music, gadgets, and more. By day, I am an intrepid corporate entertainment lawyer. Although I try hard not to be labeled as such – sporting a bleached Mohawk, for example. Think more entertainment and less corporate. By night, bring it all on! In my blog, I talk about things from a butch perspective, but this is not just for butches. We all love our femmes. Please do not let me offend femmes, mine in particular! If you like what you read here, I hope you will comment and let me know what you think. If you do not like what you read, well, what the hell do I care? Start your own blog. Be Butch. View all posts by Tristan Higgins, aka Butch Jaxon

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