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Out There: Help, I’m a Stubborn-holic

Susan Lacke just can't sit still and take her doctor's advice.

Susan Lacke just can’t sit still and take her doctor’s advice.

It’s been well-documented in this column that I make poor decisions.

There was the time I stubbornly soldiered through a race with bloodied and battered feet reminiscent of ground hamburger. I’ve also gone way too fast on my bike, resulting in my first ambulance ride. And in a display of spectacular asshattery, I did an Ironman with a broken rib.

overtrain. I underrecover. I blatantly ignore obvious signs that the s—t is being introduced to the fan right below my nose.

My name is Susan, and I’m a stubborn-holic.

Every time I make a dumb, mulish decision, it ends with me apologizing profusely to my doctor, my husband and the friends who have to put up with me and the consequences of my decisions. Never again! I solemnly swear. I will be smart this time around! But like an alcoholic finds himself with an empty bottle once again, or a woman who dates the exact same type of loser in hopes that “this one will be different,” I always find myself choosing the path of stupidity.

Why? I have no answer.

I’ve been stubborn since the day I entered the world with a pair of boxing gloves on. By the time I was three years old, my mother and father had a cover-to-cover memorization of a parenting book titled The Strong-Willed Child. In my childhood report cards, the “teacher comment” section was filled with variations on a theme: Bright child, but defiant. Does not accept help from others. Hard-headed.

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30 years later, I’m pretty sure my coach would say those exact same comments about me if given the opportunity. To be honest, he probably has. I’m just too stubborn to hear it.

Lately, though, I’ve hit a new low in my obstinate ways. In March, I rolled my ankle during a hike. True to form, I continued running for six months, until I literally couldn’t run anymore. Two weeks ago, I underwent surgery to repair two fractures and a torn ligament. As I type this, my left leg is encased in plaster and bandages. If you think surgery would slow me down, go back and read the first sentence of this column.

“For the first 10 days, I want you on bed rest only,” my doctor said. I nodded woozily from the haze of anesthetic. Knowing all too well who he was dealing with, he leaned in closer to my face: “I mean it. Nothing. You do nothing for 10 days. Do you understand me?” I murmured acquiescence before nodding off once more.

The day after the surgery, I was googling “Seated Exercise Workouts.”

Three days post-surgery, I texted my friend Ashly to see if I could get a spot in her Pilates class. (She very lovingly told me to get my idiot butt back in bed.)

Five days later, I was on a knee scooter, resuming my normal work and household activities as much as possible. I was determined not to let something as silly as a cast slow my roll.

Seven days later, I began having dizzy spells.

Ten days later, I fainted and ended up in the emergency room.

“You had one job, Susan,” said my doctor, his aggravation woven through his brow. “One job, and that was to rest. Why are you so stubborn?”

Why? I have no answer.

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Some people subscribe to the idea of “rock bottom”—the lowest of the lows, when morale and behavior dips to such a subterranean level there is nowhere to go but up. As a stubborn-holic, it’s hard for me to accept such a concept. When I hit rock bottom, I keep digging with a spoon, hoping for just one more centimeter.

The endurance community is filled with people like me. How much is enough, you ask? Just a little more, we’ll tell you. We repeatedly throw ourselves at every metaphorical brick wall, with absolute conviction this time will be the time we break through. Sometimes we actually do break through, and the resulting high is addicting. We would chase that high anytime, anywhere, anyplace.

But more often than not, we’re just battered idiots, flinging ourselves against a brick wall while the reasonable people walk through the door we’re too obstinate to see. We’re bright, but defiant. We do not accept help from others. We’re hard-headed.

What a profound thing it is to just stop for a second. To most of us, taking a break or asking for help feels like admitting we’re losing a battle. But when you’re a stubborn-holic, everything is a battle, from nailing your mile splits to creating a perfect spreadsheet at work. That’s exhausting.

Perhaps it’d be good to step back and rest, to gain a little strength first, to even ask for help.

One of these days, I’ll stop making dumb decisions in my stubborn-holic ways. On that day, I’ll probably retire from writing this column. But today, I have to stop digging, put down the spoon and accept that I have just one job.

And that job is to rest.