MY HUMBLING EXPERIENCE

Unexpected setbacks will happen. You can’t plan for them, but there’s an upside to each one.

BY ROBERT IRVINE

A few weeks ago, I was in my favorite place—the gym—doing my favorite thing—working out. Suddenly I felt a huge pop on the back of my left arm. A visit to the doctor confirmed my worst fear: it was a full rupture of my triceps muscle.

At least I was doing something cool and impressive, right? Like bench-pressing 405 lbs. or overhead pressing a circus dumbbell? Wish I could say I was. I was warming up with a 10-lb dumbbell. Chalk it up to bad luck. Or more likely the fact that 40 years of wear and tear from lifting, sports, military training, and a breakneck travel schedule came home to roost at the oddest of times.

Whatever you want to call it, it was serious. The injury required surgery to repair, but my schedule allowed for no breaks. I still had to travel and do a bunch of live shows and appearances. I had to tough it until I could take a few days off and get the surgery on my calendar. After the surgery, I had to cancel meetings, delay travel plans, and generally lay low while I recovered. Anyone who knows me knows that this is just about the worst thing you could do to torture me. I’m a man of action and pride, and those two things are inextricably linked. I define myself not just by what I do, but how much I can do. My triceps muscle may have ruptured, but my ego was bruised, as well.

That feeling of depression, though, quickly gave way to something else: appreciation. With the forced time off, I got to be a regular husband and dad for a few days. Instead of jet-setting off to every-which-where, I got to spend more time with Gail and my daughters. I took in a couple of movies, enjoyed a few glasses of wine and a few sunsets with the people who matter most to me. By the time I was fully recovered (I’ll still have to take it very easy on any pressing movements for a while; I can do pushups but need to wait another six weeks to start adding weight), the only thing left to do was kick myself for not taking that family break sooner.

As the summer reaches full swing, I implore you to take time for yourself. Too often we wait until we’re sick or injured to schedule time off from work and spend it with our loved ones. Life is too precious to let it all go by in a blur. My doctor says that my triceps tore because of wear-and-tear. That might be true, but I don’t believe the timing was an accident. Now I can see that it was a blessing in disguise. In no uncertain terms, my body told me to slow down and take it all in. You can do the same—and you don’t have to wait for an injury to force you.

Yours in health,

Robert


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