A couple weeks ago, I broke my wrist while walking the dog. The day was cold but gorgeous, and our dog prances like a little reindeer when she is especially excited about snow. She was reindeer-ing in a field in our local park, and I was joyful and laughing at her antics. I felt comfortable that we were walking on a snowy sidewalk, not an icy one. But there was ice under the snow, and I flipped up and came down on my hand. As soon as I went down, I knew my wrist was broken.
This is the second time I’ve broken a bone like that, and both occasions were strikingly similar. The first time, I was ten years old, roller skating on an exuberantly beautiful spring day. I hit a bump and flew, coming down on my left (dominant) hand, and breaking a bone in my hand.
I can’t remember how I reacted when I fell as a ten year old, but this time I went for full drama – sitting down on my heels and crying. No cars drove by, so I went all out.
I cried because it hurt. I cried because I was scared about being limited in what I could do in an intense season of work and of home holiday events and responsibilities. I cried in self-recrimination – how could I have learned so little in 40 years that I fell exactly the same way at the age of 50 as I did at the age of 10? Why don’t I pay attention? Why don’t I know how to fall? Why hadn’t I taken the extra step to put on Yaktrax before walking the dog? I cried because I hate being a burden to family members, and this was going to create extra work for my husband. I cried because I hadn’t yet addressed our Christmas cards. I cried because I had to get home with the dog. I cried because there were going to be so many arrangements that needed to be made in order to get my kids where they needed to be (including home) that day. I cried because we don’t have a lot of slush in our lives – extra time that I can devote to healing – and I didn’t know where I was going to find time to heal. I cried because I was 50 years old and on my knees crying in the icy snow, and even in the moment, I could see that was a little much.
The dog came over and licked my face, and we made our way home. I called a friend – a lovely and no-nonsense friend who would (a) never get herself into this kind of predicament (b) would not kneel in the snow crying if she did and (c) would not judge me for doing both of those. She came over and drove me to the emergency room.
In a blog about gratitude, I have to take a moment and be grateful for that friend.
There are a lot of things to be grateful for in all of this – I broke one wrist, not two. I don’t need surgery. I love my dog and I love that we have beautiful places to walk. The wait time at the hospital was short, and the doctor was great. My own primary care doctor came down to the ER to check on me when he got an alert that I was there. My husband has washed every dish for weeks.
My wrist is healing. I can type better than I could even a few days ago. I can put on a coat, which I really couldn’t because a coat sleeve was too heavy, even a few days ago. I have a few more casted weeks, but i can tell the fracture is knitting itself back together. Yay, bodies. Yay, bones. Yay, healing.
For the last couple of weeks, I have had to rest. Of course my wrist hurt, but to my surprise, my brain also got exhausted pretty quickly – every moment felt like a moment that I had to figure out. How do I open the toothbrush cap and put toothpaste on my roll-y electric toothbrush? How do I stay warm in the world when my coat hurts? How do I open the door to the house when I am carrying a grocery bag in my non-casted hand? How do I shower and wash my hair? How do I put in contact lenses with my right (wrong) hand? How do I fill out a form when talk-to-text isn’t available? Which emails can be answered with a word or two and which need a real response? No wonder my brain was tired.
I googled life hacks for arm casts, and I’m sorry to say that the hacks seemed to be mostly “get takeout for dinner” and “use paper plates.” To be fair, after a couple of weeks in a cast, I have no useful tricks to add. My “hacks” are just annoying: leave extra time to do everything and build in lots of time to rest. Only type in programs that have autosave, because every typed word is precious, and your hands are clumsier than you think they will be. And possibly most annoyingly of all: this too shall pass.
This will pass because I don’t have to tell my body to heal; it just does. And I laugh at how grateful I am that healing my wrist doesn’t depend on my mind. The fall itself illustrated how unreliable my mind still is. My mind’s first instinct when I fell was to list as many woulda-coulda-shouldas as it could, and express them with all the outrage it could muster, all tilted at myself – and exhausting those, it fell quickly into overwhelm at all the ways the days and weeks ahead would be untenable.
As it turns out, the days and weeks ahead haven’t been untenable. They have been tiring. I do still wish I instinctively knew how to fall correctly. I have been cautious walking the dog, wearing Yaktrax and walking more slowly than she would prefer. I have had to use a lot more text-to-talk than I ever dreamed I would. Pull-on pants, sweatshirts, and step-in shoes are staples of my current wardrobe, because ties and buttons are just … not happening. I have had to accept a lot of help; I have gratefully accepted a lot of help.
And as for that mind of mine – the one that beat me up when I fell? Maybe I can extend even my mind a little grace. I had just fallen. My mind was scared and frustrated and acted out. Since then it has worked hard to solve dozens of small problems every day. It has … stayed out of the way, at least … while my body worked to heal my fractured bone. It is still perfectly willing to dive into overwhelm – as though overwhelm were a warm and cozy comforter – but to be fair, it’s willing to be coaxed out again.
I started this post thinking it would be about gratitude for my bones healing. I am so grateful for that. But to my astonishment, I’m ending it also grateful for my mind, and all the ways it also heals and is healed. Here’s to healing in all its many forms.