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The Humility of Injury

Right before Labor Day I fractured my ankle in two places and partially tore three ligaments. It was obviously painful as hell, but it could have been a lot worse.  Three months later, with the end of summer looming, I am still rehabbing. Walking around a city is fine, but running, tennis, and hiking are still distant. It’s been a process.

One constant in this that I am proud of has been my positive mental attitude. I anchored this in the hope that weeks on crutches would heal my plantar fasciitis (it didn’t fully) and a resolution to focus on what I could or would do while my injury limited more habitual routines.

This started with a handwritten entry in my journal: a practice I love and at times have done more frequently but which I hadn’t touched in YEARS.
It took a semi-catastrophic injury to prompt a return to a habit I love and value.

Injury has wrought a pause, a forced re-positioning. Each routine daily action is now one to be considered. Movement comes with a new calculus. And it has only been four miserable days.

In those days part of me has wanted to weep (I didn’t). But I have spent so much mental energy on battling the negative.My body hurts. I won’t be able to do what I planned this summer.

That’s an exhausting process, so now it’s time to shift fronts.

Clearly any change, whether wanted or not, brings with it something new…a different quality. And this injury, in the grand scheme of things, is minor. My job doesn’t depend on my mobility. Full recovery is highly likely.

So, I find for the first time in four days, time to ponder what I should do with this summer and this forced opportunity (I am not quite ready to call it a gift yet).

  • First, I will have more opportunity to sit. In fact, sitting is going to be a real fact of life. What remains is how I choose to sit. Can I meditate more? Write more? Think more? Yes.
  • Second, I will use this opportunity to get stronger physically. My legs are off limits, but soon exercise won’t be.
  • Third, my brief time on crutches is a time to develop more empathy and perspective. I have taken so much for granted and been blind to so much.
  • Fourth, I will use the conversations that my injury is sparking to meet others and push my boundaries through random conversation
  • Fifth, I will strive to accept the kindness of others, which is not my strong suit and has so often felt awkward

After I wrote those five intentions I flipped back through my journal. One entry read: “It is a rare thing to get a bit of time to sit and ponder.”

Cool. I kept reading another entry, also from 2013, that listed 10 goals for the next five years. I didn’t “make” all of them, but I did feel like I was living two of them:

  • Within four years I want to be a manager of people with an eye towards self-employment
  • Financial compensation is important but influence, autonomy, and impact are more so”

As I kept going back in time, I came across another set of goals. One offered an especially fun contrast to the present. It read: “in the next year I would like to have one more serious relationship.” Three weeks after I wrote those words I went on a first date with the woman that was to become my wife.

Sitting and pondering. Writing and willing. Perhaps there is something to that after all.

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Last modified: August 19, 2018