Yes, that is my left foot in a cast. A little over three and a half months ago I found myself laying flat on my back in the street after I stepped off of the curb onto a sheet of ice and fractured my Fibula (the smaller bone on the outside of my ankle). I thought it was just a sprain, but fortunately a good friend who is also a Registered Nurse found me in the street and urged me to go to the emergency room for an x-ray. I was devastated when the doctor told me I had suffered a fracture. I spent six weeks in a cast and on crutches, three weeks in an ugly, bulky black boot and now I’ve graduated to an ankle brace and running shoes. Thankfully, I’m making progress and I’ve got two more weeks to go before I am finished my physical therapy. It has been extremely challenging to say the least, especially as a self-employed, independent mother with two fairly young children. I am so thankful that the fracture did not warrant surgery and I am thrilled that I did not fracture the Tibia, which is the larger, weight bearing bone in my lower leg. And although it was extremely uncomfortable, frustrating, inconvenient and sometimes painful, I was also very aware and grateful that this was a temporary condition and that one day I would be walking again.
I felt sad and depressed at times but when those feelings started to rise, I reminded myself that there are millions of people who spend a majority of their lives on crutches, in wheelchairs and walkers. Making a mental gratitude list would pull me right out of my pity party. I must say that I learned quite a few things while I was incapacitated; wisdom that you and I have most likely heard somewhere before, but really came into focus during my recovery period and I felt I needed to share them with you:
- Don’t mess with Mother Earth. When there is snow and ice on the ground, put your boots on, even if you are just “running” to the store. Your new cross trainers may have traction, but they are no match for snow, and definitely not when it’s laying on top of a thick patch of ice that you can’t see!
- Stop trying to do everything all at once. The day I slipped on ice I felt so motivated. Earlier that morning I had a meeting with my friend and marketing consultant about a new business venture, I volunteered at my daughter’s school, went to a clients office, went food shopping, handled one of my duties as PTG (Parent Teacher Group) Treasurer and was on my way to squeeze in the rest of my “to do” list before the kids got in from school when I fell. As the sole caregiver for my seven and twelve year old, as well as a self-employed accountant during tax season (not to mention the volunteer positions and other ways I help my community), my plate was overflowing. I get so exhausted that sometimes I have days when I don’t feel like doing anything at all; then of course my “to do ” list gets backed up and I go into Superwoman mode. A good friend told me just a few days before my fracture, “even Superwoman has to put her cape in the dry cleaners for a few days” but Superwoman didn’t listen. I found out the hard way that when Superwoman is too stubborn to slow down, God sometimes does it for her. I am going to stop volunteering for so many things and am going to selfishly take time more time to focus on what’s most important to me instead of what I do to please others. Lesson learned.
- Allowing others to love and care for you is not a sign of weakness. I was overwhelmed by the constant outpouring of love, prayers, text messages, emails, visits and help that I received while I was unable to take care of myself and my children. When you are unable to put any weight on one foot, and are subjected to crutches, it’s impossible to make beds, do laundry, stand at the stove and cook, wash your daughter’s hair, pick up after the kids and even sit down on the side of your child’s bed to give them a kiss goodnight. And since I am used to doing all of that myself, I hadn’t a clue of who, what and where to ask for help. You feel less than a woman because you can’t take care of your children’s needs, you can’t take care of your home and you feel so unattractive add useless. It’s almost depressing, but my reality was that I couldn’t do it and I couldn’t’ let my kids starve because of my pride so I was forced to ask for help. What I found out to my surprise is that my dear friends, my family and even those who were not so close to me were ready and willing to help me and support me in any way that I needed. I felt so loved and appreciated that it was sometimes overwhelming. Today I know just how much I am loved and appreciated.
- Your children need to learn how to care for themselves. As a mother, I am so used to doing everything for my children yet I was now forced to start teaching my children how to take care of the household and hence themselves. I guess I thought that if I did everything they would always need me, not realizing that by doing everything, I am not doing my job as a mother, which is to teach them to be self-sufficient. I taught my son how to scramble eggs, make five minute gits and bake turkey bacon in the oven because I got tired of eating cold cereal for breakfast. To my surprise he loved cooking and loved the science behind it all! He also learned how to load the laundry and dryer. My daughter learned how to wash herself up at night and get herself into bed, and was my legs when I needed anything. My son took over my job of reading her a bedtime story. I was upset that I could no longer walk my daughter to school but she was so proud of the fact that she could get across the street and back on her own. Now that I am able, she doesn’t even want me to walk her to school! A mother’s job is to teach her children how to survive in this world without her. I can now take that off of my “to do” list.
- Nothing is more important than your health; don’t take it for granted. I believe that if I hadn’t been getting to the gym on a fairly regular basis, staying active with my kids, eating healthy foods (I gave up fast food a few years ago), keeping my weight down, sacrificing to buy organic foods, practicing meditation and maintaining a healthy spiritual life, this recovery would have taken much longer. I am healthier than I thought. I also decided that I had to put my health first even if others (clients) were frustrated, disappointed, pushy, and lacked compassion, I had to take the time to heal and have faith that my needs would be provided for. If I allowed others’ needs to interfere with healing, I was jeopardizing my business anyway. At my age, the doctors were surprised that I did not need to stay in the cast or boot longer than I did. My physical therapists are amazed at the progress and strength I have in this ankle after just a few weeks of PT. I am amazed that after almost two months of not driving, being stuck in the house with two kids, still grieving the passing of my father, with limited connection with the outside world, I still maintained my sanity! All because I focused on my healing and put my needs first for a change. Which leads me to the last lesson…
- Everything is temporary. One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned from meditation and Buddhist teachings and had to re-learn during this recovery is that everything is temporary. When you are in the midst of a crisis or uncomfortable situation and you feel like you will not last or that it will never end, think of a lightening storm. I remember as a little girl I was taught that instead of just sitting there feeling fear, to count the seconds in between the claps of thunder because the longer the time in between two claps of thunder, the farther away the storm. I would be so focused on counting that it took my mind off of the fear. The storm would move further away and before I realized it, there was no second clap of thunder to count at all, and the storm was over. Even storms pass through. If we remember that things change every single second, then we can focus on what we can do in the moment to enjoy the time and space we have, knowing that even if this moment is difficult we are guaranteed not to be faced with it forever.
When they told me I fractured my ankle, I cried. I couldn’t imagine why God would immobilize me when I had two kids, a household and a business to manage. It seemed so overwhelming and felt like a prison sentence at the time. I imagined at my age that it would take forever for me to get this cast off and get some normalcy in my life. Today as I sit here writing and walking around in my bare feet, I take the time to absorb the lessons I was knocked on my behind to learn. Save your energy on stressing about a situation, because the moments are only temporary. Just let go and allow yourself to embrace the love and joy in the atmosphere because it is there and love is forever.