Friday, March 24, 2017

Strength out of fragility

My posts here recently, have described loss, primarily of mobility, and temporary in nature. I find myself immured in loss, though I have much about which to be thankful. My blessings include a wonderful spouse, a caring family, work that I love, and a very comfortable life, even with a busted kneecap. Having been unable to be up, about, and active over the last four weeks, I have had time to be reflective, and this is a good thing. How often do we rush about in our own lives, and devote too little time to considering both the minutia, and the bigger picture.

During this period, the mind takes turns through areas that are uncomfortable. I ponder situations that perplex me, and find that I am still perplexed. The loss of mobility, and the dependence on others, leaves me feeling helpless, and prone to tears. The tears come so easily because there are situations that present themselves at this time of life that leave me somewhat fragile. The loss of mobility can be an analogy for deeper losses in that they are both visceral. I cannot clean up the mess five feet away because I cannot get down to it. I know that both adversity and loss are character building, and I am mostly grateful for it. How often now can I speak to someone else’s pain and fear because I have experienced and addressed my own. While there are no answers to some situations, there is solidarity in shared experience. I met a new friend several months ago, through a shared experience, and found that I can cry for her, as often as I cry for myself. Tears in this context are shared in so many ways, and I hope to join in the tears of others to help them bear their burden.

I listened to Leonard Cohen’s song, Allelujah, sung by Rufus Wainwright, this morning. It is so beautiful in so many ways, that tears were flowing long before the end. This release of emotion means to be that I can continue to work through my own pain, contribute to comforting others, and at least leave my temporary injury behind in the next month or two. Other losses can be seen through a different lens, at least temporarily, and for that I am thankful.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Comparison across the age spectrum

While having all the time available to recover from an injury, I am feeling compelled to think back to previous injuries. When I was seven, I broke one of my arm bones while ice skating. This mishap occurred in summer, and the only real inconvenience for a seven year old, was not being able to go to summer camp at the prescribed time. I got my cast off prior to beginning third grade, and promptly forgot the incident once the pain and cast were gone.

Since then, I have had the normal bumps and bruises, until over a decade ago, when I fell and broke my left wrist. This occurred at the onset of a week of fieldwork between quarters when I was working on my undergraduate degree. We were at the fieldwork site, the incident was painful, embarrassing (as so many people saw me in my nightgown), and I had to be delivered to a local emergency room by one of my professors, again in my nightgown. As happened this time, my husband arrived at the emergency room a few hours later to rescue me and dry my tears. The next few weeks were filled with doctor appointments, a cast, followup appointments, another cast, physical therapy, and the amazing experiences presented by riding the bus carrying a backpack full of books and only one functional arm. Injuries of this magnitude, and not very significant from a wider perspective, do not seem to heal as quickly as they did when I was seven. I do not have full range of motion in the injured wrist, all these years later. The point of these reminiscences is that at some point vulnerability sets in, and while I expect to be up and about my usual business within a month or two from my injury date, I will again be fearful of falling. What will it be that helps me to slam the door on that fear? Perhaps it is best to maintain a small quantity of that fear, in terms of caution rather than incapacitation from it, but it does seem a shame to have to deal with it at all.

A cost for me with this injury that I am feeling sorely, is that I am not walking the neighborhood as usual, as spring begins to arrive. I have been walking my neighborhood, along with others, for over a decade, and am missing the plants, houses, and dogs, that I am used to seeing. I always plan to walk past a tulip tree a few blocks over when it blooms, several times, because it is stunningly beautiful. I want to stand and gaze at it, but feel that anyone who noticed me would think I am creepy. So many plants needing to be admired, and I cannot do it for another month or two. Thinking about seeing the daffodils, tulips, primroses, rhododendrons, azaleas, along with the flowering trees that will soon be bursting into color and splendor, makes me so sad to think I might miss them. I have my own as well, and will try to satisfy my extreme need to see color and beauty with them. I am sure that our dogs will be happy to accompany me into the side-yard to sit and gaze for a while. Ah, the pleasures of life, whether injured or not.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

From Injury to recovery and beyond

From injury to recovery and beyond:

What does injury do to the body and mind? For me, it means that in a heart beat I am on the floor having broken my kneecap. There is no getting up to dust one’s self off, and continue on with the day. Instead it meant calling 911 and being rescued and taken to the local emergency room. The fact that I have been working toward a healthy middle age for decades seems to make little difference. It seems to not matter that I am fit with strong bones; the body breaks down when presented with a concrete floor.  There are many perspectives from which to view an injury, including physical, professional, relationship, and emotional.

From the physical standpoint of injury, It is intuitive to understand the physical pain, tremendous inconvenience, and the burden for others’, whether they are happy to help or not. Suddenly, it is no longer a simple matter to visit the bathroom, but an ordeal that begins painfully, and progresses to inconvenient and irritating. Bathroom breaks have to be planned for.  Bathing becomes a tremendous ordeal because at all cost the injured member must be kept dry. Vulnerability is another product of injury. In trying to get around the house and take some of the burden off my amazing caregiver, I fell again, further injuring myself, but not my broken bones, thankfully. What this means to me is that I can no longer feel confident when walking on the floor, moving quickly down a set of stairs, and walking outside in the rain. Having fallen, and broken a limb before, it took me years to regain my confidence and lose my fear of falling. Now I get to start that all over again.

Professionally, my injury means that my students will have to have a different pathway to the end of the quarter. It means that one of my colleagues steps in to help fill the gap in class time and access, and subsequent quarters will need to be rearranged. The good news is that my injury is fully covered, and includes time to recover

There is the sentiment that when you are down you find out who your friends are. This is both true, and not true. True, friends and co-workers have rallied around with delicious prepared food, cards and flowers, phone calls and visits. What injury and home-stay does in the absence of these things is isolate me from my usual social contact. While I am very fond of silence, when you can hear the silence, it feels like too much.

Thankfully, I am one of the most fortunate people on the planet in that I have an amazing and loving spouse who has been my constant caretaker. I also have fully paid sick leave, access to quick and outstanding medical care, wonderful family and friends, and lots of time with my pets.

Feeling so fortunate to live in an era when quality healthcare solutions (surgery, braces, and support for recovery) are available to me, I have been pondering how my injury to recovery would look so different without these benefits. What if I were single without home-support? It would be much more difficult to take care of daily living activities. And, without home support, the opportunity for re-injury or setbacks, additional injuries, would be much more likely. I have someone to provide a steady hand to help me get around, and take me to appointments. What if I had no health insurance? This is true for so many people, both locally and especially on the global level. What if I had not received the surgical procedure in a timely manner to stitch me back together? My injury would have healed after a fashion, but walking normally and without pain would not be assured.

The take-home message for me is that even on a bad day, my life is much easier than it is for many others who have not suffered an incapacitating injury. All because of my resources, for which I am very grateful.