Grace and gratitude

It’s now been two weeks since my unfortunate misstep. I confess to alternating between feelings of frustration, boredom and dismay during my convalescence. Dismay that a slip of the foot could have caused so much collateral damage (consider even just the monetary cost of an ambulance, a trip to the emergency room, plus surgery and six days in the hospital). Frustration that I can’t move around, particularly now, one of my favorite times of year.

And then there is the fact that I am so undeniably dependent on others for almost everything now.  This might be the hardest thing of all.

From the moment I realized that my ankle was broken, I was truly at the mercy of my companions. Luckily for me, I had companions, and luckier yet, they were merciful. As I lay there on the mountain, I knew I had some trying times ahead.

The first challenge was to stay on top of the pain. I learned a lot about pain control during two and a half natural childbirths (my final child was 10 pounds, 4 ounces at birth, and I held out without drugs until the last possible minute).  I also had that mantra to repeat, Om Nama Shivaya.  Repetition of these syllables has gotten me through more tough spots than any other single thing.   Initially I was a little self conscious, reciting these words from Sanskrit, but after a time, they became mine.  I was always unsure of their meaning, but had a vague idea that they translated to “all is God”.  This struck me as ironic, because if a label is required to describe one’s spiritual state, I would choose atheist.

Today I googled Om Nama Shivaya, and came up with a variety of definitions. If you click here, you can read one of my favorites.  Whatever the true meaning is, these words have woven their way into the pattern of my life over the past thirty years and have never failed to offer me comfort.

Two weeks into this “mis”adventure, pain is no longer a major consideration. As far as my ankle goes, it troubles me firstly for its current uselessness, and secondly, for its aesthetically unappealing appearance.  It is way ugly. Between hue and form, I would have to say it looks cadaverous.  Not the sort of thing you want to see attached to your own (living) body.  As long as it returns to function…

So that leaves boredom (which is really just a matter of choosing occupations that I can do with limited mobility) and my frustration over my inability to do things for myself.  This is the most humbling part about being temporarily infirm for me, and therefore the area in which I have the most potential to grow. Those times in my life when I have required the most help from others, are undoubtedly when I am most aware of the concept of gratitude.

I really do believe that most people are good, and likely to do the right thing. When I have been poor, or afraid, or hurting, there has always been someone there to aid me.  In some instances, many people.  Of all kindnesses, it is often the kindness of strangers that is most gratifying.  I think this is because it is almost the penultimate good. Most of us are there for our friends and family, but when you reach out to those who have no claim on you other than their current need, you are really doing something for the right reason.  In fact, that is often the answer someone who has performed a heroic deed gives in response to the question:  “Why did you do it?”  “Because it was the right thing to do.”  There it is.

And so once again, amidst my frustration, I am in a state of grace, if indeed that is what being grateful is.  In the past two weeks I have been the beneficiary of so much kindness, caring, skill and time on the part of friends, family and people who prior to this were strangers.  It is a bit overwhelming and there is an aspect of humility to it that is not always easy for me:  a reminder that no matter how independent I would like to be, I am part of a society.  To give is empowering.  To get is, well, a reminder of your interdependence.  And that is not necessarily a bad thing.

3 responses to “Grace and gratitude

  1. “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
    Not a chocolate for you, “shit happens”.
    Returning from a vacation in Chile crossing the Andes at 5000 meters I was a passenger in a car that rolled over 3 times. My brocken arm was operated by an army doctor, the bone held by 3 wires twisted at the ends. Lucky to be alive.
    After a great vacation and 3 days in bed, got 3 months of work fully paid. Super lucky.

    Enjoy what you have now, there is not after life for atheist like us. Or there it is? Is Thanks giving day here in Canada, join us.

  2. I’m glad you consider yourself a lucky man Guillermo, because you’ve certainly had your share of adventure. I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving. Linnea

  3. After you mentioned luck and wished me a happy Thanksgiving day I read about your lovely daughter and thought how lucky you are with her attitude and support.
    One of my 2 daughters a gifted 30 year old living in the same city didn’t come to share turkey with us, she is a vegetarian. Has problems dealing with my cancer, I worry that she may be sick too with nutrition deficiencies and passive aggressive behaviour.
    Just separated after 3 year of marriage when he plans to finish a doctorate in research medicine this winter. Sad and not helping lady luck.

    For me born in Buenos Aires at the end of the golden era of tango, is like being born in New Orleans in Louis Armstrong days. So I remembered Yira Yira (Girare, wandering, street walking), one great tango that describes bad luck, daily difficulties, the sensation that all the horizons are clouded, all the roads closed.
    Linnea I think that you will appreciate this blog with introduction to tangos.
    See Tuesday, December 11, 2007 Yira, Yira interpretations and lyrics. Sorry, translation meaning to betray, is very hard from lunfardo the local slang. I.e grela is woman not bitch, yerba mate is a herb, not tea, but you get the idea.

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