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.