“There are moments when troubles enter our lives and we can do nothing to avoid them. But they are there for a reason. Only when we have overcome them will we understand why they were there.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Fifth Mountain
It was just on Friday that I was talking to Jim and he asked how everything was going.
‘Sorry I haven’t checked in for a while. How is Oliver? How are you?’ he asked
‘Thanks for asking,’ I said. ‘You know things seems as if they have finally quieted down. Feels like things are not breaking or falling over as much, no one has gotten any stitches. Maybe I’m finally used to this. Beaten into submission,’ I added.
‘That’s good. That’s good,’ Jim said. ‘I’m glad to know you two are okay.’
This was on Friday. I was a little bothered that I had not heard from him in a while, wrapped in the expectation that he should be showing more concern for me but Monday was my follow up appointment with the doctor and I was feeling optimistic. Overly optimistic. I had high hopes for some good news. They would take an X-ray and somehow magically say I no longer needed a cast, that I had graduated to the boot, that my life on crutches was soon coming to an end.
I went about my weekend. Going to Friday Night Fights at ACF and cheering the competitors, taking photos, reconnecting with the community. Saturday morning up early and down to CrossFit Beyond to cheer some of my favorite CF Peeps in a fundraising WOD, Barbells for Boobs. Take some more pictures. Feel happy. On the road to somewhere good. Feeling like I’m making progress and getting healthier and getting back to who I want to be.
Sunday I go to brunch with my family and think about the week ahead. I look forward to the week ahead. I’ve somehow convinced myself that I will receive good news on Monday at the orthopedics. I’ve convinced myself.
Monday morning I check into the doctors office. They remove the purple cast and ask what color cast I would like next.
‘Aren’t you going to take an X-ray?’ I ask.
‘You’ll have to ask the doctor about that, first we need to get you into a new cast.’
‘But, if you don’t take an X-ray how will you know if my foot is healing?’
‘We can still take an X-ray over the cast,’ the nurse says to me. ‘What color would you like?’
‘Black,’ I say.
I’m dumbfounded. I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but in the very least I expected another X-ray. It’s been three weeks since my last appointment. I wanted to see progress, I wanted to know I was doing well, that my foot was almost healed that this life on crutches was soon to be behind me.
As the final bits of the black cast are wrapped around my leg the doctor walks into the room. He’s tall, broad chested, confidently slow moving almost goofily disarming.
‘Aren’t you going to take an X-ray?’ I plead.
‘You want an X-ray?’ he asks.
‘I NEED an X-ray!’ I say.
‘Ok,’ the doctor says.
‘I need an X-ray because I need to know.’ I say. ‘I need to see progress. Something positive. There has to be some hope in all of this.’
‘We will get an X-ray.’ the doctor says.
Frankly, I’m confused why an X-ray is not part of the original plan of this follow up visit. It has been 38 days since I broke my foot. 38 days. Shouldn’t my foot be healing? I simply do not understand. When did broken bones stop healing back together?
After the X-Ray my sister-in-law and I sit in the waiting room and discuss what color Sharpie would show up best on a black cast, silver or gold.
‘Want to see the X-ray?’ The doctor asks.
In his office I study the image on his computer screen. It looks foggy, I’m guessing because of the cast.
Here’s a synopsis of what I think the doctor said to me; ‘The good news is that your bones are lining up nicely. I’d say another 5 weeks in the cast, then you come back and we take another look.’
All I hear is: ‘another 5 weeks in a cast.’ It’s all I can focus on and not at all what I hoped for – what I planned for. The news is devastating. 5 weeks. 5 weeks. 5 weeks. Didn’t the last 4 plus weeks count for anything? Anything at all? When did broken bones stop healing? I don’t understand.
It’s as if all the days and weeks of struggling and growing into acceptance and relearning how to live have been erased and I’m starting from scratch once more. All hope is washed away. I’m not even half way through this journey. The light at the end of the tunnel snubbed out. There is no end in sight. Not for me. Not right now.
I took the news hard. I came home and lied down on the couch. I drank NyQuil to help me fall asleep. This morning I woke up groggy, not wanting to get up. I simply had no desire to get moving. No desire to get the dog fed and the coffee made and the dog downstairs and outside and my teeth brushed and my hair combed or to get dressed in a clean set of clothes. There was no part of my body or mind that wanted to do any of these things. There was no will to join the day.
Tonight I’m feeling a little more settled. But there’s a lingering sensation of indifference. Knowing this is now my fate for the month of November I feel the need to pair down my life even further. My last day in my current job will be Nov. 8. I think about how long I can last until I find another job. The people in my life that I once thought of as best friends have disappeared, the people in my life that I never thought to ask to show up continue to show up consistently and all without my having to ask. The life lessons are plentiful. Like fireflies lighting a distant summer night, if I do not grab the illuminated lesson quickly beneath the lid of my mayonnaise jar the moment will pass and the illumination will disappear.
My perspective on life continues to readjust as new realities come into focus. All of life seems so fragile. Relationships, people, objects, pets, your health, your abilities, down to the smallest minute item we can take for granted. Just going out to get a cup of coffee is now a whole new unfamiliar script.
I feel vulnerable as I worry about my ability to take care of myself in the simplest of ways. I worry I’ll be left behind. I worry I will no longer be relevant. I worry no one will notice I’m no longer there. Losing my job during this time is an additional stress of the unknown.
The final truth is that none of us can really control any of these things. These are life’s events. Our job is to be as best prepared for these moments as you possibly can. Perhaps I should remember I’m able to do so well on crutches to begin with is because of all of my CrossFit training. Perhaps I should be grateful for the time spent with family now as a result of their taking the time to include me knowing I’m injured. Perhaps I should focus on the incredible generosity of those close to me and far, the rides to writing class, the gentleman who carried my groceries to the car, the resistance trainer in the garage secretly assembled and attached to my favorite road bike by my brother and his wife, ready to ride when I get the go ahead for weight bearing activity again. Perhaps I should remember all of these beautiful things.
That’s my favorite bike. And that’s a brand new resistance trainer installed on the rear wheel and ready for action once I’m ready for action too.
I’m finding when these set backs occur, like the one yesterday at the doctor’s office, when I did not hear the news I wanted to hear, when these expectations are not met and I feel disappointed, there’s a resulting bump in the road. A mental speed bump. I get sad, I feel disappointed, I get knocked down.
But it is now 48 hours later and I’m starting to build back up again. Remembering the generosity and love of those around me, I’m looking ahead to the month of November and thinking, take this time and use it. Use it and make it beautiful. Write, create, relax, enjoy. Your job is winding down, you will have some extra time. Granted you are on crutches but relish that you can heal and not feel like you have to be out the door doing and performing for a new job. Enjoy the cool weather, sit outside with Oliver. Go to mass on Sunday. Eat healthy. Focus on your volume training. Finally get a pull up. Get back to that place, get to that place, that you want to be, even if you have to get there on crutches.
You can still get there, even on crutches.