As my friend Tara and I sat waiting in the hospital the other day, I noticed a man hobbling by on crutches. Trying not to sound too uncompassionate I expressed how nice it has been not to have needed crutches for such a long time. There was a period of a couple of years where both Tara and I were on and off crutches a number of times. Luckily our injuries never occurred at the same time, so we could at least help each other when others failed to show up for the task. We reminisced a bit about the struggles and pains of being immobilized. We sighed in relief that we both had two working feet.
Fast forward to the next evening – I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going and I stepped off a curb the wrong way, rolling my ankle in the process. Life has a cruel sense of humor sometimes. Luckily I had to limp for only six blocks to get home. I took off my boot and looked at my foot; it was painful and purple, but not too swollen. I decided to wait until morning to figure out what to do with it. The X-ray the next day showed that all my bones were intact …phew! Since this was my seventh foot injury, I knew that I could cope with a soft tissue injury better than a broken bone, and with a bit of care I’d be able to bounce back on my feet within a couple of weeks.
A foot injury certainly is annoying, but I know things could always be worse. It does make me less capable, however, and whenever that theme has popped up in my life, it tends to hit me a bit hard. I’ve gotten so used to being independent since my health has improved this year. After the fact sunk in that I couldn’t just walk to the store to get food for myself, a feeling of helplessness overcame me. I remember how good it felt earlier this year when I was finally able to get food or run errands whenever I wanted or needed; I no longer had to depend on the rare kindness and willingness of others to help me meet my basic needs. Of course, such simple things like being able to walk to the store are easily taken for granted after enough time passes by. But, life has humbled me once again, and I am feeling grateful for the tasks I can still do.
At first, I was feeling a lot of disappointment when I thought of everything I would not be able to do while my foot is in recovery. The timing seemed somewhat harsh because just this week I was trying to find ways to get motivated to exercise more regularly. Hiking season was over and I hadn’t been very successful in maintaining the amount of activity that I’d like to get in a week. Options seemed limited to cycling in the rain, running in the rain, or repetitive indoor activities. The pleasure of just feeling my body in motion no longer seemed like enough of a reason to get up and do something.
When I woke up the morning after the injury occurred, I realized that I had a choice; I could use this injury as an excuse to delay my exercise regime further and sit around pouting about it like I have in the past, or I could find ways to keep my body strong while in recovery. I knew that I didn’t want to become sluggish for the next few weeks as my foot healed so I got on my floor and used the parts of my body that I could. I felt great, and I did it again the next day. I realized there were areas I could strengthen and stretch over the next weeks which would make it so I am more fit to do the other activities that I want to do once my foot completely recovers.
What initially seemed like a setback in my fitness goals, appears to have provided me with more long-term benefits. I’ve found ways to get more creative with my activity by incorporating movements that I normally would not. Most significantly, though, it has reawakened my desire to be active. It’s not just a daily chore that I have to get done. I want to be active because it is something that nourishes and balances me on more than just the physical level. Exercise helps prevent my energy from becoming stagnant, it clears and invigorates my mind, and allows space for my emotions to settle. It’s a necessary part of my daily life if I want to be well.
Setbacks in life are unavoidable and sometimes overwhelming. I’ve noticed, though, the more practice I get at living, the easier it gets to find ways around the obstacles that arise. Perhaps I can reach a point where I don’t need these kinds of obstacles to continue developing myself. I hope I can cultivate more appreciation for what I’ve got without having to lose it over and over again.
Photo: Michelle Leela Grace