After a wonderful adventure-filled year living in Italy (Florence, Sicily, Rome and Spoleto), wandering around on foot, on stairs, on trains and on mountains, I found myself living in a Chicago rehab facility for a month recently -- what a strange predicament!!
I had been staying in Chicago for a while, happily awaiting the birth of my first grand-daughter, when, on one beautiful sunny (and ice and snow-free) day I fell, dramatically and clumsily, on a sidewalk here, 'shattering' (not a good word in the mouth of a doctor, that's for sure) my femur (basically, breaking my leg badly!).
So, I am still, now about eight weeks after the event, trying to get my body and my life back, working hard at it all and hating so very much of it. And trying to learn and to be patient and to be optimistic and to listen and to ask -- none of it is easy! Of course, this is my personal journey, and i am trying hard to learn from it and to move forward with some new perspectives. How can I benefit (long-term) from this traumatic and difficult (short-term) incident?
Here are some of my very personal observations:
1. I hate being dependent.
Until last week, I was limited, physically, on orders from the doctor (who understandably didn't want his repair handiwork re-injured!), so I could only bear up to 50 percent weight on my injured leg. Thus, I had had to learn to maneuver through life using a walker and/or a cane until I get my weight-bearing restrictions lifted.
I am trying hard to learn to ask for help when I need it, and, I am trying hard to learn to accept help gracefully. I am not used to needing help and now, in this somewhat impaired state, I need to receive help while expressing my thanks openly and sincerely (eye contact, kind words).
In addition, I needed to use a wheelchair for a while in order to leave the rehab center (where I lived for a month) for any reason, and I realized that navigating through life from the vantage point of the wheelchair is constantly challenging and overwhelming. I was lucky enough to have people available to help me, to push me on the sidewalk or into the accessible taxi van, but I saw disabled people trying to make their way down the icy Chicago streets alone and, for the first time in my otherwise physically-fit life, I could and did sympathize. I'm still left with a tinge of guilt for being mostly able-bodied.
2. I hate pain.
Fortunately, I am not used to pain. Now that I have experienced the intensity of pain (luckily for me, it was only temporary), I have incredible respect for people who do live in the world of debilitating pain. For me, it was like a stereotypical blinding, all-encompassing and inescapable monster I couldn't escape (except through medications, which were wonderful and scary at the same time), and I certainly don't want to revisit that experience. Pain, for me, was surprising and really awful! Again, I am grateful that my pain was temporary and brief.
3. I hate being tentative and fearful.
The doctor put the fear of falling in me, stating that I could cause 'catastrophic damage' (sobering words) if I fell again during the healing process. I hate the fact that he had to use fear to make me slow down and listen, but I also admit that it did work.
He wanted me to be cautious, which is not my usual style (I try to remember 'piano, piano' from Italy -- 'slowly and lightly'); thus, my progress is steady and the process seems interminable, although I do remind myself that this, too, will be over soon.
I am still very grateful that I am in this temporary (although ridiculous) situation and I remind myself of this fact often. The end result of my having completely bought into the doctor's advice (after all,he does have the expertise and experience) has, however, made me much more wary than I am used to, to the extent that I could not even take an outside walk by myself without intense trepidation. My confidence is building as my body gets stronger (through Physical Therapy and millions of exercises), but I am still having to content myself with small gains instead of huge leaps. All of this is an adjustment for me, and I find it challenging.
I still hate moving slowly. I do like the offers of help I find everywhere, though, and am accepting an arm or a shoulder whenever I am in need; it is one of the benefits, I have learned.
I will have to think more about the other observations I continue to mull over and to try to figure out how I can be better after this intense experience........
Here's my current list:
I hate feeling vulnerable.
I hate being unable to do anything I want to do, when I want to do it.
I hate missing out on life.
I hate inhabiting a body that is uncomfortable.
I hate feeling less than I am and/or can be.
I hate thinking that this is part of my aging process, just speeded up and intensified because of this ridiculous and debilitating injury.