Tough Breaks

Tough Breaks

Injuries are as humbling as they are incredibly painful.

In a sick way, they’re the tangible versions of time, or the physical embodiment of ending a relationship of some sorts. (In this instance, your relationship with your body changes — in some ways irrevocably.)

It has been four weeks since I fractured my ankle roller skating, and — needless to say — I’ve had some time to think about this and many other things. Of some of the more profound revelations I’ve come to, my top takeaways are:

  1.  Optimism is cute, but realism is necessary in the long-term. When you actually hear the snap of your bone, chances are it’s worse than a sprain. Let the X-rays guide you to the promise land of true (and proper) healing.
  2. Speaking of things that are “cute” until it’s not…pretending to be old and crippled when you’re a kid (i.e., using the “big adult umbrellas with the handles” as fake canes, and/or borrowing an elder’s “equipment”) isn’t so much adorable as it is being an asshole who will eventually get theirs. Also, those umbrellas aren’t very sturdy numerous decades (and pounds) later. The more you know…
  3. Be the kind of person whose friends will voluntarily help you pack for a move, transfer stuff from one apartment to another using a granny cart, make grocery runs for you, drop off food, pills and orthopedic boots, periodically check on your vitals with calls and texts, and do your laundry and cook for you. I literally get by with a LOT of help from my friends. And I’m judging any and every one who wants to be in my life based on these people. Be advised.
  4. “Jane the Virgin” is the best thing to watch when you want to forget you’re relegated to laying motionless with your leg in the air and not getting any pleasure out of it. Real talk.
  5. Never underestimate the power of a pedicure. I had my first pedicure in months done just days before I’d end up with a mummified foot that practically screams “Nevermind the swollen, multicolored mess under these bandages…look at how cute my toes are!” Timing — and self-care — is everything.
  6. Mercury Retrograde is a very real, and very scary, thing. Just sayin’.
  7. When something in your life isn’t for you, the universe has a way of eliminating it…no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves we can make it work, or force ourselves to “just go with it until something better comes along.” Trust.
  8. The experience of moving around on crutches for several weeks will inevitably give you the arms of Angela Bassett, but the overall dexterity of a muppet. In other news: Atrophy is the fucking worst!
  9. I’ve lived through a lot of shit, but there are few images in my life as traumatic as having an Über driver cancel a ride on me, and speed away as I wave to him in the pouring rain while mouthing “I need help!” after one of my crutches loses a screw while I’m attempting to climb the three baby steps outside of my apartment building. That stings more than the rejection of a lover.
  10. People will remark on how positive you are, how you’re managing to take it all in stride and even find moments to laugh, and wonder why. And the answer is…you know it’s only temporary.

There’s always a running joke or meme about how we thought it’d be so great getting older, until we realize that we didn’t have to pay bills or taxes, and struggle day-to-day in unfulfilling jobs and relationships. Then the subject of our mortality becomes a little too real. At forty-two, I’ve already experienced the loss of loved ones; family, friends, classmates and more and more people who shaped my upbringing culturally, politically and in some cases spiritually.

I’m here to tell you, there ain’t a multivitamin or homeopathic cure that’ll keep you from fretting about getting older. Sure, we may embrace it differently at different stages, but we still dread the process. I attribute my fear to the effective advertising back in the day that warned of the dangers of osteoporosis. And Life-Alert. (We were all emotionally scarred by the lady who’d “fallen…and couldn’t get up.” Admit it.)

The moment my ankle snapped, something inside me did the same. At the time, I’d been burning both ends of the candle maintaining two gigs to pay the bills and having a pretty stressful Summer contemplating and processing all the changes the year had brought. I’d use my free time to escape to an outdoor concert or movie theater in hopes of forgetting how miserable and increasingly lonely I was feeling because I’d mapped out a completely different plan for myself, and it somehow had gone awry.

Then, an unfortunate twist in the realest sense reminded me  — no, demanded of me — to stop, take time to take stock and heal, and start over anew on a healthier path.  And I did.

It also forced me to be more vulnerable, and to cease the practice of being too proud to ask for help. I’ve always been independent by nature, so having to rely on others to do things for me has been a huge adjustment. One that I’m not always comfortable with. But the connections that have transpired over the past few weeks has been soul-filling in ways I didn’t know I needed. It’s a feeling that can’t be achieved by cool events, online dating or social media validation. Someone standing on a Trader Joe’s line — I repeat, a Trader Joe’s line! — for you, is worth a million “Hey stranger” texts from some dude who was never invested in you when you were dating, but suddenly thinks you’d be a cool person to chat up and/or hang out with.

And finally, it increased my awareness and respect for people whose physical struggles are not temporary, and reminded me of very intimate examples in my travels. As my right leg has shrunken, I was reminded of the days following my father’s leg amputation, and the hours I spent in his nursing home observing once-vibrant people who could no longer perform seemingly basic everyday functions like walk unaided or lift a utensil. As I amble awkwardly through my kitchen, burning myself with a pan because I was distracted by a falling crutch, I’m reminded that there are people with no limbs competing in high-performance sporting events, cutting hair, and doing some incredible things without so much as a scratch.

Of course I cannot, and will not, compare myself to those extraordinary people, but when I put that in perspective, it’s why I can’t help but smile and feel fortunate that in time, I will be back on my feet.

And honestly…I injured myself roller skating. I absolutely should laugh at myself!

In any case, it’s been a wild ride, and while I could sit here and lament all the quantifiable losses, I’m choosing instead to recognize that I’ve gained much, much more from this experience than even my best laid plans.

Also, I’ll be more careful with my words in the future. This definitely wasn’t what I meant when I said I needed a break.

 

As Time Goes By…

I’m not sure why… but years ago, I used to give decorative wall clocks as wedding gifts. Ironic, seeing I was often “punctually challenged” when it came to being places by force.

Anyway, these large timepieces would always be accompanied with poems I’d written about time being spent together… or something or another.

To this day, I’m not sure if the intent was to be clever and thoughtful about getting them to cherish every moment in each other’s company, or if I was just giving them a very large stopwatch to count the minutes before they decided they made an error in judgement.

In any case, my gifts these days tend to veer toward monetary contributions and an occasional “honeymoon accessory”.

For some reason, back then, I was more obsessed with how other people used their time on this earth, and less focused and ultimately more wasteful of my own time on this planet. As people grew up, grew stronger, grew apart, grew to know more and grew to care less… I grew jaded, fearful, and distant from everything I wanted in life.

Not to say a whole hell of a lot has changed — I’m still a work in progress — but I’m chipping away new things every day. There is a certain freedom and pleasure in knowing and being true to ones self, and not being afraid to go against the grain to become the masterpiece you always knew you could be. I’m just more cognizant of the fact that there is, in fact, a timetable to make it happen. Whether we like it or not. We all have a deadline.

As I stare down the barrel of the shotgun that is my impending 37th birthday, it’s becoming clearer to me why elders are often more ornery and impatient; the older you get, the more precious time becomes. Why would you want to waste any minute of your life doing things you don’t want to do or be around people who don’t respect you, share your views, or make your life easier and more pleasant to endure?

This past Thanksgiving was special for me in the realization of just how fortunate I am, and how valuable each moment is. To commemorate this re-devotion to making every moment count, I’ve been opening my mind to new things once again. I signed up for a race with some girlfriends, and thanks to the good people at LivingSocial, I’m going to shoot a gun and take an aerial circus class. I’m also trying to recruit my cousin in Philly to jump out of a plane with me, but if she chickens out, I’ll have an extra photographer for when I do it (or someone who can immediately contact our relatives from the scene to alert them of my demise).

The point is, as I get older, life get shorter. Perhaps I may live a long healthy existence well into my golden years, but each passing day is one less (and more) opportunity to do something different and new to create fabulous memories. Granted, I’ve already amassed some great moments in my lifetime thus far, but there’s always room for another.

After reading “Grace: A Memoir” by Grace Coddington, I realized that I’ve got another thirty years before I can become the comfortably settled woman the fiery Ms. Coddington has become. Which means I have plenty of time to spend many nights at crazy parties with a cast of characters in the fashion, art and entertainment industry and shack up with dubious men of foreign descent.

Oh wait… I’ve already done these things.

Let’s just start with the race, the plane dive, the air twirling and the gun, and see where the rest of the new year takes me…

Either way, I’ll embrace every minute as if it were my last.