Growing up, roller blading was my mom’s choice of workout (it was the 90s) and being a single mother, she always had to have me somewhere within yelling distance. So she had to teach me how to roller blade so she could continue her workouts.
Well, when she gifted me my first pair of roller blades and matching helmut I promptly demanded to know where the wrist guards, knee pads, and elbow pads were? There was no way I would dare to partake in such a life threatening sport without all the necessary protection.
She rolled her eyes and went back to the store to stock up on bubble wrap.
You see, I was a VERY cautious child. I refused to participate in anything that vaguely smelled like trauma waiting to happen.
Jump rope? Hell no. That rope could whip you right in the face. Helloooo scratched cornea.
Riding a bike? If I must. And only on sidewalks without bumps and cracks and NEVER with my shoes clipped to the peddles! Are you insane?!
Water skiing? Please see “skiing” above but with the added potential trauma of DROWNING.
Dominos? Yes, please! Card games? I’ll deal! Walking around after school in my babysitter’s backyard picking clementines and telling myself stories in my head? Every. Damn. Day. (I didn’t have a lot of friends.)
Did any of this risk aversion for fear of pain have to do with the lingering emotional trauma of my parents divorce? Eh, probably. But that’s not what this is about. This is about my success. My cautious nature worked. No broken bones. No stitches. No trauma. For my entire life.
Well, until six weeks ago when I broke my foot while walking.
NO ONE TOLD ME I NEEDED TO ADD WALKING TO MY LIST OF HIGH RISK ACTIVITIES.
But apparently I did. Cracks in sidewalks can roll your ankle, and sometimes you roll your ankle just right and you get a jones fracture, which was my official diagnosis. (Sidenote, this is also the injury of NBA players who jump to shoot the winning three pointer at the buzzer and then land on their ankle wrong and roll it. I rolled it in the same fashion while simply walking, which some could argue is even more impressive.)
The only solace I took in all of this was that after all my risk aversion for fear of subsequent pain, this wasn’t that painful. I remarkably didn’t even cry when it happened. The whole ordeal seemed more of a nuisance as I was sentenced to six weeks on crutches.
That’s fine. I can live with that. I’m a glass half full kind of person. My arms will get so toned. I got this.
CUT TO: Four days later I’m lying naked on my bathroom / kitchen floor (we live in a studio, all floors blend together) crying because Tyler has to help me put on my underwear due to said broken foot and I can’t believe this is my new life devoid of any independence and how will he ever be sexually attracted to me after this?! That last thought makes me cry harder. This is my low moment.
At least I thought that would be my low moment.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA — laughed all the gods.
No. My low moment came three weeks later when going up a flight of stairs on crutches (I live in New York, stairs were inevitable) my good foot missed the stair and I fell backwards down the flight of stairs.
My right wrist broke my fall and then promptly broke itself. In three places.
Remember how I said breaking a bone wasn’t that painful? I lied. Breaking my wrist was so painful I blacked out from the pain. I was later told by Tyler that I screamed so loud that two neighbors came out of their apartments to make sure, ya know, someone wasn’t being murdered and the head of the E.R. came to check that I wasn’t being tortured.
(I never told Tyler about the time my mom was teaching me how to swim so I didn’t accidentally drown, but the neighbors called the cops citing potential child abuse due to my screams. He probably wouldn’t have believe said story till now anyway.)
Also, only two neighbors? C’mon, on New York.
You know why I was so risk averse my whole life? When something really hurts I have the pain tolerance of a baby salamander.
One surgery, a metal plate, and a dozen screws later, I am a bionic woman without an iota of independence. I can’t do much beyond order seamless with my one good hand. If I want to type I have to lie completely horizontal with my arms stick straight and my laptop somewhere over my thighs so my wrist doesn’t bend. Working from bed day one is cool. Working from bed day two and beyond is awful and I have googled “bed sores” a few times now.
When I do try to leave my apartment once or twice a week and scoot around the city (to see one of my many new doctors with varying degrees of beside manor) I want to wear a shirt that says “I’m Sorry” on the front and “Move the Fuck Out of My Way” on the back. Because I constantly (and drastically) swing between feeling like such a nuisance that I want disappear into a hole, to wanting to yell at every New Yorker who has bumped into me on my peg leg, “WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE THAT YOU’RE SO IMPORTANT NOT TO SEE ME STRUGGLING LIKE AN UPSIDE COCKROACH FIGHTING FOR ITS LIFE OVER HERE?!”
Friends, acquaintances, and my bodega guy, don’t really know what to say when they see me hobbling along with two broken extremities. There’s been a lot of “it could be worse” and “this too shall pass,” to which I smile on the outside and seethe on the inside. I don’t want to be force fed these one-liners and be expected to smile and nod and agree. I’m struggling here! Can you just let me struggle without telling me I have to see the bright side?
But when things do get dark (oh they’ve gotten dark, I don’t even want to admit the amount of times I’ve whimpered to Tyler through tears, “I can’t do this anymore”) I remind myself better my wrist than my head.
Better one shitty summer than a lifetime of permanent brain damage.
And yes, you are right, that’s a very much a variation of “it could be worse.”
And when it gets really dark I also remind myself (in third person, naturally), this will wash off you like sand in the ocean. This is not grief. You will not carry it for the rest of your life. Instead, the day after you are healed it will almost be like it never happened. I say “almost” because everything will be more exciting to you than it’s ever been. The world will appear in technicolor. You will be excited to wake up early for the previous chore and now gift of simply walking your dog.
Try to hold onto that technicolor for as long as you can. Be grateful for the soon to be gnarly scar on top of your right wrist. It will remind you to live in technicolor and maybe do something fun and risky because if you can break your foot walking, trying to protect yourself from all pain — physical and emotional — is a fruitless task.
The scar will remind you how quickly the sand washes off.
And yes, the above is indeed a variation of, “this too shall pass.” Them bitches were right all along with their “it could be worse” and “this too shall pass.”
Fine. Maybe they were right. But I had to find my own way onto the bright side of things. No one could spoon feed me the rainbows. And I suggest if you know someone in a similar situation to not spoon feed them rainbows. Just sit with them in the dark till they find the light on their own. That is the kindest of gestures.
Well, that and opening all the damn doors for them (or me).