It was a wonderful summer. The lake was back after a year with no water, and the dam fixed. My family and friends loved me into my 65th year of being alive. And I signed two book contracts, recommitting myself to the mystery of writing.
Then my fibula broke.
I could have written “I broke my leg.” Isn’t that the standard phrase to describe a broken leg? Instead, I chose “my fibula broke.” For me the difference is not that I named the bone. (Although I do like to learn and use anatomical terminology, it helps me know myself in a new way.) No, the difference is in the subject of the sentence…is it “I” broke my leg” or “My leg” broke? The difference matters to me, for I did not choose to break my fibula. It just happened.
My bone – a wonderful bone that has been a part of my walking, swimming and especially dancing – is broken. This one bone? I’ve taken it for granted, like every other bone in my body…every other cell, muscle, organ, squirting hormone and chemical interaction. I tend to take my life for granted as a rule, except for moments of grace.
Nothing can be taken for granted in this new way of being. As any of you who have experienced physical challenges know, every step (pun intended) of daily life must be rethought. “OK, I can move to that chair if I put my hands here…and push…but what about my foot, is there room to pivot?” Using the toilet? This requires balancing on one leg while pulling pants off and on with a wobbly four-legged walker between me and the hard ceramic tile floor. Sometimes fear appears, especially from my 65 year old, overweight and out-of-shape perspective. One sleepy night, my fear was realized …I fell. Down I went, crashing into the bathroom door before I hit the cold tile. I was OK… and clearly reminded how vulnerable I really am. In these moments, memories of my mother’s paralyzed legs return. When I was 2, her 27 year old body was smashed and changed forever in a car accident.
I look at my leg, it looks different compared to it’s stronger partner. I am grateful it will heal, but I cautiously wonder when I’ll be able to dance again. I don’t know when that day will be, so I choose to live inside of “this” day. The dials of my active, independent, extroverted lifestyle have been turned way down. Here, where I live, I am grateful for a ride to the doctor’s, a morning free from discomfort so I can write, or a neighbor coming over to share a cup of tea. Here, I embrace my quiet, dependent, introverted self and have come to love her. When I feel brave, I wonder how my mother must have felt when she lost freedom of movement forever… and I grieve for her. On this day, as I breathe in golden autumn coolness, I experience gentleness within myself and know this as a moment of grace.
Rumi says, “Don’t worry thats your life is turning upside down. How do you know the side you are used to is better than the one to come?” Wise words, it seems to me, but a lot easier to accept when everything is right-side up! Living in an upside down world does not just invite change, it demands it. With a promise of new life, the upside down world invites humble acceptance of “what is.” The path before me is uncertain but I carry hope, and a few notes of dance music, in my heart. Today, surrounded by Love, I say yes. That’s the only step I can take.
Thinking of each of you with a grateful heart,