On June 30, I fell on my e-bike in the woods. It was a tight trail. The bike lurched forward. I went down on my left shoulder. It hurt like a motherfucker. Somehow, I made it back to our cabin (on my bike!) and to the medical clinic. My collarbone was broken, in four pieces. A week later, I had surgery where a doctor sutured it back together.
That was eight months ago. It still hurts and my mobility remains limited. I don’t have the green light to ski but otherwise, life is basically back to normal.
Here’s just a snippet of what this experience has taught me.
Pain is an attention whore. Throughout my recovery, I’ve thought about writing and have missed my blog. But I haven’t been able to translate the ideas in my head into words on the screen. Nothing would come out. Dry. Pain has demanded all my attention. I’ve lived with rheumatoid arthritis for years so pain is no stranger. But in this case, it has just lasted so long and there isn’t a new medication to offer relief. I’ve thought a lot about those that live their daily lives in pain -- physical, emotional, or spiritual. Unaware, I encounter these people every day. At work, in the grocery store, on my walks. I expect them to be patient, kind, and creative. They can’t be. Pain won’t allow it. I need to be more compassionate, more often.
Nurses deserve all the good stuff. Right after the accident, my husband drove me to urgent care in the small Washington town of Cle Elum. Honestly, I was dubious about the care I would receive. I was wrong. The receptionist whisked me into a room (no waiting) where I was greeted by a male nurse. Suspecting that I might be cold, he immediately offered me a blanket. Then he gave me a shot to help with the pain. He noticed that my knees were banged up and bleeding, so he gently cleaned and bandaged them. All of this happened before I saw the doctor. The whole experience reminded me how it felt to be greeted by my mom when I came into my house as a child with a stubbed toe or a bee sting. He took care of me. I felt loved. It makes me cry just thinking about it. When we checked out, he handed me a jar of his homemade honey.
Me and my body are on the same team. For a lot of my life, I’ve thought of my body as an adversary. I suspect that I’m not alone in this. Many people, especially women, are taught to see their bodies as something to master, to control. As I’ve aged, I’ve even caught myself hating parts of my body. Why are my arms so flabby and my butt so soft? My accident and recovery have reframed my relationship with my body. We are on this life journey together, as friends not enemies. As Frog and Toad not Tom and Jerry. Every day, all day, my body talks to me. She tells me what she needs to keep going. Sometimes she tells me to rest rather than to push. I need to listen.
God is also a mother. For the first eight weeks post-surgery, I had to sleep sitting up, supported by a crappy foam wedge from Amazon. It sucked. And I really didn’t sleep. As I lay awake at night, I understood those words from Hamilton in a deeper way – “the moments when you’re in so deep, it feels easier to just swim down.” I prayed for support, for comfort and companionship. And guess what? The comforter who showed up was not a white man with a flowing, grey beard. Despite what I’d been told in Sunday school and in church pews, about God “the father”, it wasn’t a father, or male energy in general, that I needed. I didn’t want a solution or a pep talk. I wanted a mother. And mother God showed up. She sat through the long nights with me. We awaited the sunrise together. She reminded me that I, like women throughout history, was strong. I wouldn’t drown.
I’m very doubtful that, after an eight-month hiatus, anyone is reading these rambling thoughts. But in the off chance that you are, I’ll conclude by acknowledging that I’ve haven’t gone through something novel or extraordinary. People get hurt and are patched back together every day. It’s just that now I understand the lessons that such experiences can teach. I won’t forget them. And I won’t be riding my big white bike on a small dirt trail any time soon.