By Jane Seskin
I met up with a stroller in the lobby of a building, caught my foot on a wheel, twirled to stay erect, then fell to the floor.
My side a week later was a muted rainbow. I fractured a bone in my right wrist, was put in a cast ending below my elbow which hugged my thumb. I was told my hand would be immobilized for six to 10 weeks.
I didn’t realize in the moment the cast was applied to my dominant hand it would upend my life. Early on I knew I would need to inhale some of the skills I nurtured in others as a psychotherapist. My litany: be patient, acknowledge your feelings, allow yourself to be vulnerable, ask for help, practice self-compassion.
As an independent, type A senior single woman, I didn’t understand I would have to learn those lessons over and over again.
For the first week, I carry my arm around in a white sling. I’m apprehensive on the street. Feel vulnerable in crowds and by people walking toward me looking down at their screens. I’m nervous someone will bump into me and frequently call out: “Heads Up!”
A friend observes as we leave a movie that I’m listing to the right. At night I’m thinking pasta. I’m thinking sourdough bread and butter. Carbs - always a bad sign.
I cannot hold the ancient but still usable receiver from my landline, drink from a cup or mug (In restaurants: “May I please have my coffee in a takeout container?”), eat with a fork and knife, peel an orange or a hardboiled egg, apply lipstick, wash my face, brush my hair, carry a pocketbook, an umbrella, use my wallet or write with a pen.
I struggle to put my key in the door and then turn it to open. My everyday life has been compromised. I’m on leave from my Senior Aerobics class that has weekly energized me. My patience sits on a swing on a windy day and I am frequently seconds away from tears.
I’m frustrated opening a plastic bag of salad, cutting vegetables, unscrewing a jar of marinara sauce. I’m angry at my helplessness, tired from the efforts and sad to have to acknowledge - I am incapacitated.
In the third week I stop fighting the situation. Stopped being so angry with myself for feeling out of control. For being slow. I return to the scene of the accident, a large bustling lobby in a crowded shopping center. I pace up and down the marble floor where I fell. I’m grateful I didn’t crack open my head when I went down.
What I was living was my present experience. My moment in time. I began to answer “having a hard day,” if I was, when someone asked, “How’s it going?”
I have fleeting desires. I want to shop. I want to buy new clothes. I can’t get my arm through long-sleeve tee shirts and jackets. Putting on a coat requires major breathing and a little dance step. Can’t pull things over my head. I’m now wearing a diet of button down, snap-close shirts.
It takes additional time to get dressed in the morning. I often stop, just stand still. Count backwards from 100. Running shoes gone in favor of clogs and boots that have no laces to tie. The days are cold. My fingers chilled. I wear a sock on my hand and feel I will break into puppetry at the sight of a child.
Five weeks. I’m not in pain. There is an occasional feeling of heaviness in the hand, of throbbing in the wrist. I take no meds. Perhaps a cinnamon raisin walnut scone some afternoons with a cup of espresso.
To blunt the tedium I read murder mysteries and poetry, listen to Keith Jarrett, practice meditation and do my work which is engaging and stimulating. (This is an exploration for me and with clients on what it means to be hurt, to feel dependent, to ask for help. I reassure someone: “My arm is injured. My brain is intact.”)
Nine weeks. My cast comes off! I’m keenly aware this has been a transitory injury, a taste, a forewarning of frailties to come. I acknowledge the minefields in my day and will continue to make adjustments. I learn to practice patience.
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