Life can blindside us. There we are, moving along in our daily routine, and wham. Something — whatever “it” is — calls us to attention.
For me, that “something” was a traumatic fall about two months ago. It’s miraculous — as my doctor has told me — that I didn’t break any bones or end up with a concussion when I hit that cement sidewalk. I’m in forever gratitude for angels around me when I pitched head first.
But my teeth took the brunt of it, dislodging them and shoving them into my fractured jawbone.
Blood spewed everywhere and a kind lady saw me fall and took me into her home to help me clean up. I ended up in the ER that night with a CT Scan and being assessed and probed. Ironically, I knew the ER doctor from all my past visits with dad, who had a stroke three years ago.
The human part of me immediately kicked into “why” — that nasty question we ask about much of life.
When the shock and trauma of it all subsided, I realized that “why” was a waste of energy and time. It was a “victim” question and I didn’t like that. I decided, hey, it happened And now I was left with how I wanted to respond to the experience.
So how did I respond? Afterwards, not well. I wept, I was angry and I railed to the heavens that THIS could not be happening, not now. I wanted to write my second book. But had I really been doing that? I needed to continue to help care for dad. But really, now, didn’t I need a respite of some kind?
And then, I watched as self-blame kicked in. How could I have been so stupid, so unaware as to allow this to happen?
I’d process all those questions later. But right after the accident, I was still in shock, or some kind of post-traumatic stress, my body banged up and sore. I fell into periods of the deepest sleep I’ve ever known. So comatose, in fact, those sleeps frightened me.
But I decided to allow it all. I may not have liked it, but I knew on some level that I had to give permission for all this to unfold. I couldn’t — and still can’t — eat solid food. (Silver lining here: I’ve lost a lot of weight that needed to go.) And I needed tremendous amounts of bedrest. No more go-go-go. No more to-do lists.
Just being. Just resting. Just deep listening and deep sleeps.
I’ve had a good amount of dental work done at this point. There’s much more ahead. And I’m thankful that some of my stamina has returned.
But here’s what I’m most thankful for, believe it or not.
Taking a shower. Cooking a meal, even if it is soup or mashed potatoes. Driving to the grocery store. Dusting and vacuuming. Crazy, right? No. Those simple things I once took for granted, that were part of an ordinary day — now I see them as gifts.
Here’s the point, my friends. We are given lives that, in the main, are routine. We wake, we eat breakfast, we brush our teeth, we go to work. Or we stay home and care for a family. Or we pay bills, call a friend, clean the house, prepare dinner, help the kids with homework.
The fall, yes, was a huge wake-up call on many levels. And I know those lessons will be sifting through my soul for some time to come. For now, one major lesson is that time is limited and we never know what might happen. So, yes, I do want to write that book, many books. And yes, I need to learn to better balance caregiving my dad with my own self-care.
But I don’t want to overthink or analyze all this. I just want to continue to “be” with whatever this experience needs to be — in the moment.
And in the moment, I can say that this challenge fills me with boundless gratitude. I am aware now of the smallest of blessings. To breathe. To move. To laugh and cry.
And even though I have always been somewhat mindful of those who have chronic health problems, those who are shut in, those who are fleeing their countries and have so little — now I am almost painfully attentive to how much I do have, how so many people in the world would cherish those things I once complained about or took for granted.
In the end, life in all its spectrum will be with us — from dazzling joy to crippling sorrow to somewhere in between. Can we learn to accept it all, to learn and grow through it all, to be kind to ourselves and not judge the experience or fall into self-blame (as I am still learning)?
As I continue to mend, I find that I am in the moment as never before, savoring the crimson and gold leaves of autumn, the crisp cool morning air, the dishes in the sink, a hot shower, a warm bed, the neighbor who stops me to talk even though I am tired, the gift of a deep breath in and a deep breath out.
Gift and grace. And so much more. As Joni sang, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”
Let’s be here now. Thankful, now.