Learning to Walk Again

Learning to walk againJuly 4, 2009 wasn’t so much an Independence Day for me as it was a day of constraint. No thanks to anyone but myself, I started the day rock climbing with friends and ended it with a broken tibia and fibula which would see surgery six short days later.

As of the writing of this post, I’ve been on crutches for six weeks to the day. When I woke on Saturday morning, my ankle was looking less Spongebob Square Ankle and more like its svelte, unbroken counterpart…so I got inspired. I set about to descend into the basement and finish organizing my gear room, if only to gaze at all the camping/climbing/hiking porn that facilitates my adventures (when I’m not off breaking legs, that is).

The project required several trips up and down the stairs, and I realized that I could place weight on my left ankle, safely locked away inside its ortho boot. This made conquering the stairs a helluva lot easier and faster, not to mention the total elation that overcame me as I realized I was crutch-free for the first time in six weeks.

After the basement project was complete (hell YES), I decided to take my once-black dog (now a vague grayish tone) to the dog wash. I’m mobile, I’m a biped, I can walk like the big kids. I loaded the Hippopotamus (his name) is the car and off we went to U-Shampooch, in search of my formerly black dog. The net-net of that excursion? One dog who is confident he had the worst day of his life yet who is now a shiny, soft black dog that smells of beauty parlor.

And one girl who realized that she was learning to walk again.

I got home and removed my ortho boot, revealing once again the Spongebob Square Ankle – but this time, one that looked bloated on salt water and those Hawaiian sweet rolls you would cram into your mouth by threes if they would fit.

Well crap-a-diddle-dee. Look at me. Supergirl-Sans-Crutches ain’t so super, is she?

In a most twisted way, breaking my ankle is likely one of the most profound experiences of my life thus far. In all my adventures, I’ve avoided serious injury until this. As a result, I’ve simply refused to slow down. Life comes at you fast and I was always determined to be faster, ahead of the curve. The Chuck Norris of life-thwarting. But when life bitch-slaps you and you find your head ringing inside a room that won’t stop spinning…

you don’t really have  a choice except to slow down.

You can’t walk on a broken ankle – especially not one requiring surgery.

You can’t NOT take your pain pills, thinking your body can just “deal.”

You can’t go back to what you were doing the day before because it requires two free arms and legs…simultaneously.

Sometimes, I think, we all need to break something.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the greatest gifts of my snap-crackle-pop fiasco was finding my friends and having a better understanding of who they are and what they mean to me. I now know who came to my aid without question (and through eardrum-shattering screams) and those who stayed away and avoid the topic of my leg completely when they ping me with idle chat.

I’ve also come to appreciate the slowing down.

When we break, whatever it is that we break, we can either lament and wallow in our pain or choose the alternative: learning to walk again. We’ll never quite walk the same as we did before, and for that…oh, hell yes, I’m thankful. We’ll walk differently and with a new gait, new purpose and with any luck, in a new direction.

And we can’t learn to walk again in a day. Yesterday’s discovery was humbling and liberating all at once.

Now, I’m not suggesting that my readers all go out and screw-up their ankles wide-style as I have. Perhaps instead just ask yourself: what have I broken lately?

Have I ever broken anything?

If the answer is “nothing,” then perhaps it’s time.

A habit, a rut, a relationship that’s more convenient than fulfilling, a partnership. Maybe a keepsake that you keep on the end table in your living room that’s more bad memories than good.

It’s been cathartic, this break of mine. While I’ve found humor in my crutches (aka Cougar Sticks) and new appreciation for those buttons you can push outside buildings that open doors for you, I’ve found more inside myself than anything. New passions have bubbled to my surface, wants and needs long-since-buried underneath my day-to-day that have dug themselves back into the light. So perhaps July 4th really was an Independence Day for me and not the shackle-inducing pinnacle of a summer ruined. While I might’ve lost a summer of fun, the “me” I’ve gained has provided another kind of summertime in my life.

I’m looking forward to the continued effort of putting weight on this life of mine and seeing what kind of gait develops. I have no doubt it’ll be a long stride as I walk, grueling pedal strokes as I punish myself on hill climbs that I love to hate, and one that keeps reminding me that if life isn’t going the way I’d like, that perhaps it’s time to break something again.

Only next time, without the hospital bill.

9 comments
J.W
J.W

I have just experience the exact same thing over the last 4 months.  I would have never slowed down if I would not have broken my tibia/fibia bones which required surgery.  I knew on the insided that I really needed to take a step back enjoy my family, but no I kept moving all around, I have to do this and that.  I know what it means to break something and understand  how to find humor in my life with an unexpected setback.

Kath
Kath

I met you for several minutes on July 2nd (yay IgniteBoulder) and have followed your blog & Twitter ever since. Your accident and continuing recovery were my basic introductiom to your world and you continue to this day to be an inspiration to me on many different levels. Plus? You heart doggies, so really, you're way fucking cool in my book :-) I've only broken two things to date...my neck when I was born (was paralyzed for 2 months then got better) and my heart after my divorce. Obviously don't remember the neck part but have been told I screamed for quite a while. Was super late to the walking game...didn't walk a step until I was almost 2. The broken heart took a bit longer to heal but eventually it did. Stronger in some ways, still weak in others and maybe a little different than the heart I used to have. But it's mine and I make it work. After buying my first house 'on my own' I was too proud to ask for help moving and somehow damaged my rotator cuff to where I could not move my right arm more than 2 inches above my waist. (I'm right-handed). That put an end to my gym visits, softball games, shooting hoops and you can forget girly stuff like blowdrying my hair. Life was difficult due to my stubborn independant streak. Hated asking for help...still do to this day. But I had to and did so with trepidation. Guess what? My friends all rallied around me. They were happy to help in any way possible and some of them even said they were glad I was injured so I could learn what it was like to receive instead of give. Of course, there were those times when the help I needed didn't arrive quickly enough. And I was fortunate not to further injure myself when I hauled a queen size bed up 3 flights of stairs with my left arm cause I wanted it done NOW, DAMMIT! Me patient? Not so much. Sometimes I think things happen to us because we need to learn lessons we haven't fully learned...or have forgotten. You've handled your injury with humor, determination & gratitude. Thanks for being so open and honest. xo Kath :-)

Kath
Kath

I met you for several minutes on July 2nd (yay IgniteBoulder) and have followed your blog & Twitter ever since. Your accident and continuing recovery were my basic introductiom to your world and you continue to this day to be an inspiration to me on many different levels. Plus? You heart doggies, so really, you're way fucking cool in my book :-) I've only broken two things to date...my neck when I was born (was paralyzed for 2 months then got better) and my heart after my divorce. Obviously don't remember the neck part but have been told I screamed for quite a while. Was super late to the walking game...didn't walk a step until I was almost 2. The broken heart took a bit longer to heal but eventually it did. Stronger in some ways, still weak in others and maybe a little different than the heart I used to have. But it's mine and I make it work. After buying my first house 'on my own' I was too proud to ask for help moving and somehow damaged my rotator cuff to where I could not move my right arm more than 2 inches above my waist. (I'm right-handed). That put an end to my gym visits, softball games, shooting hoops and you can forget girly stuff like blowdrying my hair. Life was difficult due to my stubborn independant streak. Hated asking for help...still do to this day. But I had to and did so with trepidation. Guess what? My friends all rallied around me. They were happy to help in any way possible and some of them even said they were glad I was injured so I could learn what it was like to receive instead of give. Of course, there were those times when the help I needed didn't arrive quickly enough. And I was fortunate not to further injure myself when I hauled a queen size bed up 3 flights of stairs with my left arm cause I wanted it done NOW, DAMMIT! Me patient? Not so much. Sometimes I think things happen to us because we need to learn lessons we haven't fully learned...or have forgotten. You've handled your injury with humor, determination & gratitude. Thanks for being so open and honest. xo Kath :-)

Steve
Steve

hear! hear! well stated...am navigating similar waters these days...emotional, physical and intellectual...I have set new paths and accomplished more in the last 3 weeks, having become hobbled due to a knee injury, than in the past 3 years. So...let freedom ring...and yes, without engaging the health care system... Post script: Health care reform is required!

Steve
Steve

hear! hear! well stated...am navigating similar waters these days...emotional, physical and intellectual...I have set new paths and accomplished more in the last 3 weeks, having become hobbled due to a knee injury, than in the past 3 years. So...let freedom ring...and yes, without engaging the health care system... Post script: Health care reform is required!

Dawn Barnhart
Dawn Barnhart

I totally understand what you've been thru and the personal realizations that comes with an event of this nature. I was hit by a drunk driver while driving home from work one night. Broke both of my ankles and a several bones in my left foot. I was very lucky that was all - as my little, red Spitfire rolled 3 times. Along with the knowledge of who was really there for me, was a profound understanding of how difficult mobility is for the handicapped. While in a wheelchair for 2 months and then on crutches for about 8 weeks, I found many, many places just were not accessible. Friends would literally have to pick up me in my chair and haul me down flights of steps into restaurants, stores, parks - you name it - that I could not access on wheels. They hauled me around in their cars, always having to clean out the trunk for the wheelchair. I'll never look at any venue the same again. The world takes on a totally new dimension from the seated position. Good luck on your continuing rehab!

Dawn Barnhart
Dawn Barnhart

I totally understand what you've been thru and the personal realizations that comes with an event of this nature. I was hit by a drunk driver while driving home from work one night. Broke both of my ankles and a several bones in my left foot. I was very lucky that was all - as my little, red Spitfire rolled 3 times. Along with the knowledge of who was really there for me, was a profound understanding of how difficult mobility is for the handicapped. While in a wheelchair for 2 months and then on crutches for about 8 weeks, I found many, many places just were not accessible. Friends would literally have to pick up me in my chair and haul me down flights of steps into restaurants, stores, parks - you name it - that I could not access on wheels. They hauled me around in their cars, always having to clean out the trunk for the wheelchair. I'll never look at any venue the same again. The world takes on a totally new dimension from the seated position. Good luck on your continuing rehab!

Eric Lubow
Eric Lubow

I just broke my femur skydiving. Mine happened on July 31st though. It will be about a year before I can do anything that I really liked to do (like Skydive again) or 9+ months before I do any more MMA. And the 1 point that I think you best illustrated is that when something like this happens, you really find out where your friends stand. I'm just glad I have a great girl by my side to help me through everything. Although, I'm not really into breaking anything else to find out again.

Eric Lubow
Eric Lubow

I just broke my femur skydiving. Mine happened on July 31st though. It will be about a year before I can do anything that I really liked to do (like Skydive again) or 9+ months before I do any more MMA. And the 1 point that I think you best illustrated is that when something like this happens, you really find out where your friends stand. I'm just glad I have a great girl by my side to help me through everything. Although, I'm not really into breaking anything else to find out again.