All Struggles In Life Are Not Purposeless

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Like everyone I know, I’m busy. CRAZY busy. If I spy a few free minutes on my calendar, I feel compelled to squeeze in one more thing. I carry around a tote bag filled with things to do, just in case I find myself with five free minutes while I’m waiting somewhere. I find it stressful to get a pedicure at the relaxing salon with the dim lights because it’s too dark in there for me to multitask. I manage a family and an office.  And when I’m inspired, I write about it all.

March 16th started as just another manic Monday in my life. I dashed out at lunch like I often do to pick up both lunch and groceries for dinner. I got back to the office, parked my minivan in the garage, and tripped and fell on the way to the elevator. What I thought was a twisted ankle turned out to be two broken bones and damaged ligaments. And surgery. While the physicians’ assistant was carefully constructing my cast, I sat on the examining table with a single thought running through my head … I simply do not have time for this. I’m busy. CRAZY busy.

Cast
Post Surgery Giant Cast

Seven weeks into my recovery, a coworker who is exactly half my age asked me how I was managing. I told him that this experience has truly given me a greater appreciation for those who live with disabilities and who, unlike me, are not going to heal. His reply was simple yet profound. He said, “All struggles in life are not purposeless.” All struggles in life are not purposeless.  His wise words made me really consider what lessons this struggle has taught me.

To slow down and have patience. Like most people, I am both patient and impatient, depending on the circumstance. I lack patience with slow pokes and people oblivious to their surroundings, particularly drivers who fit this description. But mostly, I lack patience with myself. I quickly learned that unless I wanted to live in a constant state of frustration, it was to my benefit to become more patient with myself and accept my new temporary physical limitations. I was forced to slow down and let go of crazy busy.  And to my great surprise, the world didn’t come to an end.

How to accept help gracefully. Much of my self-identity is tied to being a caregiver and a problem solver for my family, my friends, and my coworkers. I’m far more comfortable being the one giving help rather than the one receiving it. But suddenly, I needed help. I was in pain from surgery and learning to balance and maneuver on crutches. I couldn’t drive.  I couldn’t run errands, take care of the house, or cook much more than toast. My family, friends, and coworkers were genuine in their offers of help, which I accepted, but not so gracefully at first. Accepting help made me feel weak. And then I realized two things. This injury didn’t change who I am, it temporarily changed my circumstances. And, perhaps more significantly, I realized that those offering help wanted a chance to give to me. So instead of turning down a friend’s offer to drop off dinner, I said, “thank you, that would be a wonderful help.” Because it really was. And before I knew it, I was accepting help gracefully.

That my children are quite capable. I’m very guilty of doing things for my children that they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves. Yes, I like taking care of them, but my motivation is also self-serving. I can make a sandwich without dirtying the entire kitchen, and I can put clothes away where they actually belong. I know, I know. How will they learn if I do everything for them?  All struggles in life are not purposeless. I’ve been forced to let my daughters do things for themselves and for me, and they’ve grown more confident and self-sufficient.

How to be resourceful and adaptive. I spent the first day or so after my surgery counting all the things I couldn’t do. That got old pretty quickly. Even the simplest task required me to plan my every move before I left the comfort of the couch. Sure, I could hobble to the kitchen and pour a glass of water, but transporting my drink required a little ingenuity. Shifting my focus, I surprised myself by finding ways to overcome my limitations and manage my day to day life. I actually found it satisfying to solve these challenges.

Grocery shopping
Grocery shopping

A chance to model resiliency. In the grand scheme of things, our family leads a charmed life. While my broken ankle is just a small bump in the road, it has provided me with a chance to remind my daughters how to make lemonade out of lemons, focusing on what I can do instead of on my limitations. A friend dubbed my cast “Cast Stanley” (apologies to Flat Stanley) and we’ve had fun documenting Cast Stanley’s adventures on Instagram. With my husband’s assistance and my handicapped placard, I’m managed to attend lacrosse games and swim meets. I volunteered to create the program for G’s school play, the only task on the list that could be done from the sofa. E and I even managed a trip to the salon for a much needed pedicure. Of course, E is quick to remind me of the one day when, in a fit of frustration, I said that nothing good came out of this accident.

Only one little piggy went unpolished.
Only one little piggy went unpolished.

I should be back to my normal, crazy busy self by July. Let’s hope that some of these lessons stick with me, giving a real purpose to my struggle.

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