Sunday, October 28, 2012
Take A Break: Survival Manual for the Fractured Woman
Take A Break: Survival Manual for the Fractured Flippered Woman
I stepped out the back door of the Senior Center kitchen, headed for the dumpster, tripped on a leaf-covered three-inch-high door-stop jutting up in the center of the narrow sidewalk, and for a short while flew through the air. While I seemed well-schooled in take-off, I had completely neglected the instructions on landing. I flopped face first, taking most of the impact on my right side. Among other injuries, I broke my wrist. I’m right-handed, of course. Decidedly right-handed.
This is not the end of my world. This is a mere intermission. I’m a stranger neither to shattered bones nor to casts. In the long-ago I have endured plaster for weeks, even months at a time. What surprised and amazed me, once I emerged from shock, was my emotional reaction.
I felt angry, stupid, guilty, ashamed, clumsy, worthless. From where? From what? For why? Feelings circled like a maelstrom, sucking me into the center of its turbulence. I gritted my teeth and repeated like a mantra, "This is not rational. This is not rational" Eventually, the storm calmed, leaving debris in its wake.
"All I do is sleep," I complained.
"Good. Sleep heals," my friends replied.
"But I can’t do anything."
"Uh,huh. You’re not supposed to. Enjoy it while you can."
Enjoy. Right. Ha. I mean I can’t do any simple thing. Brushing my teeth with my left hand requires a towel slung ‘round my shoulders to catch dribbles, drools and splatters. Getting dressed is interesting—rather like The Three Stooges production with only one Stooge—Me. I quickly abandoned a certain feminine garment. Elastic-waist sweat pants, while not haute couture, are practical. I hate them but I wear them. Shoes are impossible. I resort to my Birkenstocks with wool socks. I can’t sign my name to documents, checks or my absentee ballot. Using the keyboard with one hand drives me nuts. I can’t feed myself a balanced diet, can’t slice bread and cheese or chop onions or a carrot.
Life is simple these days. I sleep a lot. I read books. I scramble eggs. I read books. I eat with a spoon. I read books. I ask for help. I read books.
Dick Francis, in one of his novels, wrote that in the first eight or nine days the break in a bone fills with soft tissue and then begins to harden. I figure Dick Francis should know because his heroes break multiple bones in every book, climb back in the saddle and finish the race. They don’t sleep for days, whine, or lay about. But I’m not a character in a Dick Francis novel.
While my bones must have begun the process of knitting back together, there are things I have learned.
My left arm, awkwardly attempting the unusual and the impossible is getting stronger in inverse proportion to the atrophying muscles of my right arm.
If I hold a pencil immobile between my right thumb and forefinger, by moving my entire arm over the paper, I can scrawl a large-lettered note to myself, much more legibly than my left-handed scribbles.
Before attempting any chore, stop and think the process through in minute detail. Note what parts must be done with two hands. Discard the attempt at the chore. Take a nap.
In the kitchen, wear an apron. Make this a bibbed, bakery-style apron rather than the ruffled, waist tied handkerchief of tulle worn by June Cleaver and our mothers in the 1950’s.
Keep the same apron on while you eat. Use a spoon. Spoons are safer.
Dishes can be washed with the left hand only. Awkward, but do-able.
Lotion cannot be applied with one hand to same one hand.
Have your hair washed by the nearest hairdresser. It feels good and it is worth it.
Friends and neighbors will flock to help. Let them. Thank them.
Never worry about doing something with your damaged wing that you shouldn’t. Trust me, the pain will stop you. You are not a hero in a book.
Let the undone chores pile up. They are not important.
Take walks. Get some fresh air. Drink lots of water.
Chocolate is good. Indulge.
Keep a blanket on the couch. Stay warm. Call friends. Read books.
HDN: Looking out my back door
November 1, 2012