I am currently typing this one-handed.
Last Friday, whilst out mountain biking with my partner, I went over the handlebars of my bike and landed on my wrist. I managed to break two bones in my wrist, requiring surgery.
As I lay in the grass waiting for my partner to ride back to the car and come and collect me, clutching my wrist in agony, I actually felt a feeling of gratitude rising.
I knew instantly that a positive change was about to happen.
I was facing six weeks of having a cast on, three months of being unable to ride my bike, and having the challenge of incorporating exercise back in my life, for someone who exercises almost every day and thrives on it.
I had good reason to feel angry and feel like a victim, but instead there was peace. Pain, but also peace.
When you go through a sudden big change, you have to learn to live differently – even if temporarily, and this opens the door for growth and learning.
Setbacks are frustrating, but they always brings gifts and life lessons that we may just need to look a little harder to see.
Having had a chance to reflect, I want to share five insights I learnt to stay positive (rather than helpless)…
1. Anything that forces us to slow down is a gift.
When you slow down, you become present to life.
A lot of us get caught up in a big rush, when there really doesn’t need to be such urgency.
I’m finding that just by moving more slowly, and taking longer to do simply daily tasks that would normally not require thinking about, I’m noticing things that I normally wouldn’t notice if I were rushing through them.
Out of habit I’ll feel an urge to jump up and put dishes away, so it creates a challenge for me to stop and trust that everything will be okay if I slow down the busyness.
2. Your attention will be redirected to an area of life where you have the opportunity to create something new.
Exercise and adventure is something that my partner and I value, and as much as I hope to heal quickly and look forward to getting back on the bike, I know that something else of importance will occupy my focus now, that will benefit me in the long run.
I think it is no coincidence that my left arm (I am left-handed) was spared.
Times like these often sprout bursts of creativity.
Is there something that you’ve always said you’d like to learn to do, such as a new skill or a hobby, but you lack the patience to sit still and focus?
Being injured forces you to sit still, so it is a good opportunity to harness any creative energy you’ve been bursting to express.
3. When you lose something, you gain an appreciation for what you may have taken for granted.
I know my change is small scale, (I still have my arm, and my injury will heal), but I can appreciate and get a small sense of what permanently disabled people go through.
I’ve had to come up with creative ways of doing things one-handed, which present some interesting challenges (have you ever tried to put toothpaste on a toothbrush using only one hand?)
I definitely appreciate how lucky I am to have two arms.
4. It is best to work with your situation, rather than against it.
To spend time worrying about how long until I’m back on the bike would be futile. Thinking about what I can’t do would also be pointless.
Often with illness and injury, you hear about people “fighting an illness” or “battling cancer”. Instead of fighting against, I think it is particularly important to listen to the message your body is giving you, for example when it is telling you to slow down.
To stop resisting and surrender, work with the way things are, rather than the way they aren’t.
5. It is okay to let yourself be looked after.
Accepting care can be an interesting one if you are an independent person like me! I’ve had to rely on my partner to do all of the cooking, cleaning, and helping me to shower and dress.
I’m thankful to not have kids, as I can only imagine how much harder it would be for a mother with small children to look after.
Many of us (especially women) are great at taking care of others, but are not so quick to allow ourselves be taken care of.
There is not much point in feeling guilty for having someone look after you. Instead of guilt, be thankful.
If you visited a Japanese home, it would be considered rude to decline a cup of tea, because you would be making it about the tea, when the actual gesture is in the giving.
Accept your carer’s gift by allowing yourself to be taken care of, and feeling thankful. You’d do the same for them.