Lessons the hard way…Posted: November 22, 2011
It was cold and early and dark, and I thought I’d save some time by running to my car. Ha.
Sometimes, when you’re about to collide into something big, time slows down. I wish that had been the case last Friday. Instead, when I tripped on the sidewalk crack, if felt like the sidewalk flew up to meet me half way. My backpack was heavy. That, coupled by the fact that I’d just woken up 15 minutes earlier, translated into my body accelerating towards the earth much faster than my reflexes could respond. I timbered like a tree, bruising my knees, pelvis, ribs, and chin.
Just the day before I’d sat through a 2-hour lecture on traumatic brain injury. I’m not sure how reasonable it was to think I could do a self-assessment of my own mental status, but I tried.
- Yes, I can remember the fall: Memory intact.
- I know who I am, where I’m at, and what got me here: Alert and oriented x3.
The pain radiated from my chin to the back of my head, and I thought about coup contra-coup injury, where both the impacted and non-impacted sides of the brain become injured due to the brain ricocheting back after the blow. I reasoned I should check to be sure my cranial nerves were all intact… Then, my tongue brushed across my teeth. That broad front tooth that stuck out just a little bit in front of the others was now jagged and short. When I saw the blood pooling on my right hand, the realization of pain set in.
I carefully made my way back to my house, acutely aware of my newly-acquired phobia of sidewalk cracks.
I spent that entire weekend trying to recover from my decision to save a few minutes of time. I wish it hadn’t required being banged up-side the head and handed a hefty dental bill for me to learn a lesson about slowing down.
Just a few days after my accident, my car was impounded. The night before I’d inadvertently blocked a small dirt driveway which led to 4 or 5 different houses’ parking spaces. A $300 mistake. Along the drive to pull my car out of jail, I was wallowing in self-pity and feeling more poor than I’ve felt in years, when I heard an enormous crash of metal behind me. We turned the corner and saw that just one car behind my friend and I, a car was smashed into an un-driveable state. Given our basic skills in trauma and first aid, we stepped up to see if there was anything I could do to help.
Reaching out to that traumatized mother and daughter made all the difference in my own mood. I’d been so self-absorbed. That same evening I was called on by some church leaders to bring a meal to a young man who was recovering from major abdominal surgery. Another layer of self-pity washed away.
This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful that there are many people in this thing-called-life together. I’m grateful to be both a recipient and giver in a community of fellow humans. I’m grateful for the experience of falling, and the help I received in getting up. I’m grateful for dentists and chiropractors and the inventors of icepacks and creatively-shaped bandages. I’m even grateful for the person who stuck that colorful note under my windshield wipers when I was parked in front of their driveway. I’m grateful for what I’ve seen and learned by trying to take things more slowly.
Mostly, I’m grateful for a dear friend’s helpful reminder that sometimes some unsolicited pain helps us to slow down enough to allow our souls to expand in a new direction. I’m really hoping that by sharing my embarrassing story, others might be vicariously inspired to slow down… and not run (or park illegally) in the dark.
Here are some photos to document that day 11-11-11:
The lunch I was carrying in my hand when I fell:
The sidewalk crack I didn’t see:
Before and After: