We all get “signals” that change is needed, but we’re often moving too fast to recognize them.
It’s those things that happen when you least expect it. I was leaving a local diner after a nice dinner with friends, and the floor came right out from under me. As I landed, I instinctively reached down, breaking my fall – and my wrist – in the process.
I knew instantly that I wasn’t OK, but all I could think about in the moment was how embarrassed I felt, and how I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. After a trip to the ER and X-rays to confirm the fracture, I left with the one souvenir of the evening I did not want, nor expect: a cast up to my elbow. And of course, it was my dominant right hand, rigidly held in place with only my fingertips showing.
Thankfully I had almost no pain in my hand or wrist, though my head was aching from all of the thoughts swirling about.
“How will I manage for the next 5 weeks? What of the mundane, taken-for-granted tasks of showering, drying my hair, driving? What about work, typing an email or texting?”
While in the past month I figured out how to do all of the above – some of them more easily than others – I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t counting the seconds until the cast comes off (as of this writing, just 2 more days!). But, I have learned a lot from this experience and I am grateful for the lessons, the most important of which were far less about getting things done and more about how to live a better life—universal messages that I think are applicable to everyone.
- Slow the heck down. Maybe the diner floor could have been a little cleaner, and I could have walked a little slower. But truth be told, I live my life in perpetual motion, rushing from one thing to the next, even when I have little reason to be in a hurry. It’s just how I’m wired. But, I made a conscious decision that night to learn to live life in slower motion, to stop rushing, to be more mindful and present. And, what a gift this resolution has been.
- Good enough is just that: good enough. When I was a little girl, my father used to kid me when I came home with an A on a test. He would say, “How come you didn’t get an A+?” Some kids may have been annoyed by that or at least laughed it off, but the perfectionist in me heard my father’s chiding as a call to action: BE PERFECT IN ALL YOU DO. I’m now 56 years old and I am still driven by a need to get an A+ in all my affairs: how I look, how I act, and how I perform. But, here’s the thing: Right now, I am simply unable to achieve the level of perfection I did before. And guess what? The world hasn’t stopped spinning, I have been no less productive, and aside from questions about the cast (which is hard to hide, quite honestly), no one has noticed the difference. Because at the end of the day, what we see in the mirror and are most critical of are not the same things others see, and most of the time, good enough is more than good enough.
- Family is everything. I think I always knew this one, but when I’m in constant motion, it’s easy to forget sometimes. As the only female in my family of 4, my husband and 2 sons have always been protective of me, but this fall reminded me what an incredible gift they are. They each hopped into action to be by my side and help in any way they could. It’s support from them that’s a constant, but I often take it for granted until life hits the proverbial fan. My gratitude for them is immeasurable.
- Needing help is not a sign of weakness. Whether it be opening a jar, turning a doorknob, carrying my bag, drying my hair, or typing an email, I have been forced to rely on the kindness of others in order to do all the things I am very used to doing by myself. At first, it felt lousy to go from being fiercely independent to being so dependent, but I have come to realize that it is my fear of appearing weak that has often prevented me from asking others for help. When I don’t ask for assistance, I assume all of a burden that might easily (and gladly) be shared. And I also deprive those who’d love to assist me the opportunity to do so.
- Sometimes we receive gifts in disguise. While this has surely been a nuisance, I recognize that things could be a whole lot worse. More than that, though, I realize that the opportunity to wake-up and learn all of these amazing lessons that I likely wouldn’t have learned in the absence of this accident is a gift, and I am grateful for the messages.
It’s truly easy to get caught up in the pain and self-pity before recognizing that we’re receiving important reminders each and every day. This accident was a wake-up call for me—well, actually, 5 wake-up calls. Sometimes it takes something “dramatic” to happen in order to actually get the messages that have been meant for us all along.
So instead of waiting to be forced into paying attention, take the time now to listen for life’s subtle signals.