A couple of months ago I was literally swept off my feet as I slipped on ice outside of my own home. This seemingly innocent incident resulted in multiple breaks and fractures to my right leg and ankle. It took an intensive surgery, two plates and about a dozen screws to put me back together.
My doctor carefully broke the news that for the next 12 weeks I was basically grounded from work and travel as my only job would be to stay off my foot and keep it elevated as much as possible. Now, that the end of this period is in sight, I feel I have already learned some valuable lessons from an experience, that most feared would devastate an otherwise energetic and entrepreneurial woman like myself.
Asking for and accepting help
It was undeniable a shock for a healthy and independent woman, who has never broken a single bone before, to lose the ability to care for herself. Asking and accepting help with everything from taking a bath, to dressing, eating and driving was a new and humbling experience, one that helped me realize that even the most resilient and independent people still require the help of others. I am incredibly grateful to all my friends and relatives who have visited me in bed and on the couch, brought me food and food for thought, offered to help in multiple ways and sent me endless amounts of warm thoughts and good wishes. You have taught me that it is OK to ask for help and it is possible to simply receive it with grace. I am more grateful than ever for having so many good people in my life and for being married to the best husband and father in the world.
My nearest and dearest friends were initially quite concerned about my ability to manage twelve weeks of no to little productive activity. Ideas for time-passing activities came pouring in, book recommendations, must see movies, documentaries and podcasts. it seemed a person like me would simply be incapable of doing little or nothing of value for such a long time. I agreed and found myself planning for a range of projects I could complete during this time. I was intent on being productive, hard work is the most valued virtue in my family, it is who I am. Yet, I surprised myself and others. My head made plans, my body refused to play along and insisted on rest and recovery. I have of course enjoyed watching, listening and reading educational and entertaining material, but more than anything I have enjoyed just being present. I’ve been present when my kids come home from school and I’ve been present with myself more than ever before. I have been less focused on the past or the future than ever before and have simply and wholeheartedly enjoyed just being present in the here and now, working hard only to create the best possible conditions for healing and happiness.
Go deep fast
When people visit your bedside, the typical every day conversations give way to a more meaningful dialogue. Your vulnerability inevitably invites others into a more open and sincere dialogue. I have enjoyed real and authentic conversations with my friends and family about the meaning of life, what really matters and how we can take advantage of the challenges life provides to learn, to grow, to become better. I have received honest feedback, advice and wisdom and I have done my utmost to sincerely provide the same. A good friend and a mentor of mine has always said that she chooses friends with whom she can go deep fast. I now understand better than ever what she means by that.
Set your limits, learn to say no
I had to cancel a lot of work and travel because of my accident. I felt terrible to let people down. Most of my engagements had been planned and prepared for months already and figuring out a plan B wasn’t always easy for my clients. I did my best to help. As I cleared my calendar to focus on healing, I continued to receive requests and offers to take on new jobs, projects and responsibilities. Some people generously offered to give me an exciting project to think about, just to make sure I wouldn’t lose my mind during all this time at home. I deeply appreciate those who believe in me and care enough about me to think of putting my talents to work, even while in bed, but for the first time in my life I decided to reject any such offer. I have found this to be the perfect time to practice something I have never been very good at; To set limits and to say no. I hope to emerge from this period with more energy and more to give because I was wise enough to take the time to rest and recover, but I also hope I have at last learned that in order to continue to have abundant energy for others, one must first and foremost take care of self.
“Walk” in other people shoes
When I was an HR manager in the US we organized “walk in my shoes days” for our leaders and employees. We found that by doing other people’s jobs, we were humbled and we developed a better understanding of the important role every person in an organization plays. My brief experience of life on one leg and in a wheel chair has allowed me to “walk” in the shoes of those who do not enjoy the privilege of full health. My world-view has changed, I am more humble and I do better understand the challenges faced by those who are not as lucky as I am and most of us are.
Choose your attitude
My friends often say that if it wasn’t for my natural tendency to be positive and optimistic, I would have lost my mind already. I don’t know if I am more positive or optimistic than most, but I know that I CHOOSE to be positive rather than negative and I CHOOSE optimism over pessimism. The fact is that things can always be worse and many people deal with challenges that are far more difficult than the one I am facing. I make sure to always be grateful for I was given a challenge that has taught me valuable lessons and will with time and patience be overcome.
This article originally appeared on http://hallatomasdottir.is