I fell the other day on the wet, muddy ridge where I take Miles most mornings. I lay there awhile, collecting myself. My wrist really hurt. Miles came back, stuck his face in mine, peering, and gave me kisses. Dear Miles. I briefly considered calling the friends I had seen a few minutes earlier to ask for help. But I got up and walked back, caught up with them, and they very kindly got me home. At Urgent Care I was told “sprain and possible dislocation,” pending a visit to Ortho.
So hereâ€™s what I did, while also reminding myself that I could walk, did not have a head injury and had not actually fallen off the ridge. I immediately began making a pitiful list of all the things I could not do. These things included:
Ride my bike
Write by hand
Drive my car
Walk my dogs
Play the piano
Use my camera
Pick up Rufus
Cook (kind of a bonus, actually)
Isnâ€™t that just so human? That is the first place most of us goâ€“what weâ€™ve lost, what we cannot do. The next morning, unable to write with either hand, and also hurting, I started the day in a very poor mood. Woe is me. Miles, too, seemed to think that even after I had taken him on a decent walk, a better one should be forthcoming. My son said, â€œMiles needs to check his privilege.â€ Me, too.
Awhile back Oliver and I watchedÂ “Rising Phoenix”Â a Netflix documentary about Paralympic athletes and the history of the Games. Although all of the athletes were amazing, the one I was most astonished by wasÂ Beatrice “Bebe” Vio, an Italian Gold Medalist in fencing whose nickname gave the film its name. She had lostÂ bothÂ arms from the forearm down andÂ bothÂ legs from the knee down when she was 11, as a result of meningitis. Can you even imagine the devastation, for her and her parents? I cannot. But in a wheelchair and equipped with special prosthetics to hold her foil, she became a fierce competitor, won many World Cups, was named â€œItalian Paralympic Athlete of the Yearâ€œ in 2014, and went on to win Gold in the 2016 Paralympic Games. Listening to her speak is tremendously inspiring.
â€œBeing special means to be able to make people understand that your weakness can be one of the things you can be proud of the most.â€ – Bebe Vio
It turns out IÂ canÂ do many things with my left hand or a sprained wrist, some of which I am certain are creating new paths in my brain. And I know I am amazingly lucky. I will never have the fortitude of that fierce young athlete or any of them. I am in awe of her and all the athletes and regular people who rise above their “limitations” to achieve astonishing things or just live their lives with grace.
â€œItâ€™s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.â€ – Sir Edmund Hillary
So what are all the things you can do? I bet the list is pretty long. I hope you count yourself lucky.
If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on myÂ website. And if you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.
Thanks for listening,
P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”