Ankleversary = The anniversary date for breaking an ankle.
My greatest lesson after breaking my ankle last summer has been discovering patience. That theme continues to play in my life.
I marked my time in a wheelchair with anguish over the perception that I was given a longer “sentence” than most people. My surgeon insisted I wait three full months before taking a step and that seemed excessive. Except for a brief rebellious walker attempt, I listened.
And then there was hardware removal. My surgeon told me I’d have to wait a year. I had a lovely friend from my on-line ankle recovery support group named Missie; she was close to my age and also a tennis player. Her surgeon took her hardware out after only six months.
I waited for that year mark and counted every month. The virus isolation in March was another opportunity for me to practice patience.
During the isolation, I kept healing. It was a huge deal when I became ready to play tennis again. It came back easily and my worry about the virus was stronger than my worry about my ankle. But my tennis friends and I stayed far apart when we played. It was the one scheduled thing in my life every week. For two hours, I felt almost normal again.
My ankleversary was July 1st and as the date approached, I was slightly apprehensive. I kept replaying so many aspects of the accident and what led up to it. And then I wondered, how bad would it be to keep my hardware? Many people do, including my middle brother. I wondered if perhaps I was being a perfectionist by wanting my ankle to be closer to the way it was before.
Missie reassured me that it would be great and I believed her. But it also seemed like a risk to have elective surgery during the pandemic.
With courage, I sent a message to my surgeon and asked if I could have the hardware removed. I wasn’t even sure how I would answer if he asked me what the problem was. Instead, he replied that I’d be scheduled for July 17th.
I had a Covid test a few days before, as well as x-rays. At my last tennis game I won both sets and played better than I ever imagined. I was glad that during the time I would be recuperating, it was awfully hot to play anyway.
But was I risking fate to do this?
The surgery went by quickly and I didn’t even need a breathing tube. I awoke in the operating room and was very chatty. The surgeon took a picture of my scar for me.
I left the hospital an hour later. When I got home, I was able to walk into my house in sandals. I wasn’t given any kind of pain pill other than Ibuprofen and Tylenol. I had something stronger left over from my first surgery and it saved me the first day. After that, I was fine. A huge bandage covered my incision. For two weeks I took showers with a trash bag over my foot until my stitches came out.
I had saved my wheelchair, as well as a shower bench and boot. I decided I didn’t need to store those items anymore and it was cathartic to donate them a month later.
I will backtrack to share that following my accident I wasn’t very productive. I thought that with endless hours I would be creative, but I sunk into depression and it was simply challenging to get through most days.
But once I could walk, I began to emerge from the gloom. Certainly playing tennis again seven months after my accident was glorious. My friends welcomed me back and although I was significantly heavier, I could still smack that ball.
As I healed and felt better, I was able to feel creative and productive again. I recorded my second course for Insight Timer named “Songs of Healing and Hope,” which was written a year earlier.
Shortly before my hardware removal surgery, I submitted my course to Insight Timer. I do not know the release date yet, but it is available on Bandcamp.
Healing represents transformation – I don’t see it as being “the way it was before.” With anything devastating, hope allows for hanging in there until it is possible to accept what has happened. Eventually, we are fortunate if we can adapt and adjust to a loss or an injury. Time heals physical wounds, but not necessarily emotional ones. A scar is a reminder that the wound is no longer bleeding, but an injury still occurred.
It was understandable for me to be discouraged when I first broke my ankle. Even though I was hopeful it would heal, there was truly no way for me to know when the pain would ease and how my mobility would be affected. Sadly, many people in my on-line support group have far more devastating injuries.
But I never gave up hope.
My ankle still needs more time to heal before I can judge whether this surgery made a difference. Many areas of my foot are numb since my first surgery. With this second surgery, nerve damage might be permanent. But on a positive note, my ankle feels more flexible, even though the scar tissue is tight and tender.
My patience has been rewarded. My ankleversary has brought me closer to the finish line. I will never be where I was before, but my finish line is about being able to move on from the injury. I’ve learned so much because of it.
Once my stitches came out, my recovery was in full force.
It has now been almost five weeks since surgery. I am playing my first tennis game this weekend. Just thinking about it makes my eyes water because I am so grateful.
A week before my surgery, a new creative energy erupted within me. Suddenly, I felt like painting again. This was a huge shift, as I had not painted anything for myself in over twenty years. And just as I started pulling out my paints, I received an art job. I finished the assignment and felt inspired to keep going.
In less than a month, I created fifteen new paintings. My goal was to add them to my Getty Stock Image library. I’m not sure how many more I will do, but will simply allow myself to create as I go.
Painting passes time for me without much thought. It’s actually soothing and fun. I plan to write a post for my Illustration blog soon with all the images there. And when I do, I’ll share it on this site.
Although I have a lot to celebrate, the continued isolation has kept me in survival mode. Numbness has been a familiar coping mechanism for me. I hope my emotions will break through again.
A clear sign for me is that I haven’t felt like singing or playing my guitar for months. Some of my sadness is because my daughter is moving away in a few weeks.
I wrote a story not long ago about our weekly picnics in a park. Despite being socially distant, we have grown even closer. I’m glad she could celebrate my ankle healing with me. She was traumatized witnessing my fall while we were hiking last year.
A week ago, I decided we could hug when saying goodbye. It’s a very brief squeeze while wearing our masks and holding our breaths. Reliving this makes me cry, which was unlike the actual sensation when we embraced. At the time, my emotions were blocked.
I have decided that for the next few weeks, our time is precious. I’m more open for us to create memories that will sustain us as we adjust to her moving across the country.
Last week, we went to the beach. My daughter had scouted around weeks earlier. She excitedly shared that she had found a secluded beach location. She also reassured me that a clean bathroom was nearby.
This outing was a big step because we would ride together in the car for the first time in many months. On the day of our planned outing, it was extremely hot. With masks on and the wind blowing loudly (all the windows and sunroof were open), we couldn’t carry on a conversation without shouting. Instead we enjoyed listening to loud music.
Dipping my feet in the ocean for the first time in two years was fabulous!
As I dug my toes into the wet sand, so many feelings swirled in my mind. I wanted to break through the numbness that had me in such a dull state.
I sat and watched the rolling waves. Then I closed my eyes, and pictured my younger self dancing in the surf. The images faded into ones of my children. I watched them beaming with pleasure as they dug in the sand.
Tears began to pool in my eyes. They were finally pushing their way through. As a tear began to slide down my cheek, I returned to the moment. I had countless beach memories, and now this would be the newest one. The cool ocean breeze, her sweet face, and the backdrop of rolling waves made this a perfect day.
I was truly proud of my daughter’s courage to change her life. Someday, we would make another slew of new memories. I would travel on a plane to visit her and she would take me around and show me new places.
Things would simply be different than what they used to be. Just like healing.
I had no way of knowing when it would be safe to travel again to see her. It will likely to be a long while.
Patience. I had learned it so well, and now I could practice it some more.