“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”
– Ernest Hemingway
Last December, two days before New Year’s eve, I shattered my left wrist in a freak skiing accident in the Catskills. Less than a week later, a skilled hand surgeon in New York City patched it back together with a titanium plate and screws (see accompanying x-rays). Not exactly an auspicious start to 2012, but given that I’m a righty, it could have been worse.
No one was willing to tell me what constituted a “normal” recovery period for an injury like mine, so rather than fixating on a specific end goal in my typical type-A fashion, I tried instead to notice and appreciate the incremental improvements I felt as my wrist slowly healed.
When I started occupational therapy, I wouldn’t say that I looked forward to going, but I did find it oddly relaxing to be in an unfamiliar environment where my only job was to perform a variety of repetitive fine motor exercises and refrain from using my cell phone. No expectations, no judgments. I focused solely on the task at hand, and we all celebrated small wins. Gradually, activities I had once taken for granted, like washing my hair, cooking and picking up my computer (not to mention my 2 year-old), got easier. For the first time in my life, I felt elated about opening a jar without having to call in reinforcements.
In early May, after nine weeks of occupational therapy, my surgeon gave me the green light to begin working out again. He said there were no limitations on what I could try, and that he had every confidence I’d be able to do more consecutive push-ups by May 2013 than I could before my accident. He also told me that, in the future, if I were ever to break a fall by putting both of my arms out in front of me, my platinum-reinforced left wrist would fare better than my unfortified right wrist.
This is, of course, a very literal example of the Hemingway quote above that I like so much. I could share lots of metaphorical examples, too, and I’m sure you have plenty of your own. The point is that accidents, mishaps, failures, disappointments and even the occasional epic screw-up are inevitable. What ultimately matters is not whether or why they happen, but how you fix them. And how you treat yourself and those around you while you’re going about the business of setting things straight, adjusting your perspective and getting even stronger than you were before.