I went for a long walk around the park this evening as the sun was gliding down peacefully, slipping behind the tree-line. With every step, the same lyrics cycled through my brain, getting progressively louder as the sun lost its glow and faded from view: Every step I take… (and my musical brain continued with) the pain shoots up my leg… first gathering force and momentum in and around my left foot, then inching its way up the leg, pumping through my aching muscles and numbed nerves.
It was time for a distraction…
I reflected on the creative arts session that I led at the pain support group today. I had tried to encourage the participants to engage in playful expression, notwithstanding – or in light of – their chronic pain. Some were enthusiastic, others indifferent. There was clay and finger paint, crayons and pastels; some visualization and deep breathing. Amidst the joking and chatter, I patiently explained the purpose of creative process – all the while balancing on one leg like a stork, craving a couch and silently missing yoga.
Maybe it was the image of the stork-stance that brought me back to the present…
I don’t know if it’s visible to the passing stranger, but I know and feel a discernible difference in lengths between my legs. Perhaps not a full-on limp, but certainly (and despite the added lift in my shoe) something that has altered and slows down my walk, and makes me conscious of my sacrum’s not-quite-natural movement. But the bottom line is this: my left leg is now shorter than my right, and if I stand tall with my left foot atop a 250-page booklet, my body is pretty much straight ‘n square.
Overall and at first glance, I look just as I did pre-accident. Which is a blessing, after all. Yet, at the same time, and though I would not dare call it a curse, there is something profoundly transformed in my body, in its mechanics, its architecture. Something that I’m not yet able to fully fathom. The devil, they say, is in the details. And I come face to face with that devil daily: I see (like nobody else can) that my left foot is crushed, narrower than before, less agile than the right. The toes don’t curl quite as they did before, some veins seem stunted, displaced or altogether disappeared. But, yet, my body is whole and for that I continue to feel blessed.
And so, when I tell a person that I meet for the first time that I am recovering from an accident, what does that really mean, 16 months after the fact? Will my quasi-limp ever disappear? Will my gnawing pain ever dissipate? Will I ever run, cycle, hike and sit comfortably again?
Some days, like today, I suppose, a part of me wanted answers to those questions. It was one of those days, a frustrating, painful one. I had enough. I wanted less of these things, more of others. But really, more than anything else, I wanted to bask in health of mind and body, not just for me but for those I love – and that is, unfortunately, in short supply these days.