How to Manage Set-backs Without a Crutch


“Slow down and watch where you’re going,” this was the advice I heard most often while growing up. I tended to move fast, prone to compulsive behavior, and my focus was scattered at best. Sadly, things have not changed much. Repeatedly being told to avoid your natural inclinations is disconcerting. Thank God I wasn’t a sensitive child. 
It’s actually a great message, if you tease it apart, and really think about the embedded meaning. Life is not a race, although I tend to live it as such, because trust me we’re all going to cross the same finish line. This might be the one competition we endeavor to lose, and if we don’t want to cross the line with a backpack full of regrets, we need to be cognizant of where we are going.

“At the end of your life what you will regret the most is not the mistakes that you made ~ what you will regret the most are the things that you never tried” Moffat Machingura

I envy people who have the ability to move slowly through life, think through consequences, shift their momentum before the collision. It’s not my gift, in fact it’s my Achilles, as if a baseball player, I have made more sliding entrances into crowded rooms then I care to remember. It’s not a salvageable maneuver. I believe this is why I stopped wearing stilettos, well that, and the fact I was born height challenged, but let’s not dwell on the obvious. “I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me (like impressive entrances), but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t mater,” notes Bob Goff.

“Slow down and watch where you’re going,” I’m not exaggerating, I’ve heard that at least a hundred thousand times from my mother. And now that she doesn’t have her normal channels of communication she’s clever about utilizing alternative methods.


Have you ever wished you could go back in time and shift one tiny thing? This could be the worst idea ever but we’ll never know because there is currently no app for the process. Wouldn’t that be something? Oops, just a minute, let me pull up my app. The possibilities are endless. Consider being able to avoid the fallout from eating an E coli infested salad, retrieve an irate text message, not miss a step on the way to the airport and break your foot. Right?

“Let thy step be slow and steady, that thou stumble not.” Tokugawa Leyasu

Here’s the unabridged version. Just skip to the end if you like to avoid a lot of unnecessary detail. I’m broken. 

It’s pitch dark, 5:00 am, and I’m slightly anxious about flying across the country by myself. I’m moving too fast, definitely not watching where I am going, when my foot misses a step and twists painfully under the weight of my body. The pain is intense. It takes me a minute to catch my breath. Bob Goff says, “It has always seemed to me that broken things, just like broken people, get used more, it’s probably because God has more pieces to work with.” I’ve heard the place of our brokenness becomes the place of our greatest strength but I’m highly skeptical of this edict. Maybe I need to drink more milk?
I bravely forge ahead attempting to keep the quickly stiffening foot as limber as possible during the hour long drive to the airport. I try to shake it off as Larry kisses me good-bye, dumps me on the curb, and drives away. Modern marriage. Limping into the terminal dragging my luggage I gladly pay the twenty-five dollar ransom to leave my bag with the ticket agent. Now all I have to do is get through security, secure a cup of coffee, and all will be well. 
I find myself captured by a sea of people weaving our way through a maze of endless lines, as if waiting to get on the Matterhorn at Disneyland, although not nearly as fun. I feel trapped. Without warning I am seized by the urge to vomit and faint all at the same time. My heart is racing. Am I having an anxiety attack? 
As if a caged animal, I wildly search for an escape route, or at least a container to do my business. Another wave of panic shoots through me as I realize there is no escaping this tenuous situation but there is a stack of grey plastic bins within reach. I edge closer to the bins while practicing an abridged form of Lamaze breathing from my child birthing classes. Yeah, that was about as useful as it was then, I’m sweating profusely, and can not believe security hasn’t identified me as a threat? 
By the grace of God I make it through the radar machine (legs spread, arms overhead) apparently lamenting prayer under dire circumstances is surprisingly effective. My anxiety properly subdued, I stagger to the first Starbucks I can find, order a grande latte, and land at my gate with fifteen minutes to spare. I’m also getting over pneumonia so I’m prone to these wet, seal like, coughing spells. I spy a convenience store not fifty feet away, after purchasing cough drops, water, and extra strength Tylenol (why mess around), I hobble back to the gate. 

I fall into the first empty seat I can find and spend the next ten minuets neurotically protecting my sore foot. Travelers are so inconsiderate with their luggage. They’ll ride right over you if you’re not vigilant. I have to use my arms to create a safe space. As if fleas to a dog, a broken foot is magnetic, especially attractive to children. I’m no Jesus, do not let your wee ones near me, I have a sore foot. How hard is this?

Of course I’m assigned a window seat, now I’m worried about the engine failing, and getting sucked through a small portal at fifty thousand feet. I mentally add that to my growing list of dismal circumstances. The first leg (so to speak) of the flight is a little over three hours. Torture. I ask the stewardess for a cup of ice and pour it into my only throw-up bag, a risk I know, as I arrange it across my throbbing appendage. I land in Dallas with a foot the size of a large squash. It takes the entire layover for me to hobble to a gate that is miles away, let me just say a tram is involved, with no available seats. It was sort of heroic. I only cried out a half a dozen times.

“Maybe I’m lucky to be going so slowly, because I may be going in the wrong direction” Ashleigh Brillant

On the last part of my journey I had the wherewithal to ask for an ice bag as I entered the plane. I left it on my foot for three hours. I was in an exit row this time and had to agree that I was fit to open the door should the need arise. “Yes, I am capable,” a total lie. Go easy I need the extra leg room. Thank God I didn’t have to save the entire plane. #grateful

By the time I land in Florida my foot is the size of a football. Ironically I came to assist my friend who recently broke her arm tripping over a curb at five in the morning while walking her dog. Competitive injuries much? From an evolutionary perspective, pain  empathy is beneficial for human survival since is provides motivation for non-injured people to offer aid, but of course I have to take it a step further. Although not very helpful, my compassion is acute, as John Ray observes “misery loves company.” We spent the evening catching up, visualizing a less painful future, and sipping wine for medicinal purposes. I’m sure you understand.
In the morning, after being seized by an intense toe cramp, we decide a trip to emergency is imperative. My suspicions are confirmed, I’m broken. They slip my foot into a soft cast, I get an abridged lesson on crutch ergonomics, and then the doctor says, “slow down and watch where you’re going.” 

I look around for mom, smile, duly reminded.  

“I’ve come to realize that life is neither a battle nor a game to be won, it is a game nonetheless, but to be played… enjoyed. There are neither winners nor losers… just players–and what’s great is that you can choose who to play with” Val Uchendu


Auxiliary:

  • Crutches are not really a crutch #oxymoron 
  • I got the boot. #fashionfauxpas
  • The doctor said, “If you have to break your foot this is the best break.” #overachiever


I’m Living in the Gap, hobbling around, looking for empathy.


Join me in the comments?


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