Updated: Aug 12, 2020
What could have undone me, actually put me back together again. This is the story of the fall that woke me.
I fell down, yet rose up. I was broken, yet made whole. I was still, yet moved like never before. I was confused, yet clarity came forth. I mourned what was lost, yet abundance was abound. I was hurting on the outside, yet healing on the inside. I slept all the time, yet was awake for the first time. I was alone, yet found solace in my own company. My bones were weak, yet my soul was strong.
Ten days after my 40th birthday, I fell and shattered my left shin and ankle. It was an early Friday morning in late April 2015, and my friend and I were walking through the mall, chatting and catching up. We had just come from Starbucks, and were both holding a steaming hot cup of coffee. I was dressed for work in a cobalt blue sheath dress and super cute just-from-the-box 3-inch wedge sandals. The mall was practically empty, and eerily quiet as no stores were yet open.
Then it happened. One minute I was walking, talking, sipping my coffee, the next minute I was flung forward, hurling my coffee in front of me, landing face first onto the floor of the mall. I didn’t slip. Didn’t trip. Didn’t stumble. Didn’t lose my footing. No one bumped into me. I literally went from being upright to being sprawled on the floor in the blink of an eye.
The pain was immediate, intense, and all encompassing. I knew instantly that I couldn’t stand up–didn’t even attempt to. I started screaming “FUUUUUUUUUCK!!!!!!” at the top of my lungs. Repeatedly. Loudly. I could hear my fucks echoing through the empty mall corridors. As I lie there in excruciating pain, I fluctuated between feeling like I was going to vomit, and feeling like I was going to black out. I remember the fucks flying out of my mouth uncontrollably. I started apologizing to no one in particular for my vulgarity, but could not stop screaming obscenities. (Side note: I later read that “swearing activates the so-called ‘fight or flight’ response, leading to a surge of adrenaline and a subsequent pain relieving effect on our immune system.” #justified)
As I was laid out flat on my stomach screaming, a face suddenly appeared in front of mine. It was a teenage girl, a complete stranger, who squatted down next to me and started talking to me in the most soothing, assuring voice. “You’re OK. We’re calling an ambulance. You’re OK.” I could see her mom (I assumed), my friend, and mall security in the background. She took my hand and started asking me questions. “What do you do for a living?” I answered, stammering, still swearing and swallowing vomit, “marketing”. She continued to talk to me, listen to my fucks, and reassure me. To this day I wish I knew her name. I would call her and thank her. I’d thank this young empathetic, beautiful stranger for holding my hand, staying with me, sharing my pain, and enduring my profanity. She was an angel...and now that I think about it, perhaps she actually was my angel.
The paramedics arrived and two complete hotties flipped me over on my back and lifted me onto a gurney. That’s when I saw my ankle for the first time. Sideways. It was leaning sideways in a way that can only be described as…unnatural. I immediately demanded drugs. My screams of swears turned to screams of “MORPHINE! GIVE ME MORPHINE! I KNOW YOU HAVE IT!” Hottie #1 told me they had to check my vitals before they could administer any drugs. This did not shut me up. Once inside the ambulance, my friend called my husband to tell him what happened, and where to meet us at the hospital. Once we got to the hospital and I got my morphine, I had my friend take a photo. As one does. #priorities
The next few hours were a blur (see above paragraph regarding morphine). My friend left, my husband arrived, xrays were taken, and it seemed like a million different doctors and nurses came and went. I do remember one nurse who came in, looked at my xrays, and said “My God, your leg and ankle are crushed. Were you in a car accident?”. To which I replied, “No. I was drinking coffee at the mall.”
The hospital sent me home that day, because the swelling was too sever to operate. That car ride home was hell. Every bounce, bump, and shake sent a jolt of lightening pain through me. My left shin and ankle were a bag of loose bones wrapped up to reduce swelling. I waited a week on my couch, heavily sedated, before having reconstructive surgery to put me back together again.
I spent the next 11 months either on bed rest, on a scooter, on crutches, in a boot or in physical therapy learning to walk again. Then one evening in March 2016, not quite a year since my break, I was reaching up to put a glass away in a high cupboard, and I twisted my left ankle funny. And by funny, I mean I fucking re-broke the damn thing. That same week I was back in surgery for the second time in a year. I was devastated physically, mentally, and emotionally. Back to square one. Another year of recovery and learning to walk again. Another year on the couch.
Looking back now on that time in my life, I see what happened to me in a new, shinier light. For all the time I spent physically recovering, I also spent spiritually awakening. As my ankle was healing, so was my soul.
I meditated for the first time, and joined a “New Moon Women’s Circle”. I found an energy healer (5 doors down from me!) who taught me about chakras, family constellations, and color therapy. I started watching the news, and caring about world events. I followed politics, learned to protest and advocate for equality. I attended the first Women’s March in Washington D.C. which was a down-right religious experience. I enrolled in my first self-help class called “The Unstoppable Program” which taught me how to be kind to myself and reclaim sparkle and joy in my life. I read a book that forever changed the way I see my parents and learned to set boundaries. I discovered the Enneagram and how to both acknowledge and work through my deepest fears. Oh, and I quit my career in soul-crushing corporate America after 20 years. Literally just left my badge and laptop on my desk and walked out forever. I started saying yes to life, and no to anxiety, guilt, silence, and staying small.
Not that any of this was easy. The stuff that changes us at our core rarely is. My marriage hit a turning point, I lost a lot of friends, and I gained 60 pounds. Nothing in my life looks the same since I fell. It looks different. But that’s what happens when the light shifts, doesn’t it? Shadows disappear and things are clearer. I believe the Universe had to knock me over so I could stand back up. Stronger, spiritual, and shining love.
This is 45.