I did not think I would blog about this. When I think of myself on the internet, versus myself in reality, I tend to reserve the internet for expressing the broad positives of my life, as they would apply to others. I am wary of narcissism while blogging, of thinking that my life ultimately applies to everyone else’s. I am also an intensely private person…which is odd at times seeing as I am selectively private as well, sharing liberally about that which I deem can be public knowledge.
But enough jargon or preface. This post is about the decision I am making to share with you some private information.
Last Monday, I got hit by a car while biking home from the elementary school I am doing my AmeriCorps service at. I took a bike route I do not normally take and while I stayed in the bike lane the whole time, there was a dangerous intersection involved and the next thing I knew I was lying on the ground in the middle of the street, police officers on one side, the fire department on the other and an ambulance pulling up within sight.
photo courtesy of saint amy, my roommate
When I came to, I was a whole lot of emotions (as my sister and I say, all of the feels), but the sentiment that overwhelms me the most while going through a complicated trauma with an outcome that is challenging, but by far the best one possible is this:
I AM GRATEFUL.
I am grateful for years of chataranga. My recovery involves a lot of physical therapy. A lot of moving around on one leg on a walker and lifting my whole body up through isolating muscles. The doctors at the hospital assured me that I would’ve been there a whole lot longer had my arms – specifically my triceps – not been as strong. When I inform my physical and occupational therapists hat I am a yoga teacher, understanding dawns on their faces and I am grateful for the ways in which learning to move my able body has prepared me for these moments when my body is less able.
I am grateful for friends and housemates and the families we choose. This is an understatement. No matter how I write this gratitude, it will always be an understatement. I currently live with my best friend from college; we decided to move to Portland together to pursue our passions (me in education and her in architecture). She is my rock, my North Star, the person who reminds me of who I was the last four years, a touchstone for who I am now, in a new city, across the country, without the stability of a college identity and with all the adventure to forge an identity of my own. She is also my emergency contact and the person the police called as the paramedics wheeled me into the ambulance and shot me up with pain medicine. She was at the hospital before I arrived there, withstood the gore of my dislocated leg more than I did, and did not leave until our other housemate – another AmeriCorps member – arrived with a packed hospital bag and stayed the night. Both got less than three hours of sleep that night. Both were there the following morning as the surgical team prepped me for the operating room, holding each of my hands, as I braced myself (pun intended) to have a metal rod inserted inside my bone). When you live in a new city and the closest family is three hours away minimum, the families we choose become hOMe, the ones that are there for us in the most unconditional way possible. All these gratitudes lead me back to them, to you J and A. Thank you.
saints j & a keeping me company in the hospital
I am grateful for that packed hospital bag. Speaking of the amazing-ness of my housemates (my dad now prefaces their names with “Saint” every time I tell them a new act of kindness they perform), the hospital bag that A made for me included the following:
- my spiritual gangster yoga top – In order to leave the hospital, I had to pass lots of “tests” for my physical and occupational therapists, to show that I could take care of my basic needs without putting weight on the injured leg. The first test was my “dressing test;” could I dress myself? A packed my Spiritual Gangster tank top, which made me feel at once sexy and strong. Putting that on after wearing a hospital gown for four days that made me feel anything but was nothing short of a sheer miracle. I felt the blood rush to my face again. I felt like myself. Empowered. Like I could do this. This being recover from a traumatic incident, provide space and loving time and patience for my body to heal. It takes strength – it takes being a spiritual gangster – to ask for help, sometimes.
- snacks – Not gonna lie, I was in a great Level One Trauma Center hospital where the food was actually delicious. But there is nothing like one’s own food…especially during a time when pain medicines are high and cravings are particular. She packed my favorites: Bear Naked granola protein packs. a NuGo Dark bar, roasted seaweed and much more goodness all in my Craft Coffee box from the subscription service’s last delivery, a good reminder of how much I love coffee during a time when the narcotics outweighed any desire for extra stimulants or depressants.
- a book – Word to the wise: there is no better book to read while lying in a hospital bed than Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. First off, holding that book in my hands as I lay horizontal reminded me to say “yes, please” to the nurses repeatedly; when in pain, it can be all-too-easy to forget simple manners and positive etiquette, but never is there a more crucial time than when so many people team up on your behalf. I felt like myself when I was polite with my recovery team and like an unfamiliar person when my pain overshadowed my ability to be so. It also does not hurt to read a book by one of the best comedians and empowering feminists while lying in a hospital bed after surviving a trauma.
It was perfect.
I am also grateful for my family of origin. While my family I choose was there for me pre-op, my aunt and mother (from different sides of a divorced family, which, for some reason, makes my heart swell even more at the anesthetized memory) were there wiping my forehead and handing me water. They were there each time I woke up during a day of confused recurrent sleep. My mom was on the first flight out of New York City and my aunt started driving to PDX from Seattle at five in the morning.
I am grateful for nurses. I am also grateful for my surgical team, but it is easier to be grateful for the faces I saw often, the faces who comforted me and told me that everything was healing on the right timeline, the faces who had unbounded patience in the face of my impatience.
I am grateful for my job and life in Portland, for all the people I’ve met these short few months. Outside of my families of choice and origin, my supervisors were the first to visit me after surgery (literally the night after I was operated on). The amount of care and thoughtfulness and appreciation that my AmeriCorps service has offered me is truly amazing. I am beginning to think that they – my supervisors, my fellow AmeriCorps members, the parents and students I work with at the elementary school – are part of my families of choice as well.
I am grateful my broken leg and for my helmet. Thank you for breaking my fall. Thank you for saving my life. Thank you for giving me the chance to heal fully. Thank you for protecting my back and neck. Thank you thank you thank you.
When it comes down to it, I know that injuries are great teachers. I know that I am lucky. Years ago, before yoga, before embracing a lifestyle rich with spirituality, I would have reacted by getting caught up in my own victimization. Instead, as the I woke up from the anesthesia and loved ones came in one by one, I cried out of gratitude for my life. I am sure that this recovery process will be long and challenging. So I wanted to write this post as a reminder when I am still in the thick of the drama of it. A reminder to myself and to all those who have helped and are helping, thank you.