A week and a half ago, the doctor said that my arm was healed enough to start living more normally. And I’m learning and relearning that normal is relative and that it changes from day to day.
Up until July 29, normal involved me walking with crutches. I’ve never walked well but I did it well enough for me. But then gravity decided to change things up a bit. I took a bad fall and broke my left arm and fractured my left knee cap. Suddenly, there was no normal. Everything was novel and painful and scary as hell.
There was an ambulance ride, an ER visit, an initial, poorly conceived discharge until they finally believed me that I couldn’t possibly go home in the state that I was in, an admission into the hospital that lasted a week, a surgery to repair the fracture and displaced bone, a week in a rehab facility trying to learn how to transfer safely and then… Finally… The ability to go home.
Throughout all of this, there were a lot of challenges and a lot of compensating and a lot of new people, but there was no normal. Everything changed daily. The only constant was the order from the doctor when he said… I don’t even want you to think about using your arm or touching your crutches for three months! Not using my arm and not walking became the new normal.… Up until last Monday… And now I can “resume normal activity.”
Returning to normal can be confusing and disorienting when you have been ordered to avoid normal for three months. And the order was backed up by the threat of a repeat surgery if I didn’t avoid normal and if I screwed the alignment up during the healing process… that threat gave me a huge incentive to avoid normal! And so I did my best to hammer that into my consciousness so that I wouldn’t make any fatal errors and mess the surgery up.
And now, thanks to the grace of time and the miraculous ability of the body to heal itself, I can go in search of normal again. But here’s what I know… Normal is not something static like a piece of furniture. Normal is like a river, ever-changing, ever-flowing, it is never the same from minute to minute because it keeps moving. We just don’t realize that normal is continually changing because we are living within it.
I may not have to live under the stringent restrictions of the last three months. But I know I won’t be returning to normal. I will be finding a kind of normal. I will be creating a type of normal. I will be constantly adjusting to a new normal. The one thing I won’t be doing, ever, is returning to what normal was back in July. That normal is gone. And, just like you can never step in the same river twice because it will always be a new batch of water that you are stepping into, so it is with normal.
But… Given all of the above… I started walking with a physical therapist this week. It feels comfortingly familiar and disorientingly different all at the same time. Because of the damage done to my left arm, I can’t hold my crutches the way I used to. So my grip on the handle of my crutch is different. My posture is different. My gait is different. There’s no room for normal in all of this different…I’ve stopped looking for normal but I’ll continue to anticipate good!
I’m glad you’re here.
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