There are some stories too painful to tell. Some stories not fully ours to share. Some stories best forgotten. And some stories worth sharing, if only in part.
When I fell down the stairs it was during a time of instability, uncertainty and exhaustion. I was renovating a derelict home, resurrecting my career and trying to rebuild a new future alone for my children and I.
I lay on the cold tiled floor, glad of the cool against my cheek and calm in that split second of peace that immediately follows an accident when nothing yet hurts.
When the pain and swelling kicked in I discovered that I had torn the major stabilizing ligament in my ankle. It was a time of being somewhat reckless and so when I took the children body boarding in the rough Cornwall ocean a few weeks later with the ankle tightly bound with a bandage rather than adhering to the prescribed rest and gentle mobilization, the inevitable happened as I jumped a wave and the tear progressed to an almost total rupture.
And so began several years of living with a wildly unstable ankle joint. Every step was tentative and cautious as the ankle would click out of place at any time and the pain was excruciating. I had to consider every outing I made – I couldn’t walk too far or too fast or on uneven ground or uphill or downhill. I kept an airboot in my car and one at work for the times my ankle dislocated and so a new norm developed while I avoided the inevitable surgery.
I finally succumbed when I started to lose feeling in my toes. I had urgent and major reconstructive surgery: a tendon was transferred, screws were inserted into my heel and pins and plating were inserted to my foot. When I awoke from surgery the pain was outrageous and breathtaking – the nerve block had failed to take and so I felt every broken bone and incision. I was literally roaring and howling in pain –for this pain and every pain I had ever felt. For every man who had ever laid a hand on me; for every injustice I had ever endured; for every loss I had felt. I screamed it out until the warm honey of morphine kicked in and held me tight.
And so began my journey back. My two months on strict post-op bedrest taught me about the grace and dignity of surrender. My incredible circle of friends brought food and laughter and cheer and great love, while I lay in bed and received with an open heart. I learned a lot about myself, about vulnerability and about trust. This became my rebirth.
In the months that have followed I have had to learn to walk again. Literally like a baby learning to put one foot in front of the other. From faltering steps and stumbles to bold, confident strides. I have had to regain my balance and equilibrium and confidence, and maintain them. I have a long scar that runs along the length of my foot that has turned from a livid red to purple and finally to a delicate silvery line. My scar serves as a reminder that I have lived through almost unbearable pain and trauma, but I have survived; that I have broken but I have healed.
There is an ancient Japanese art called Kintsukuroi: a technique for mending broken ceramic bowls with gold and silver and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken. The true life of the bowl, the proof of its fragility and resilience and beauty begin the moment the bowl is dropped.
For me, my scar is my own personal Kintsukuroi.