Last week, I broke my arm.
My sons’ school has an annual Winter Solstice ice skating party.
The first year, I was a spectator, unable to go on the ice for fear and lack of ability.
Last year, I vowed things would be different, took lessons only to be taken out from behind by a second grader in the first five minutes.
So this year, when everyone in my family said with one week to go, they wanted to attend, my warrior mind kicked in.
I’ve always wanted an athlete’s body.
I’ve envied the intense training of those people on ‘Dancing With The Stars’ and ‘Faking It’ where unknowns undergo boot camp training and then try to pass themselves (often successfully) off as experts.
I’ve watched how they start out hopeful, sink into a depression as the obstacles mount yet end up victorious as they master their craft.
I decided that this ice skating lark would be my opportunity to fake it.
I decided I would spend as long as it took over the next few days to get competent and confident enough to get around the ice with grace and control.
I booked a lesson and told my coach I wanted to be in control of myself, avert disaster (avoid crashing kids.) And stop.
That. Was. It.
Since I had a bad experience when I was seventeen, I have successfully avoided ice skating. When I took lessons last year, it was the first time I had put skates on in thirty years.
For three decades, my fear had been allowed to insidiously build.
But now I was going to beat it once and for all. I didn’t sleep well for the two nights before my lesson.
I was terrified.
On the day, I got myself ready. I had my 32oz drinking bottles with water and an energy drink. I wore clothes that were easy to move in and not too hot or too cold. I had a big breakfast.
While I waited for the Zamboni to resurface the ice, I knew the first steps would be tough. I mentally rehearsed what I would do. I pictured myself gliding gracefully around, swooping and swaying as I skated around people rather than the way it had been in the past – hoping they would get out of my way.
If I did fall over, I would simply pick myself up and carry on.
At first I was the only person on the ice. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
Clean ice, complete silence.
Just the crackle of my newly-sharpened skates splitting the ice.
Slowly I was joined by some experienced skaters who respectfully stayed well away from me hugging the edge. I’ve always found experienced skaters to be supportive of us beginners.
I enjoy watching them, believing some of their technique will rub off on me as I internalize their image and attempt to emulate them.
And by this time I was getting pretty confident, picking up my skates and my speed.
After 90 minutes, I was joined by my instructor. We started work refining my technique, keeping my shoulders steady and my head up.
By this time someone had turned the music on and Katy Perry was shattering the tranquility.
Shortly after that, a huge school party arrived and my sensory overload was in full swing.
My instructor asked me if I wanted to take a break as these kids, first and second graders by the looks, poured through the gate onto the ice like bees released from a jar.
But I kept skating. Because I was determined.
I grit my teeth and carried on.
The kids were hurling themselves about with an abandonment of fear and in many cases, skill. It didn’t seem to bother them in the slightest.
I was envious of their recklessness.
One boy was skating as though he had been born on the ice and gone on to play hockey or speed-skate. He was fantastic and I could only hope to achieve his level of skill. In my dreams.
I’m a bit fuzzy on the specifics of my fall but I do remember the speed-skating kid coming towards me, falling and then spinning around and around on his back like one of those bowler hats Oddjob killed people with in James Bond movies.
I guess I was distracted, took a misstep, fell forward, overcorrected. My feet flew forward and my head snapped back in that way you just know your brain got tossed around inside your skull and banged on the sides.
Because you get a certain type of non-impact head pain.
I also remember the pain in my arm. Falling back and to the side all my weight fell on my hand. In the days following my fall I had no pain at all anywhere in my body except my arm and wrist. My arm had taken the full brunt and was no match for the force of my poundage.
The pain was shooting and brief.
But because I was determined, determined I tell you, I did what I had rehearsed.
I picked myself up and carried on..
As we skated on, I quickly learned what hand position caused me pain and how to avoid it, but I could feel the swelling increasing and my wrist becoming less and less flexible. When I did a weight-bearing exercise, I instinctively knew to lean on my elbow rather than the palm of my hand. But still I continued, blocking everything out except my determination to build this elusive skill.
Suddenly though, I took my glove off and immediately the situation became clear. A lump the size of an egg had appeared on one side of my tiny wrist and overall it was very swollen.
When it became apparent to my instructor that certain movements caused me extreme pain, he ordered me off the ice immediately.
At least someone had some sense.
Endorphins were coursing through me. Part denial, part adrenaline. It was obvious I needed more than an icepack and as I took off my skates, still carefully placing the laces inside as we are instructed, I planned my trip to the ER.
Driving home first, to pick up a book for what I anticipated was going to be an extended wait, I laughed my head off. The irony of it.
When I got to the hospital, people kept asking me to sign things. It was impossible. Nothing worked.
The only serious pain was when I needed to use the bathroom. Wriggling out of my clothes with one hand while the other went unsupported caused agonizing pain and I had to make a tough choice. It was a close run thing but I opted for bladder relief over pain and hoped there was some drugs in my very near future.
I was put in the same ER room as when Sebastian had meningitis. Too many years of happiness and health have passed by to make this traumatic but I was again struck by the irony.
Of course, everyone in the ER was amused by my story. I was still giggling myself. All my carefully laid plans, mental preparation and high hopes lay in pieces. More dashed than Dasher.
In the week since, the challenges of being an injured superhero a week before Christmas have become apparent. Bringing up humanity has taken on a different hue.
I feel a little bit of grief. I am not as invincible as I thought.
In my dreams, I’m supposed to be, by now, this elegant figure-skater. Instead the reality is that my kids’ table skills are better than my own. Eating is a messy business.
But I’m big on reframing so I look for silver linings and here is a list of things that make me grateful or giggle about becoming a one-armed superhero the week before Christmas.
31 Things About Breaking My Arm A Week Before Christmas That Make Me Grateful Or Giggle
1. I break my arm, my dominant arm, a week before Christmas before all the gift wrapping is done.
2. Most of UK is bathed in freezing snow and yet I, the English person who lives in sunny California, is the one who breaks a limb by slipping on ice.
3. I happily skated by myself for an hour only to fall during a lesson when I had an instructor close by.
4. I was attempting not to look a dolt at the school ice skating party by getting some serious skate time in. I’d planned six days of skating to get to the point of conscious competence. I managed 1½ hours.
5. I fell surrounded by seven year-olds, many of whom had skating skills I was trying to emulate.
6. One of the skills I was hoping to master was to avoid lots of fearless kids on ice-skates.
7. My brand new T-Tapp DVDs arrived that afternoon.
8. I was put in the same ER room where my son was diagnosed with meningitis, seven years prior.
9. I read my discharge instructions a week after the event and found out all sorts of things I was supposed to be doing.
10. I’m developing inner thighs of steel from squeezing the shampoo bottle between my knees.
11. I’m traumatizing my children for life by having them roll on deodorant in my left armpit.
12. I’m traumatizing my husband by making him wrap gifts, an act he is curiously loathe to do. He gets me back by taping a plastic bag to my arm hair every morning before my shower. With packaging tape.
13. I am traumatizing everybody by not being able to put on makeup or style my hair and still going out in public.
14. I dry my hair by laying the hairdryer down on the countertop and waving my head in front of it, the net effect of which is to make me look like an 80s rocker.
15. I’m grateful I can still pluck. (You are too, believe me.)
16. My children are learning how to sweep up kitty litter, fold clothes and make their beds p-r-o-p-e-r-l-y. They tell me I’m a perfectionist. I tell them I am making compromises of monumental proportions.
17. I can’t chop up the fruit for my green smoothie so I eat strawberry cremes instead.
18. I have finally learned how to crack an egg with one hand!
19. It takes so long to make my bed, I have to sustain myself by diving into the box of chocolates with every traverse. My record is 15 side-to-sides.
20. I am supposed to be Warrior Woman! I guess even warriors get injured in battle and need time to recuperate.
21. I started the year by breaking the leg of our kitten* and end it by breaking my own limb. I suppose it’s progress I’m now doing self-injury.
*(Lest you think I am a kitty-torturer, I was going downstairs in the dark and trod on one of our kittens who I now realize is the same color as our carpet. I landed hard on our other kitten who must have sat and watched this superhero fly through the air, not expecting her to come down again. On her. The cat is now fine but our bank balance is still recovering. So much for saving a few pennies and the planet.)
22. I’m proud that I got out there on the ice in the first place.
23. I’m grateful it’s just my arm.
24. I’m amazed I carried on skating (and proud.) Did I tell you I was that determined?
25. I’m interested to learn how well I can develop skills using the non-dominant side of my brain and body over the next six weeks.
26. I’m once again astounded by the depth of my ability to normalize as a coping strategy. I’m not sure this is a good thing.
27. I’m relieved that I’m a responsibility-ducker at Christmas and most of it was already sorted.
28. I’m grateful for my friends and family who stepped in to take on the parts that were not complete and which I could not reach.
29. I’m grateful for the excellence, graciousness and responsiveness of the medical care I received.
30. I’m. grateful. for. Vicodin.
31. And I’m grateful for you, dear reader. That you would spend a portion of your life time reading a story I think is only interesting to me. 🙂
Have you ever steeled yourself to conquer a fear? What strategies did you engage to overcome it? Did your story end happily? Let me know in the comments!
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