Three weeks ago, I missed a step as I bounded upstairs to the EFX machines at the fitness center. My morning schedule was tight—just time for an efficient workout, a shower, and then off to my writing class. At the top of the stairs, I took a step that wasn’t there. Momentum threw my body forward, into a heap at the base of the water cooler. X-rays disclosed a crack in the ulna, near the wrist of my left hand—a minor break in medical terms but a resounding fracture in my personal wellbeing.
As I waited for emergency room staff to wrap the arm in a protective splint, I felt the pain of an ominous pattern. Just three years ago I broke a bone in this same forearm—a different bone, but in a similar fall. That break brought heightened awareness of the fragility that has seeped into my skeleton as a consequence of years and life experiences. A thin frame, genetics, cancer-related chemotherapy, and lifestyle choices have meshed in a brittleness that I set out to amend with prescriptions and precaution.
No “Good as New” in Sight
Now, a second break delivers a curt reminder of the path I’m walking at this point in life. I wear a cast and wait for this bone to knit a new bond, as I nurse an ache more painful than the crack in my arm. I am suffering a crack in my self-image. There’s no “good as new” in range any longer. No pretending I might reclaim the physical resilience I once savored as I danced though high impact aerobics classes and swirled my hips to claim race-walking medals. Day by day I seem to be breaking trail on the arduous route of age.
Past experiences—health, relationships, career—have provided ample evidence of my ability to rebound from challenges, hardships and falls. I know that this season of fear and diminishment will loose its hold as new growth appears. My spirit will bound again. Still, a sense of loss accompanies this stealthy erosion of physical robustness and confidence. Right now, it feels appropriate to grieve the burden of wariness that hovers, like a protective parent, following me up and down the stairwell in my home. Today, the grief is real.