learn, live

Why I bought—and ate—a cupcake today

If you’re hungry for more than a cupcake
In January my world completely crumbled under me. The person my entire life revolved around and I ripped ourselves apart. The family we’d become no longer was and it was sudden and painful and overwhelming. So I ran. As I do, I ran from it and over it and around it, and one day I ran so hard I tore a muscle and fractured my femur and could no longer run. I couldn’t even walk. To my broken heart I added a broken bone and I had no option but to let both heal.

For six months I’ve reluctantly fumbled through therapy, X-rays, MRIs, scans and ultra sounds with appointment after appointment resulting in four and eight and 16 more weeks on crutches and an infinite amount of time from running again. I drained most of my money, worked like a fiend, and gradually grew more and more frustrated with the time and difficulty it took to get anywhere. When surgery finally came, I had lost all confidence in my body and my luck. Scared and uncertain, I went to church the day before the procedure and watched a video on a woman who’d just overcome cancer for the fourth time and whose faith was contagious to every patient around her. And I lost every bit of fear and hesitance. I went into surgery with an entirely new, hopeful attitude.

What I needed that day wasn’t sympathy or stress relief, I needed perspective. I had all the support and encouragement in the world, but my fear stemmed from discouragement and exhaustion and maybe a little self pity. The truth is, this has been one of the hardest years of my life, but it’s been a walk in the park compared to so many other people’s circumstances. And although at your breaking point, you need that moment when it’s okay to be upset, the moment after you have to put your feelings into perspective.

I spent the first five months on crutches trying to understand why this had happened to me, why something so defeating would trample me while I was already down and why life kept kicking dust in my face. It wasn’t because I was ungrateful about my ability to run, it was that I took credit for my ability to walk, and the truth is the crutches actually carried me when I no longer could. God saw I’d let another person take over caring for me and determining my worth, and it took his place. But I learned to lean on him again and not take even the simplest of blessings for granted. And I learned that as hard as this part of my story is to tell, it’s still a part of my story.

Today I was cleared to walk after half a year of crutching—half a year of needing assistance carrying anything, shopping, doing laundry, walking my dog or using stairs. Half a year of the bus, spending a fortune on cabs, having three to five appointments a week, making a scene everywhere I go, annoying every restaurant and bar goer I inconvenience, and never ever exercising. It is a big, long awaited day for me, but as I leave the hospital I pass a man in a wheelchair with only one leg who apologizes for being in my way. Perspective.

When I crutched upstairs to get what I hoped were my last X-rays, the entire waiting room was glued to the TV where breaking news of a shooting near the Empire State building was scrolling across the screen and people were on stretchers and bystanders were fleeing the scene. And I thought of every friend and former coworker of mine who works within three blocks of there and all of my friends and family out of state thought of me. Perspective.

After the final clearance, I feel exactly like the night I got my first car and pledged to never be hard on my dad again because he’d gifted me this. That day when every 16-year-old starts volunteering to run errands just to grab the wheel of new found freedom. I want to walk somewhere and accomplish something completely on my own to celebrate, but I check back on the developing story and read a woman at a crosswalk watched the woman beside her suddenly fall to the ground, shot in the hip. My hip was torn and fractured and hurt, but she was shot in hers today. I want to update my status and announce to everyone whose only ever known me on crutches that I’m walking and normal and ready to take on the world, but it seems so small on a day like today that’s not at all about me.

Today may have been her last day and we all wonder, what did she think in that moment, if she had a moment to think? We put ourselves in her shoes—when we take 10 minutes from our not at all life or death work—to consider if this happened at our crosswalk instead. We think of who we would’ve wished we’d reconciled with, who we would’ve wanted to say bye to, what we would’ve regretted not accomplishing or where we would’ve liked to be standing instead. We wonder what will be remembered about us and what will be such a shame we didn’t get around to.

I think of the little things I care way too much about, the time I waste, the dreams I put off, and the family I miss. I think of what I need to do and say and experience before I’m at that crosswalk. And then I head to the market to pick out something fattening and forbidden and delicious looking, and I buy it. I buy a chocolate, iced cupcake, because I’m 115 pounds and dieting like a psychopath, and I eat it even if it takes me all day. Because I can’t change the world right this second, but I have no idea what else will happen today, and it’d be a shame to snack on celery and carrots over a lack of perspective.

Where has perspective knocked you off your feet?