I never thought when I woke up that I would have a lesson in mindfulness this particular day. It was a beautiful day, and then in an instant I wiped out on my bicycle, and landed hard on my right shoulder. I thought I would be okay in a few days, but that was not the case. My summer plans were out the window.
Shoulder surgery meant 6 weeks with my right (preferred) arm in a sling. I couldn’t drive for at least 2 months. Bike riding, swimming, and gardening were out. Not to mention 12 weeks of physical therapy, and up to 12 months for maximum recovery.
I was shaken, scared, and somewhat traumatized. But it was just an everyday trauma, almost trivial in a world where war, famine, and natural disasters impact millions of people daily. What it meant for me was that a piece of my stability and security vanished. My personal sense of safety was altered.
I was confronted by the inescapable reality that trauma is an indivisible part of the human experience. It’s a fact that we rather not face, but is not the last word. Some trauma, if not too severe, actually offers a chance to grow and broaden our horizons.
Having been healthy and strong, I wasn’t used to feeling weak and vulnerable and needing to ask for help. I surprised myself that I wasn’t filled with resentment. I unexpectedly found more peace from accepting and settling into life as it unfolded.
Now with my physical discomfort as a focus of attention, I am more aware of every step I take, more aware of my body in space, and more aware of speaking and listening to the people around me. Most of all, I am experiencing a deepened gratitude for everything I can do and for the support from my wife and daughters, family and friends—and others who ask about my “broken wing.”
There have been good days and bad days, with slow healing and recovery. There are more than enough tragedies and painful experiences in the world. There is no need to exaggerate or minimize. My own trauma has deepened my compassion for the small and large traumas around me – everyday trauma and more serious inescapable traumatic events.
Life is fragile, and we are powerless in the face of this reality. By facing it, we find wisdom, tolerance, connection, and love. My everyday injury continues to be a profound lesson in humility and how much I have left to learn.