When Time Stops – Get rid of stress by living in the present

You can’t avoid problems as much as you can’t avoid happiness, and often time the discriminating factor between the two is just a matter of personal choice.

A handful of seconds can turn your life upside down. Early Sunday morning I am driving my scooter back home after a night out with a friend and pizza. It’s the middle of March and the air is pretty warm, I feel tired and I just cannot wait to get to my bed. As it often happens to people who have no sense of direction, I realize I am heading the wrong way. I hate myself as I notice I am the only human lost in the middle of the night. I speed up to 60 mph looking for the right spot to make a U turn.

Suddenly I see right in front of me a round about (a rotary if you live in Boston, a circle if you are a New Yorker) approaching way too fast for me to have the time to slow down. I pull the brakes firmly and my scooter flies out from under me while I roll on the ground flabbergasted. CRACK & PAIN. My right foot slams violently against the curb and breaks in several parts, while I also say goodbye to my knee’s cruciate ligament and meniscus. In a blink of moronic distraction I went from having a perfectly functioning body to agonizing on the ground not being able to walk.

Sometimes we become deeply aware of something (or someone) when we can no longer take it for granted. Walking, jogging, climbing and dancing have always been integral parts of my life just as the air that I breathe. As a result of the impact with the curb my scaphoid bone broke and moved away from its location, which meant not even being able to put my foot down for six months. Time flies fast, but half a year is a long time when you are basically under house arrest: you cannot drive, you cannot take public transportation, you spend a fortune in cabs, you have an autonomy of half a mile a day with crutches (they are hands’ killers), you have to take showers with garbage bags wrapped around your leg, AND you are constantly tired.

You may not know this but the foot is made of several small bones working together in perfect unison. The scaphoid is a small bone sitting right on top of your foot (yes, you also have scaphoid bones in your hands), it receives the weight of your body and distributes it evenly to the other bones comprising the foot. The scaphoid is also called “navicular” bone and comes from the word “skaphos” which means “boat” in ancient Greek. Basically, it is the ultimate director responsible for strolls, tennis matches and cardio at the gym.

As I am writing this post from my hospital bed at four in the morning after receiving a second surgery, I wonder once again where my life is heading. Almost six months have gone by since the day of the accident and I should be able to properly walk in three more months. Throughout this handicapped time I have been rolling in self-pity, physical pain and frustration while making deals with God on a daily basis. Why me? What’s the point, if there is a point at all?

You can’t avoid problems as much as you can’t avoid happiness, and often time the discriminating factor between the two is just a matter of personal choice. Some questions may never be answered, but what we do after disaster strikes surely determines what our life is going to be. “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”, says the Buddhist proverb. I would not say breaking my foot was a blessing, but I learned that I do not need to run around drenched in stress to get things done, as it often happens to busy people:

  • My days now are 24-hour-days. When you cannot move around easily, your perception of time slows down and you end up with a lot of available time.
  • Despite my limited resources I have been able to accomplish any personal and professional task. In the past a big chunk of my time was wasted in “doing things” cause it meant “being productive”. We do not need to be busy 24/7, we need to be properly organized.
  • I feel calmer as I do not have to run around incessantly. I do not rush to cross the street, instead I stand on the sidewalk until the busy people pass by. I live in the moment cause I cannot move fast, I enjoy my friends, my food, the air I breathe, anything and everything around me.
  • No matter how difficult I think my life is, I realize there are many brave women and men in hospital facilities all around the world fighting challenges much greater than what I was given. The thought does not make my life easier, but it puts things in perspective, which is essential to stop the incessant me-me talk.

Pity Party Over

At 7 AM the August sun smiles through the Venetian blinders. The hospital is already busy with nurses and doctors assisting patients and addressing frustrated family members. My surgery went well and in a few hours I will be heading home. So I give myself a big pat on the shoulders, somehow I made it.

Do you need to break a foot to slow down? Who knows, life dispenses lessons in mysterious ways. There are many easy methods to learn how to live in the present moment, reduce stress and feel centered. You may want to consider learning mindfulness meditation, or joining a yoga class, reading your favorite book, taking a walk in nature or being silent for a while. There is much to be grateful for. All I know is that I will thank more often my feet in the future, my wonderful captains leading me through the hurdles of life.