So I stood up as quickly as possible and regained my composure. And continued to walk. It felt like a dream. The entire incident probably lasted 20 seconds. Flexed my arm. Continued walking. Flexed it again. Moved my fingers. Flexed my arm. Walked to the grocery store. Talked with a woman I know. Tried to concentrate on what she was saying. I don't remember much of what we talked about. Said a polite goodbye. Flexed my arm. Wiggled my fingers. Began walking home with a bag of popcorn kernels. And then these thoughts:
1. My arm is broken.
2. I think I've broken my arm.
3. But I can move my fingers.
4. But I can't move my hand up to my chin.
5. Is my arm broken?
6. I'd know if it were broken, wouldn't I?
7. I've seen a broken arm.
8. My arm is not broken.
9. Is my arm broken?
10. Why are my eyes watering?
I've never broken any bones. Despite various opportunities where I perhaps narrowly escaped a broken bone, I've never broken one. Here's why: I always believed my bones were too strong to break. That's odd, isn't it? Why would I think that? Before this experience I had never articulated that before. I had never thought about this thought. It's like I had some pea-brain notion that my particular superpower was unbreakable bones.
So I continued walking. Eyes watering. Wondering if I had finally broken a bone. Feeling old. Feeling tired. Feeling stupid. Feeling scared. Feeling alone.
At home, I examined my arm in the bathroom mirror. It looked fine. So I showed my wife and she noticed the "extra-elbow-bump" I hadn't noticed. Plus the swelling. She wondered if I had broken it too. But I could move my fingers so it wasn't broken right?
Incredulous. That's the word to describe my feelings. And that's what's still bothering me. I don't want to acknowledge this. I don't want to accept weakness where I have always expected and relied on strength. I want my power back.
One of my favourite poems comes to mind:
There Were No Signs
by Irving Layton
By walking I found out
Where I was going.
By intensely hating, how to love.
By loving, whom and what to love.
By grieving, how to laugh from the belly.
Out of infirmity, I have built strength.
Out of untruth, truth.
From hypocrisy, I wove directness.
Almost now I know who I am.
Almost I have the boldness to be that man.
And I shall be where I started from.
Absolutely one of my all time favourites, this poem has always helped me comprehend the incomprehensible. I realize now that I missed the ending.
I want to feel bold again. More almost bold than this unfamiliar boldlessness. More stable, less shaken.
And I don't.
I know this whole thing should barely even be mentioned in parentheses but it feels like it wasn't supposed to happen, that there was no reason for this. It's like a mistake instead of just something random, like an accident. And even though my arm is not broken, and instead I have this blossoming bruise around my healing elbow, I feel like I'm starting over at something. And I'm not sure what. And I feel tired this time. And somehow scared. And I don't want to start over again.
And now I get it: this is grief. Isn't it?