Confinement Lessons: My Weeks at Home with a Broken Leg, Not a Broken Spirit
It was one of those perfect days for skiing: clear blue sky, neither too cold, nor too warm – ideal temperature, crisp snow, and sun warming up our faces. It was late afternoon; the sun was setting and we took the last lift going up and started to ski down the mountain, leaving behind peaks covered by snow and pine trees. I was speeding down when suddenly I lost my balance and fell. It felt as if my leg was struck with all the power of the universe on the slope. The hit was precise, sharp, almost directed at one place in my leg. No falling or sliding down, no other bruises; just this one hit. Instantly the world stood still and there was a feeling of coolness, peace and stillness. It was a sort of “through the looking glass” experience. I quickly realized it was serious because my right leg did not follow my intention to move it. Yet the feeling of peace remained as strong as just after the fall. Something shifted in me, and there was no resistance to it.
At the hospital I found out that my leg is broken; it required immediate surgery and it would be a while before I could walk again. In the end, it took three months before I could. Most of that time I spent at home lying down, sitting or moving around a rather limited area. I learned a few lessons from this experience that I feel would be valuable in today’s environment:
Accept and Surrender
The moment I fell down, I just simply accepted it. It happened, it was done, and I couldn’t change it. There was no point to asking myself or anyone else, “Why me, why now, why…?” Certainly not with a victim’s attitude of trying to assign fault or blame. I knew there was a message in it for me, and I accepted to learn that lesson. I also knew that I live in a country which is amazingly equipped with highly qualified doctors, and I fully trusted in that. I knew that the only thing I needed to do now was to get help and let others help me, to believe in their goodwill and abilities. In short, to surrender. That gave me a sense of peace and I relaxed despite all that was happening.
Create and Activate Your Support Group
I live alone in a foreign country. For many weeks, I could only walk with crutches and it was impossible for me to carry anything. It was very clear: I needed help. I needed help with groceries, cleaning, washing, cooking (especially at first), going to the doctor or changing a lightbulb... I reached out to my friends, told everyone what happened and asked them for help. I knew some were going to help once, others would come on a regular basis. I knew things would be fine and that what I needed to do was to be proactive and not step into a victim role even for a moment. It was very important for me to stay in touch with people, to meet them, talk and have fun together—be intentional about that. That had a great influence, as people were willing to visit me more often, knowing they also got something out of it. Some of them even said that they like visiting me because I’ve got good positive energy which was infectious. This experience helped me to reflect on relationships with others in my life: a perfect way to see who was there for me when I needed them, and who was there only in times of fun.
Build a New Structure
Staying at home for a longer period of time, especially when you cannot move, might feel meaningless—unless you create some structure and give it meaning. From the very beginning, my focus was on healing. I couldn’t really speed the process, but I could create something which would support my wellbeing. My priority was to exercise my body and my mind, which took most of my time, since I could move very slowly. During physical exercises, I would either listen to the music or watch some talks, interviews or online courses. I spent time outside, sitting in my little garden to get some sun and fresh air almost every day. The free time was filled in with meeting or calling people, reading or watching movies, or doing something relaxing. Every morning I did breathwork, which was essential for managing the pain. Every night I would visualize my leg healing and me walking again. I went to bed early because I needed more sleep than usual. I set priorities from the beginning and did not compromise on that. It didn’t feel tough to stick to that, because it was a combination of things which I love doing and things which were important for me. I am a very active person and I love moving my body. I was certain I would do what it takes to be able to dance again. The structure helped me to stay grounded and believe in the process of healing.
Take Care of Your Body and Mind - create Rituals
I spent between two to four hours exercising every day. Half of that time was on a machine which moved my leg, and during this time I was able to read. I needed to strengthen my abs, back and arm, in order to not be in pain. I diligently did that so that I had no back pain at all, even though most of my time was spent sitting or lying down. With time, I added new exercises and I was going to physiotherapy every week. I was able to make good progress and do whatever my therapist asked me to do because my body was used to training and repeating moves as a result of years of doing various types of sports, dance, and yoga.
I did not compromise on my diet, full of fresh vegetables and fruits. I cooked quick dishes as much as I could and ate well. This was a time when I really needed good nutrients. I tried to avoid sweets as much as possible and limited myself mostly to only a few pieces of a dark chocolate a day. And I immensely enjoyed this new experience of dark chocolate, creamy and velvety like never before. Suddenly having or being able to do less, meant experiencing more. Eating this way is also something I enjoy; and for a few years now, I’ve been choosing my food intuitively, so it was not a big switch. One of the examples of that was when I didn’t feel at all like drinking coffee after the accident, which was strange as I enjoyed a good cup of coffee. A month later I read an article stating that it’s best to avoid coffee when you have broken bones, as it flushes out minerals from our body that are highly needed at the moment. I believe that there is an innate wisdom in all of us, which—when we listen to it—points us towards what serves is and away from what doesn’t. We just need to stay connected with ourselves and look inwards, rather than outwards.
I also realized that the power of good daily habits built up over the years, something that is enormously helpful in times of crisis as you have this resource in you that you can rely on when you need it most.
Let Go of Your Expectations
At the beginning, I didn’t really know what to expect. I have never broken a bone in my life, nor had a major injury. I didn’t know how long it would take to get back to normal. At first, my doctor and my physiotherapist said that it takes six weeks for a bone to grow. In the seventh week of staying at home I went to the doctor with an expectation that from now on I will be able to put some weight on my leg. He informed me that a plate supporting the bone is not really doing it, and because of the big fracture I need to wait another three weeks. That was a hard day for me. It left me disappointed, sad, and even angry. The next day I decided to accept what it is, seeing the bigger picture. I decided that it is better to spend those extra three or four weeks sitting and to heal my leg properly, rather than injure it again and go through the process once more. Once you let go of your expectations, you cannot be disappointed, only nicely surprised.
Adjust Your Immediate Surroundings
Make yourself feel at home again. Make your home more functional for the moment you are in right now. Since I live alone, I had to make sure that the most necessary things are reachable somehow for me. Right after I left the hospital, my mum came to help me, and I knew I have less than four days to organize myself and decide what I will need during the upcoming period. I got an office chair from one friend for my kitchen; and from another one a small plastic stool, which I could put in my bathtub as I was not able to shower while standing. Another friend brought me a coffee table on wheels, so I could move it around and “transport” small things. I could eat or have a cup of tea in the kitchen. That became a nice new ritual of drinking tea from a cup and not from a flask; I really enjoyed it. My sofa bed was constantly open, and it was the center of my life for the next months. Yes, those little things made a big difference. It was comfortable; it felt like my new home. I didn’t feel like I’m unable to do something, nor that I am limited. I still functioned fine, in a different way but comfortably. There were some things which I certainly appreciated even more, like eating at the table or drinking tea in a nice cup. All those things which we take for granted.
Learn Something New
This was a period where I had some extra time and no possibility of going out. I took part in an online conference, started online courses and read some books, which otherwise I would not have finished. The online courses included many participants, so I did not feel like I’m alone. Without leaving home I met new people, came across new methods of coaching, mindfulness, continued with a Pranayama (breathing) course, new meditations and visualizations, got familiar with the wholeness concept and the Theory U. I also started drawing a bit, which I haven’t done for years; somehow I felt a need for that. All these things not only opened the door to new possibilities in my professional life, but more importantly, I was able to use and test them myself during that time. Learning new things kept me connected with others, gave me a purpose, and the energy of a beginner’s mind: fresh and open.
Keep a Journal and Be Grateful
Every morning after breathing practice and a short mediation, I tried to set an intention for the day and write down what I am grateful for and what I love. With time, it helped me see that despite everything there is still so much good around me and I can still create my day and ultimately my life. Journaling in this form and practicing gratitude put the focus on what is good and strengthening in these experiences.
This whole experience was a great occasion to reflect on my life and look at the bigger picture. Right after the accident I had to cancel four different flights. It showed me the speed with which I moved, the amount of new experiences probably never fully processed, and how often I changed my focus. Maybe there was a reason why my world stood still that day on that beautiful alpine slope? I lost some business opportunities, which were significant for someone just starting out on her own professionally; but at the same time I got so much more.
There were days which felt like when I was back at school during the long summer holidays, when I could immerse myself in activities for hours on end without worrying that there are other things I’m going to miss. There was so much free time to “waste” without feeling guilty, and such a peace and freedom hidden there...
This period helped me to create even stronger connections with people in my life and meet new ones. I expanded my horizons, came across new teachers, ideas, and books. I learned to appreciate small things even more. I understood the power of acceptance, self-care, intention, routine and keeping an eye on the bigger picture or purpose, and not the immediate occurrences.
I did not plan on “achieving” those things, they happened as a by-product of my own being during that period. I know some might struggle and others would be just fine in solitude or locked up with others. You may not be able to control how long you'll need to stay there, but certainly you will learn if you like the company you keep in that moment (your own or your others). You cannot control that, but you can choose what is dependent on you: your attitude, open heart and commitment.