Managing the Unexpected: How I Stayed Present in Seven (Not So) Simple Steps

So, there I was alone in a hotel room in Poughkeepsie, NY, instead of attending my college reunion festivities. I’d been looking forward to meeting up with past classmates, going to lectures and, most of all, walking the campus. The Vassar campus is unbelievably beautiful in June. Trees are centuries old, architecture is varied and grand, gardens abundant; and walking the well-known paths is a silent meditation.

But the first thing I did after breakfast was to fall and sprain my ankle. It took approximately ten minutes to blow up like a balloon, and it hurt – a lot.

This Ki Moment was not easy to write about. I was looking for the gift.

It took a while.

And, as I lay in bed with my PRICE (Protected, Resting, Iced, Compressed and Elevated) ankle, this is what I found:

1. It is inconvenient, frustrating, and depressing to be physically disabled. How do people manage with physical limitations that dwarf mine? Let’s face it – a sprained ankle!?

2. I’ve been givena chance to stay quiet, reflect, and relax. Read. Write. Nap. How often have I wished for a day like this?

3. I am challenged to stay centered. With pain, disappointment, and fear (what if it’s worse than I think?) at fairly high levels, I have to coach myself to return to the Good Reality.

4. Pay attention. Just a moment’s inattention is all it takes to lose balance, stumble, and fall.

5. I got to notice the amazing people in my life:

My chiropractor, Jerry, who took all my calls on a Saturday, told me how to care for the ankle, including how best to manage the four-hour car trip home, and made a date to see me on Sunday when I got back.
Catherine – sweetest of front desk attendants- who when I asked her if the hotel had a nurse or doctor on call, said “No, but my dad’s a doctor. I’ll call him and call you back.”
Carolina, the housekeeper, who not only cleaned around me but helped me reposition myself, carried my computer, books, and papers to get me situated, generally acted as nurse while she was with me, and blessed me as she left.
Good friend, Roberta, who brought me food, cheer, and stories from the parties I was scheduled to attend but couldn’t. And told me to call her anytime anywhere – and meant it.
6. This was a lesson in acceptance.

7. And an invitation to stay present. It’s hard not to keep thinking how much time it will take for my ankle to fully recover. (It’s really swollen!) Orof the fall (Why didn’t I see the stairs?) Pema Chodron says, “Let the breath bring you back to the present moment. You will get caught up in your mind and do what you usually do. But the breath will bring you back. Go to the breath.”

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