I broke my foot ten months ago, in a dance class. I took a modest leap and my left foot came down hard, smack on top of my right, missing the floor entirely. The break is named the Jones Fracture. Dr. Jones broke his fifth metatarsal on the dance floor too, although I don’t know what tricky move he missed. I left Urgent Care that day with the xray of my broken bone, needing my husband to hold me up as I struggled to use crutches for the first time.
Up until that moment, I had danced two or three times a week, sporadically worked out at the gym, and hiked the arroyo near my home. Now for the next four months I hopped, used crutches, and eventually a fancy knee roller to get around the house. When I could finally put some pressure on my foot, I spent several more months in a therapeutic boot. And then out of the boot, and limping. I practiced not making old people sounds when I got up out of a chair, not oofing when I sat down exhausted from the strain of walking.
I became afraid of falling, of losing my balance, and to my horror, I became the woman holding on to railing as she descended the stairs. I no longer trusted myself to climb up on the kitchen counter to reach the baking powder on the top shelf. What if I fell and broke another bone? An elbow, a rib. My other foot.
In New York City where I grew up, if I wanted to cross the street, I’d step out in front of traffic and hold my hand up to four lanes of oncoming cars in rush hour. I lived as if I were unbreakable. But that was the old story of my life.
The new story is staying home more. My tendons and ligaments are still healing, and driving ten miles into town is hard on my foot, the accelerating, shifting, sudden breaking. Now before I get in the car, I think, ‘do we really need carrots for the salad I’m making? Can I use the string beans instead?’ I never knew how peaceful it could be to stay home, eating string beans, buying carrots tomorrow, or maybe even the day after that.
The new story is stopping for yellow lights instead of gunning the accelerator, remembering to take my vitamins in the morning. It’s saying no to spending time with people who bore me, screening my calls, letting them go to voicemail. I save time like pennies in a jar and spend them on the sweets of my choosing.
My bones now have a voice of their own. Watch out, they whisper, you’re daydreaming. Watch the path, not the wandering thought. Leave your regrets, like a busted tv, on the sidewalk for garbage collection day.
It’s the cold, bright morning of now, the land scrubbed clean by high altitude winds, the air pungent with desert sage. The night sky is a planetarium for the taking. I’m slower now, and move with more appreciation for my surroundings. The new story is filled with gratitude, loss, caution, aging, stillness. A new way to dance. I feed the birds, and build an altar in the garden with small quartz stones I bring back from my walks. I make salad with whatever is at hand. I say I love you until the words bloom from my lips, a bouquet to be given, to be cherished.