Unexpected Gifts

Heidi Sloss Ankle InjuryFor the past 25+ years I have been dealing with ankle injuries, surgeries and recoveries. During that time I have spent countless hours trying to figure out why. For years I felt responsible for creating the drama and trauma that came with my ankle adventures. It felt as if the pain was some sort of punishment for something. But at this point in my life I have finally come to see my ankle adventures as less of a punishment and more of a gift. First some background.

The original injury happened in 1989, when I broke my left ankle and damaged the tendons and ligaments. At the time I was young, strong and unaware. That afternoon, instead of going to an ER, I hobbled onto a plane to meet my husband in NYC, where we were attending a sit-down dinner with the Dalai Lama that I refused to miss. It was incredibly romantic – my husband carrying me up the stairs of the Columbia Library in our black tie attire – and pretty short sighted. Because the choices I made then have had repercussions we have dealt with for the past 25+ years.

I ignored medical advice at the time to have surgery and got pregnant instead. In case you didn’t know, during pregnancy ligaments loosen, which is great for giving birth, but not so much for recovering from an injury. Five years later, November 11, 1994, I had the recommended surgery to deal with the damage from the injury and pregnancy.

The recovery from that surgery was difficult; I had an active four year old son and my husband was in law school full time. Naively I thought I could manage on my own, but in reality it was a struggle. I remember one afternoon eating my lunch on the kitchen floor because I couldn’t figure out how to get the food from the kitchen counter to a table while using crutches. I didn’t want to be a burden on my friends. Coincidentally our daughter was born exactly a year after my surgery on November 11, 1995.

10 years later, In November 2004, I needed surgery again. This time the kids were able to help and I accepted some limited help from friends. Even so, I felt guilty for being a burden and spent hours trying to figure out why my ankle kept giving out on me. I kept thinking that if I could just figure it out, once and for all, then we/I would be done with it.

However, life has a funny way of unfolding. Last November — yes exactly 10 year later — I had another bad fall and broke the same ankle in 3 places. But this time I accepted lots of help. My daughter came home from school, my father came from the east coast, I asked friends to come in and cover when they were gone and then my husband cleared his schedule to take care of me. What a difference this has made to how I feel about the whole experience. Fact is that this was a much more serious injury, complicated surgery and a harder recovery. But instead of feeling punished and overanalyzing “why,” I finally allowed myself to feel vulnerable and consequently loved.

Recovering from each surgery has been hard on me and my family. I felt guilty for putting them through it and responsible for the trauma and drama. Classic “blame the victim” mentality—although I was the one blaming myself. And while it felt like punishment, it wasn’t. It is just life and it happens to each of us. Figuring this out is liberating.

Some of the many gifts I have received this time around include patience, acceptance, vulnerability and love. While the surgery fixed it so that I could walk again, there is some damage that could not be repaired. This is why I still have days of pain. I now see that accepting the situation is not being a victim, but rather embracing what showed up in my life: good friends who want to help, loving family members who are there for me and a slower, more vulnerable me.

 

 



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18 thoughts on “Unexpected Gifts

  1. Mary Albitz

    Your situation kind of reminds me of when I was pregnant with my son. I found out after I was pregnant (out of wedlock) that my son’s father was a crack addict but I was determined to have him there at the birth even though I really had no control over that. I ended up gradually isolating myself and when it came time for me to have my son, I thought I had no support system. Here’s the situation a few days after the birth of my son: I had a c-section so I was in the hospital for 4 days during which my son’s father got arrested, my car got impounded, my son had jaundice so he had to stay at the hospital longer than I did, I had no ride home from the hospital and my apartment wasn’t ready for my mom to come visit (We had a waterbed that my mom was not going to be able to get in and out of, so I needed to move the futon mattress onto it to firm it up). The night before I went into labor, my son’s father had just come back after a 2 day binge where he smoked up his entire check so we had no rent money and I obviously couldn’t work (already overdue) and then no work for three weeks to recover from the c-section. The work I did had no benefits and I only got paid when I worked. When I did make it home I had to get a key from the manager and I had an eviction notice on my door.

    My overall analysis of the situation was that it forced me to ask for help because I could no longer do it on my own and I found that I had more of a support system than what I thought. I had to call my friend from school who drove a taxi and he got his fellow taxi driver to give me a ride home from the hospital and he covered the ride for me. My grandmother and my son’s grandmother on his father’s side gave me money to help me through and get the things I needed to help me take care of Dewayne. It was only $1100 but I made it last over three months. My brother paid for a cloth diaper service so I didn’t have to spend money on diapers. And my mother, who I had not been close to, came to help me for 2 weeks and when my incision opened up and I was bleeding I was so thankful that she, a nurse, was there to help me through that terrifying moment. She was still her brusk, Manhattan, New Yorker self and deflected the intimacy but I still appreciated it nonetheless.

    I consider that the low point of my life (except for getting a beautiful son) and have turned things around immensely. I am so fortunate to have an exceptional family and my wonderful husband who is nicknamed Mr. 200% (because he puts forth a 200% effort into anything I want or need). Here’s to unexpected gifts.

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Wow, Mary, that is a hell of a story. And the very definition of resiliency and vulnerability. Learning to ask for help is easy for some, but hard for a lot of us. And it seems like when we are most down is when we need it the most. And your ability to make the small amount of money given to you last was quite a feat. Interesting that your mother came through for you. I too have a prickly relationship with my mother, but unlike you, she has never really come through for me when I have needed her most. It has taken me years to learn to ask for help from people who will come through for me. Finding those people is another story. And I love your husband’s nickname!

      Reply
  2. frank spigel

    Heidi,
    I have had ankle injuries before, like a stress fracture when I visited my New Zealand brother in 1983, also I sprained my ankle, I think it was in 2003. I remember visiting my mother in New Mexico, I thought my ankle was broken but it turned out to be a severe sprain instead. I remember taking a cab to Sibley Hospital at the time.
    One question I want to ask you and that is does the weather make a difference on how your ankle feels?
    When I came back from New Zealand the cold weather would annoy the injury.
    Forgot to add on something completely off the subject, and that I had a nice with your husband and mother-in-law about 2 weeks ago.

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Didn’t know you have ankle injuries too Frank. And yes it does hurt in the colder weather–this is one of the best excuses I have had for living in CA. The reason for it hurting in the cold weather is due to arthritis. One thing I recently learned is that we can develop arthritis in any other joint due to aging, but if it is in the ankle then is it solely due to past injuries.

      Reply
  3. Kim Acedo

    Heidi, what a beautiful and authentic share. I didn’t know the details of this, that is, about the trip to NYC and the things to follow, but I’m so glad you shared that. What I love about your blog is that you always share what you’ve learned through your experiences. It has made you into the wise woman you are today and truly enriches my life as I read. Thank you :)

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Gosh, Kim I am proudly blushing for being called a wise woman. It has taken me many years and sometimes it seems like I need the same lessons over and over and over again, but I do feel as if there has been an overall forward motion to my life and growth. Learning from my mistakes and/or experiences is a very important to me (not sure why it is so important but it is) and trying to integrate that learning into my life is part of who I am and what makes me me. Glad you are reading and commenting–I enjoy reading how my writing strikes you.

      Reply
  4. AmazingSusan

    Heidi, isn’t it interesting how life unfolds?

    Things happen and we have no idea why for days, weeks, months, years, even decades, and then “suddenly” it all seems clear somehow, like it was always meant to be.

    When we’re going through it, it feels like a big chaotic mash up, and then when we look back we realize it really couldn’t have gone any other way…

    The paradox of creating one’s life and submitting to destiny <3

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      It is a paradox to “take control” of one’s life as we submit to the flow of how it all unfolds. I agree with the various poets and philosophers, we can’t control our lives or what happens to us, but we can control our attitudes and perspectives on it. That is the pat I work on in myself these days and now see the most headway (although don’t ask my kids as I m know that they would disagree). And if you want to get all woo-woo another explanation for shifting through my past experiences to find new meaning or sense is that I am going through my second Saturn return–usually hits us when we are about 28 and then again 55 to 57.

      Reply
  5. AmazingSusan

    PS Heidi, can you attach a picture to this post? One that is 475 – 525 pixels wide? If you do I could share it on my amazingwomenrock Facebook page for fun. it won’t get any traction without pic…

    Reply
      1. AmazingSusan

        Heidi, to be clear, you must attach/put it in the post itself. I already tried to share it and because there is no photo attached upload a photo of my own, otherwise I would have done that. There is no point in sending me an image.

        You have to embed the photo in the post, or make it the featured photo of the post. It could be something as simple as a gift box… It should be simple, clear, close-up whatever you choose :)

        Reply
      2. AmazingSusan

        Heidi, to be clear, you must attach/put it in the post itself. I already tried to share it and because there is no photo attached upload a photo of my own, otherwise I would have done that. There is no point in sending me an image.

        You have to embed the photo in the post, or make it the featured photo of the post. It could be something as simple as a gift box… It should be simple, clear, close-up whatever you choose :)

        Reply
        1. AmazingSusan

          Missing words:

          because there is no photo attached to the post I CANNOT upload a photo of my own and attach it to the Facebook post. for share ability purposes, it’s always wise to have some kind of photograph attached to your posts :)

          and for sharing on Facebook they should be ideally 450 to 470 pixels wide and about 275 pixels high – those dimensions will mean the full photographs will be shown in the post on Facebook. Any smaller than that and the photograph is reduced in size and the text appears beside it. Any larger than that and the edges of the photograph are cropped, which can be okay. Generally my she quotes images are 525 pixels wide and so the top and bottom are cut off on Facebook but I like them to be bigger on my blog posts.

          I hope this is helpful :)

          Reply
          1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

            Susan, are you able to share the post now? It has been updated to reflect your very kind offer!

  6. Carol Aaron

    Read below the Background story to this amazing poem that has now gone viral around the world.

    When Chanie Gorkin’s high school teacher asked her class to describe their worst-ever day, Chanie turned the assignment on its head – literally.

    Chanie told her teacher that she didn’t believe in “worst days ever” and instead wrote a complex poem on the topic. Read normally, it seems to be a pessimistic meditation on life: the sort of poem one might expect from a sixteen year old.

    But Chanie Gorkin was no ordinary sixteen year old, and the piece she wrote – Worst Day Ever? – is no ordinary poem. A student at the Chabad Beth Rivkah high school in Brooklyn. Her poem, she’s explained reflects the Jewish idea that it’s possible to control how we see the world, whether negatively or positively: “I don’t think there is such a thing as the worst day ever… I wanted to show how your day is really based on how you look at things.”

    Worst Day Ever?
    by Chanie Gorkin

    Today was the absolute worst day ever
    And don’t try to convince me that
    There’s something good in every day
    Because, when you take a closer look,
    The world is a pretty evil place.
    Even if
    Some goodness does shine through once in a while
    Satisfaction and happiness don’t last.
    And it’s not true that
    It’s all in the mind and heart
    Because
    True happiness can be attained
    Only if one’s surroundings are good
    It’s not true that good exists
    I’m sure that you can agree that
    The reality
    Creates
    My attitude
    It’s all beyond my control
    And you’ll never in a million years hear me say
    Today was a very good day

    Now read it from bottom to top, the other way,
    And see what I really feel about my day.

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Thank you Carol for posting this on my blog–I love it. I remember seeing it a while back on Facebook and being very impressed with the whole thing.

      Reply

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