What I Learned from a Sprained Ankle and Black Eye

It's been quite a spring! Nine weeks ago, I severely sprained my ankle. Then, five weeks into my recovery, just as I was transitioning from a boot to a brace with my ankle, I got a facial fracture and black eye playing baseball! At this point, I have six to nine months to go before my fracture fully heals and at least two more months to go on the ankle. For those of you who know me well, you know I am very physically active. And it’s not something I just do; it’s part of who I am. These injuries have taught me a lot about myself as I have been, and continue to be, stretched in new ways. As we explore our May theme of lifting up others, I want to share what I have learned on this subject from my journey.

Mindfulness as a Way to Build Resilience

First and foremost, I have been forced to be more mindful about everything as I have had to pay attention to the details of daily life in a way that I haven’t before. With a sprained ankle, things that I mastered long ago (like walking) became difficult and simple decisions more complex. What clothes would work with a big boot on my leg? Which shoe would fit with an ankle brace? How could I relieve stress without my regular runs? This experience has caused me to notice the simple pleasures in life, feel more gratitude for them, and to be much more intentional about helping others notice the positive aspects of their lives.

Beyond physical considerations, I am much more mindful about the energy I bring to a conversation. The more people ask about my injuries and feel sorry for me, the more my optimism kicks in. So, even though I have my ups and downs, I know this is a minor physical setback in the big picture, not a major disruption. I know that my energy, positive or negative, affects my resilience…and it is contagious. I fully recognize that others have far bigger challenges to deal with than I do, like life threatening diseases. So, I find myself being more deliberate about how I Show Up and the positive impact I want to have on others.

Staying in the Moment as a Strategy to Increase Patience

I know I still have more work to do before someone would say I am a patient person! I am usually ready to take the bull by the horns, so when it comes to limitations I focus primarily on how to get past them. In this case, I really can’t accelerate my healing process and I have a big hiking trip in the Grand Canyon coming up in 4 weeks. As I have wrestled with this, I realized that when can I focus on the “here and now”, I worry far less about what might or might not happen in the future. In other words, I noticed that the more I can stay in the moment, the more patience I have.This has helped me make the most of my current situation, and be more resourceful and creative as I do so. For example, without the ability to run, I found other ways to stay physically and mentally strong like lifting weights, cycling on a recumbent bike with one leg, and meditating more regularly.

Caring and Concern Works

Finally, the most surprising part of my experience was what I learned from how others reacted to my injuries. In the first few weeks, when I was wearing the boot, strangers and friends would immediately ask about the story behind my injury. But once I had a black eye to go with the ankle injury, people held back. It felt so odd when people acted like they didn’t see this blatantly obvious injury and, at first, I took it personally.

Then, I remembered how often someone’s behavior is more about them. In other words, people often want to avoid potentially awkward or difficult conversations. As I thought about this, I realized that when someone approaches a situation from a place of genuine care and concern, the questions feel more supportive than intrusive. Even saying something as simple as, “You look like you’re hurt. Are you okay?” can go a long way.

Although life isn’t quite back to normal, I'm thankful for the self-awareness and insight I have gained. So, I want to leave you with the following questions to help you get as sense of how you lift others up.

  • How often do you help others see how the glass is half full versus half empty when they face adversity?

  • What kind of energy do you usually give to others? Positive or negative?

  • How often do you stay in the moment, increasing your patience and resourcefulness?

  • How often do you defuse or get past potentially awkward or difficult situations by demonstrating genuine care and concern?

As you answer these questions, pick one area that you would like to focus on this week to lift others up. And remember small steps can lead to big results.