“It is easier to find those who will volunteer to die than those who are willing to endure pain with patience.” – Julius Caesar
A few weeks ago, I mentioned an old foot injury as part of a comical incident that illustrates the lengths to which successful real estate agents are willing to go in order to serve the client and close the deal (Adventures in Real Estate Part III).
The reality, however, was far more serious. I actually shattered my ankle and required five hours of surgery including a bone graft, seven metal plates and 18 miniature steel nails placed perfectly in order to hold it all together.
It also required a recovery period far longer than I ever expected. I spent over five months sitting in a wheelchair or leaning on a walker to avoid putting any significant weight on the injured foot. The long road back to biped independence also included weekly visits to an acupuncture specialist and wound clinic (because the skin on the front of the human ankle is very thin).
After five months, I was finally allowed to walk (gently) in a not-so-flattering orthopedic boot and spent another three months in physical therapy, Gyrotonics or Pilates work outs for three hours every day.
All because of one high heel shoe that caught on the staircase at an open house. One two-second incident and my whole life now concentrated entirely on recovery. The worst part was I had no choice. I could do a lot of nagging, crying, acting out, bitching and complaining, but it didn’t change anything.
I did have a few really good pity parties. These are usually helpful during any intense healing process and after I realized crying could be extremely therapeutic, I really threw myself in to it.
So, what did I really learn from this physical trial? The most important take away was patience; a virtue with which I’m still not fully acquainted.
“Patience,” according to Barbara Johnson, “is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.”
In other words, patience is what everyone tells you to exercise whenever you feel a lack of control. It’s no coincidence that doctors, nurses, therapists and specialists all encourage us to be patient patients.
I still remember that Lance Armstrong took a hard fall during an international bicycle race the same week I took mine, and I was stunned to watch an interview with him just four weeks later (through the tiny space between my propped up legs) as he worked out with his trainer. I couldn’t understand how he was healing so much faster than me. Granted, he was a younger super athlete, but four weeks is remarkable. Of course, the whole world now knows that he was using illegal performance-enhancing methods unavailable to regular patients like me – but four weeks is still a short stint.
Unfortunately, patience and perseverance are the only way out on your road to healing. You train yourself to take deep breaths to slow down the throbbing pain. You hope for a quiet mind so you can read the books and listen to the tapes wonderful friends have given you. You pray constantly yet silently. You reorder your priorities. None of this happens without patience.
You also learn to take to satisfaction in incremental progress and celebrate the small victories. I was so proud once I mastered the Backwards Butt-Crawl up the stairs while keeping my heavy, casted leg in the air. It seems like nothing now, but at the time I was ecstatic to be able to move about on my own (even if it was only to pull myself up to a walker).
It’s important to mention how much patience is also required on the part of spouses, partners and caregivers. My husband found himself spinning numerous plates in the air for those eight months, including cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping and getting me safely in and out of the shower. My business partner, Bethany, (who’s always been the absolute picture of patience), had to do the work of two in the field while I attempted to support her behind the scenes.
All women know they have the strength and the courage to heal. We draw on these qualities every day in work situations and our personal lives. What we often lack, however, is the patience to let others catch up or let things play out as they should.
Have you found the right balance between patience and perseverance in your own life? What’s the secret recipe? Please share your thoughts with the rest of us in the Comments section.