5 gifts of gratitude for 5 weeks of immobility


It was the morning of December 3rd and Mercury had just gone retrograde. I feel like that phrase is more mainstream than I had realized. Even if. you don't follow the astrological and planetary forces (which I can't say I truly understand), you may have still heard that all havoc is wreaked in the world when Mercury changes direction. Don't ask me how, but chaos definitely ensued that morning. We were on our way to a cross country getaway, just my husband and myself. Nobody else. Just us, in nature, trying a new sport, connecting, getting much needed time. And then the silliness occurred. I slipped, missed the last 1-2 stairs and the next thing I know I was on the floor. And it was clear to me that this was no ordinary fall. I could not bear weight and my foot was a huge, purple mess. Fast forward to an X-ray of three avulsion fractures, a mid foot sprain, a boot, and knee scooter and the cross country skiing was now on hold for at least most of this season (I haven't given up hope!). This is not the first time I have been immobile, I have had past injuries that kept me off my feet for several weeks. But this time was very different because our life situation is always different and so it came with some different lessons. 

The reason this time was so different is because my own son stopped walking in early 2017. Even though I have had periods of time to learn lessons of immobility, I saw it through a whole new lens this year. 

1. So, even though this first lesson was a repeated one, it is worth re-iterating and was strongly heard in this period of immobility. 

It is a privilege to walk this earth. 

There is no other way around it. When you are forced to sit, you realize how beautiful it is to walk. This is the first time I have been forced to sit since my son sat in his wheelchair permanently. Although it's frustrating to not walk, to not exercise, to not do daily activities like I was used to, I have the hope and knowing every day that I have the chance to walk again. I am not immobilized permanently and I have the luxury and privilege of receiving lessons for a temporary period. It is a gift. Do not squander it. Each day that you walk this Earth, spend at least a few seconds really feeling your feet grace the ground beneath you. Really do it. Take your shoes off and feel the earth. Your vibrant skin on the soft, damp earth and know that this day is a gift. 

2. Sometimes, you don't do this unless forced to but here's #2.

Slowing down is a gift.

Only when we forcefully disrupt our brain's need to move too fast, can we disrupt as well the brain's constant need to flutter to the past and present. 

You know what I am talking about. We spend most of the day regretting what we did yesterday or worrying about what will happen tomorrow. Stop wasting time. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow could be completely different than the story your mind has made up. I have been forced to slow down and really stop. (For those who know me, I am quite an efficiency machine, I can get more done in a day than you can believe!) So when I have to really stop, I really stop. And the gift was I stopped with my son. We always said in our family that we set our pace to my son when he was walking because he was so slow. But now that he has been in a wheelchair, his pace has quickened. And so have we. My not moving has had its advantages (and they feel like advantages mostly because of gift #1 above). Maybe we can all find that stillness each day by committing to doing nothing for just a few minutes. Those few minutes when you stand in the elevator and check your phone, when you sit in a waiting room and check your phone, when you are waiting at a red light...you get the idea....Doing nothing for some time each day. This is a gift. 

3. Another one we try each day but when you are frustrated with your situation, you get even more practice with this one...

Struggle gives me the opportunity to be gentle with myself. 

Why can't this foot feel better? What do you mean, I can't start physical therapy yet? (my reaction to the surgeon last week) Why can't I do my normal activities? The answer is the same each time. What is, just is. You can't rush it. You can't change it. You can only accept it and moreover, accept yourself. I am not a super human. I am just a woman who broke her foot and it needs to heal. (As an aside, my daughter and I have been joking that mom's bones should heal at a bionic rate! But seriously, moms are just human too...)

4. Now, here are the extra special reasons that this time, immobility was so much more profound in the life lessons department. You see, with me in this situation, I cannot care for my son. Which means it isn't as hard that I can't cook, clean or get places I used to. That's enough stress on a family. But what is the hardest thing is that our home is one caregiver down. And it is striking how fragile a thread a home with a disabled child hangs on, a thread so silken it is only seen in the midst of true crisis. It has been incredibly stressful to navigate his care when much of the time, I am slated to be the one caring for him. And therein, lies a gift for me...

Asking for help reminds me that my village is larger than I conceive of on a daily basis and when I ask for help, I give others a gift.

It takes a village...for everything in this life. A schedule of people coming to help in that first week with before school, after school, and many more who offered. Friends who were willing to get schooled on how to do personal care for my son, cook for us, lift him, do any task they could find. It was grace-filled and heart filling. Words cannot explain my gratitude.

5. And this one can bring me to tears any time of the day. 

When faced with the opportunity to step up, individuals want to rise and rise...

The super star of this whole scenario turned out to be my fourteen year old son. (now, before I explain that, I cannot discount the tireless efforts of my husband to not only care for the family but to also care for me, he has been unsurprisingly a saint.) But my son did not sign up for that. He is just a child in this family, one who is very helpful and loving, don't get me wrong, but still in the children and not the parents unit. He has beared the brunt of his brother's personal care when his father is not here, without a flinch that it is not his responsibility. That means learning how to do his brother's personal care, a job that has previously only been ours. Not many fourteen year olds are using a urinal with their 13 year old brothers but he does it with grace. And I could not be more touched or proud. My injury gave him the opportunity to grow, in maturity and in even more compassion.

So I know I said 5 gifts and those really were some great ones but I did save one for the bonus round.

This one is the most intangible, the most heart filling and heart breaking at times. But you see, in my vulnerable state of injury, dependent on others not only for my care but also for the care of my son, I have sat at his level, literally, and watched the world go by with as much of his lens as I can wear right now. And what I have seen has awed me even more than I usually am with him. You see, he lives these gifts every day. With great suffering for sure. But with such powerful grace. Rarely a complaint or a frustration. Just watching and living. It is clear to me in sitting with him and taking in the world from his perspective, even more than I usually do, that I can know one thing for sure...

His eyes and heart for this world are far larger than I can conceive.

And he is a gift.

Live well,


Tanmeet Sethi6 Comments