More Than the Broken Parts

Since the start of COVID-19, I’ve been staying physically active but have been plagued by a series of small, nagging injuries.

At any moment, I have one or two parts of my body that hurt a lot, some combination of chronic knee pain from an old injury and new problems in my abdomen, forearm and, most recently, my heel.

None of these is serious, but all of them are quite painful, the plantar fasciitis topping the list of high-pain/low-severity injuries.

On the worst days, it hurts to stand up from a chair, to get down towards the floor to grab a shoe, to reach for a shot on the squash court or to start a slow jog. The pain is sharp enough that it makes me tentative. It is distracting enough that some days it’s hard to concentrate.

On the worst days, the pain is bad enough that it’s all I can see about my body—I get caught in a cycle of negative forever thinking. The hurt parts of my body so dominate my thoughts that when I look in the mirror I’m surprised: my physical reflection looks fine, healthy even, not like a series of broken ligaments and tendons that keep me from moving, from bending, from being carefree.

The mirror has it right this time. I am not just the parts of me that aren’t working. I’m the person who is active every day, chasing after squash balls and walking in the cold with my dogs and kids. Sure, a few things hurt sometimes, but mostly my body is doing a tremendous job of adapting, recovering and healing, even if it doesn’t do so as quickly as I would like.

So often, we discover a new flaw or limitation in ourselves and it paralyzes us. The “wrong” becomes our whole identity, our mind transforming it into all that we see when we see ourselves.

It is not all of us, it is just a small part of us. And it is not all bad.

It is there to teach us.

It is there so we can grow.

It is there to remind us that “now” is not “always.”

And most of all, it is neither our whole identity nor is it something that we are meant to endure until we can push it away.

It is something that we must, over time, integrate and incorporate into our understanding of self, making sense of and accepting this new part of who we are.

Then, in time, it can change and heal, and we can change and heal.


You’ll notice things have been quiet on this blog for a little while, which almost never happens.  I took a week off at the end of the year and decided I really needed to be off – offline, off work, off blogging.

Walking to work on Tuesday, I was stuck in that slow transition back, trying to get the gears turning again – I could practically hear them moaning, I could feel the need to stoke the fires of motivation.

And then.

Two hours later I got a real scare that sent me into a tailspin.  Thankfully, the ground is mostly back under my feet again – at least it seems to be.

It was amazing in those first few hours how desperately I longed for – ached for – the chance to have mundane worries, anxieties, and fears; the chance to have all the important things in life be in place.

Two friends sent me notes with words of strength, reminders of the beauty in the world, the reality of hardship, the wisdom of ancient words. Whatever your faith, whatever your beliefs, there is a power in these words.

Morning Poem, by Mary Oliver

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches —
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead —
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging —

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted —

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

Mi Sheberach
May the One who blessed our ancestors, Sarah and Abraham, Rebecca and Isaac, Leah, Rachel and Jacob bless (insert name here) along with all of the ill among us.

Grant insight to those who bring healing, courage and faith to those who are sick, love and strength to us and to all who love them. God, let your spirit rest upon all who are ill and comfort them.

May they and we soon know a time of complete healing, a healing of the body and a healing of the spirit and let us say: Amen.