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.