5 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From Being On Crutches

For a while, I was really getting down about my accident and the way my life instantly changed afterward.

All the things I *could* be doing, I’m not able to do, and I’m much more dependent on others just to get through my daily routine.

But I’ve been practicing having a positive attitude about my life, so I began thinking about the life lessons I’m learning while spending the last four weeks on crutches.

Five Life Lessons from Crutches:

1. Don’t try to carry too much.

The first day I was on crutches, I had many hands around me to carry anything I needed, from a book to a water bottle or a plate of food. Because I’m a stubborn strong-willed guy, shortly thereafter I decided to try to do for myself as much as I could. And I quickly ran into an issue – Yes, I could carry the water bottle in one hand, and a book in the other, with a sketchy grip on my crutches, but would it be worth it if I fell because of it? Nope, definitely not.

The takeaway here is in thinking of all of the obligations and responsibilities we try to carry, and deciding how much is too much. When we try to carry too much on our shoulders (our minds), it’s way easier to fall. And we don’t have to do it all. We have choices, and we need to best figure out what our ‘carrying capacity’ is.

2. Balance is everything.

I can’t put any weight on my right ankle, so I’ve become a much better balancer. I’ve learned to put some weight on my crutches to keep myself balanced on one leg long enough to do what I need to do, but it isn’t anywhere near as stable as if I was on both feet. And if I have to pick something up off the floor, there’s an optimal position for me to be in so that I don’t fall over. Even reaching out for something just out of my grasp is a challenge.

Lessons learned: It’s very important to balance our financial needs with those of our heart, to balance the practical with our big dreams, to balance work and play and family, and to balance the physical, mental, and spiritual sides of ourselves. Without proper balance, we are in danger of toppling over, and learning to moderate and find a good middle ground with our lifestyle has a huge positive effect on our lives.

3. Asking for help is healthy.

According to my astrological sign, Aries, I’m independent, a contrarian, and strong-headed. I don’t pay too much attention to that, though some of it fits me to a ‘T’, but I do have a hard time asking for help, even without being laid up. Now that I can’t do as much for myself, I have to ask for help (or get scolded when I don’t ask, but instead try to do it myself), and I’m realizing how crucial it is that I speak my needs and ask for some help with whatever I can’t do.

The point is, we aren’t expected to do everything in life ourselves, even if we are able-bodied. The beautiful thing about community is the interdependency that is a natural result, and the culture is one of helping out those we care about, without the promise or expectation of a reward. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s an acknowledgment of our limits and an acceptance of community.

4. Sometimes you just need to stop.

Because I’m propped up in a chair most of the day, I have to make an effort to get out and get around the neighborhood just to get my blood pumping and to feel the sun and wind on my face. So the other day, I asked my family if they would take a walk with me, and we headed around the block. I was doing great until about three quarters of the way, at which point I was breathing hard, my arms were trembling, the crutches were irritating the heck out of my armpits, and I found myself wondering just what the heck I was doing. So I just stopped, right there on the side of the road, and let my heart slow down and got my breath back, and apologized to the family that I had to hold them up. Their response was that I should do what I needed to do, and not to worry about them.

The lesson here is that when we are not able to keep up, or we need to recharge, or we think we need to change direction in our lives, then we really just need to stop what we’re doing. The world will still keep spinning, the sun will rise and set all by itself, and our loved ones will support us without a second thought while we catch our breath. As a wiser person than me once said, “You can resign as the general manager of the universe.”

5. A molehill can really be a mountain.

Our house has wood floors and throw rugs, and we’ve got three kids, which means lots of kid stuff strewn around the floor even on a good day. When I’m navigating the house, I have to look twice before putting the crutches down so I don’t wipe out. The other day, I didn’t see a little wooden drumstick that was on the floor from the beginners drum lessons of one of my kids, and I put the tip of my crutch right on top of it. When I put weight on it, the crutch immediately slipped off and the tip went sliding across the floor. Luckily, I could grab onto the wall before I fell, but it was a close one. For anyone else, that little wooden toy would not have caused any sort of issue, but for me, it was a major obstacle.

While we’re often cautioned to not make a mountain out of a molehill, sometimes the tiniest thing really can throw us off. We would be well advised to look twice before committing to anything that might have the potential to upset our equilibrium, based on our personal situation. We really aren’t all the same – we’ve all got different strong points and weaknesses that it pays to acknowledge and adjust for in the way we approach life.

I guess there is a silver lining in everything, if we care to look. I’m hoping I’ll be able to continue to draw from these life lessons long after my ankle is healed.

Image: Tony Crider at Flickr

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

4 thoughts on “5 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From Being On Crutches

  • February 11, 2010 at 4:28 pm
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    Very cool lessons, indeed! Way to take the positive lessons from your experience, and turn them into something we can all benefit from.

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  • February 12, 2010 at 10:05 am
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    Derek! Thank you for sharing your delightful and profound observations. You have, indeed, reminded us that absolutely every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow if we can view it with eyes of love and insight rather than anger and loss.

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  • March 16, 2012 at 4:29 pm
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    Wow I googled how to cope on crutches and I find this! I’m going through this right now! Every 5 lessons you have taught me in life actually fit in to how I’m feeling right now!
    Yesterday I challenged myself to walk to my nans which is normally a 4 minute walk exactly, it took me 30 minutes ever since I did my ankle in 🙁 I was beating myself up because I was slowing my mum down and a car drove past and the guy laughed at me saying “didn’t get far it” -__- but your right, we do need to stop and recharge. My lifes been upside down and for once there’s been actual advise and help for me! Cheered me up and made my day! Thankyou! 🙂 x

    Reply

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