I just went for my first session of physical therapy. I was told by many to be prepared because therapy hurts. It did not. She massaged my hand and it actually felt good, and later, with her many exercises, gave me a sense that my hand, eventually, would be able to do again what artists do. Like all of us do. Use our hands for so many things. The incredible power of hands: the tools of our brain. The pain came later as I tried some of her "homework" but pain was something I had come to accept as a way of life since the accident.
It happened so quickly, close to home, as I sat next to my husband who was driving my car. The next thing I knew, was coming to the reality of many cars, ambulances, police and a medic asking me how I felt ... I was absently looking in front of me and seeing double and trying to figure out what had happened.
I came fast to the realization that we had crashed. A bad crash. My car was totaled. I felt numb. Pain came later as the shock wore out.
When released from the hospital after a few days of examinations, x-rays, CT scans, and the soothing presence of my daughter and a friend as I drifted in and out of sleep, I realized my total dependency and total vulnerability. I was frightened to look at myself in the mirror. My whole body was covered with black and blue marks, the right side of my face was scratched, lacerated and bruised; I had a concussion, my right hand was in a cast and my left thumb in a splint. Later my right thumb was operated on. Despite having injured his back and hands, my husband was doing everything. He cooked, fed me, did the dishes, gave me a shower, drove me to the doctor, took care of the lawn and garden, watered plants, was busy most hours of the day despite having to go himself for physical therapy for his back. I felt useless, devastated. I had always been independent and my sudden utter state of absolute dependency drove me to a state of great sadness.
I went to doctors, and stayed home and read. Books accumulated. They took me to places and events where my mind wandered and roamed. I wanted to be cocooned, protected, safe. I stayed home. Friends and family came, sent cards, gifts, cooked for me, told me that being so limited in my movements gave me a break, that it was normal that my husband took care of me, that I would do the same if I was in his place. None of it registered. I had a great sense that the accident with its immense shock kicked a part of me somewhere and It got lost.
But as people came to visit they told me about what had happened also to them. I began to realize that most of us carry our own wounds. A neighbor showed me her hands where she was missing two parts of her fingers. I had never noticed! Yet she did everything with her hands. She became emblematic for all the human beings who talked to me relating their accidents or their losses or hurts. I was humbled listening to all of their heart wrenching stories. The chaos in their lives. Being wounded triggered others to tell me how they had overcome their own pains or how they were still in the grip of so much sorrow.
We humans are fragile and are creatures that live with darkness and light, pain and joy. A life is a trajectory of many great events and others that torture our soul. It is hard to be human and avoid such a pattern. I came to think that a state of utter vulnerability and pain opens the door for others to share the terrible obstacles that they had to face. In many ways it connects us. It creates the link where we share of our humanness and fragility.
Perhaps the greatest joy is this immense compassion that awakes sometimes in our heart and helps to bring the understanding that each of us has been through some ordeal and becomes a better being--so we hope.
Now after three months my body and hands are healing. It will be awhile before I can grab my tools and crayons or brushes and feel totally me. But I am on my way and much is added to my feeling of humanity and community and while the pain is still with me, I can see the light ahead.
Copyright Micheline Brierre 2014