The first time I ever sprained an ankle was when I jumped off the roof of the tin shed in our back yard as a teenager.
I and my friends loved to climb up onto the shed roof and survey the yard from ‘on high,’ as if ten feet off the ground gave us an ‘eagle’s point of view’.
We were also ‘superman‘ fans, hence came the idea of jumping off the roof onto the spongy green grass, below.
I landed like a cat on my feet most times I jumped, but it only took once to sprain my ankle. My mother was a good nurse and treated the swelling with a hot and cold compress, as you did in those days.
Firstly, she laid on hot towels, then ice-blocks, wrapped in towels – repeating the cycle until the swelling reduced. Then, she wrapped the ankle in an elastic bandage.
I got over that first sprained ankle fairly well, though I could not wear a shoe on one foot for a while.
Life went on, and I did my usual activities, including school athletics. The ankle seemed fine.
Later on in life, I sprained my ankle again, and treated it as my mother had taught me, and got through that time, too, or so I thought.
Little did I know that each time my ankle was damaged, it was leaving a mark of much longer duration.
It was when I slipped on a varnished stage floor during rehearsals for an amateur theater production that it really hit home that sprains are not always so easy to repair.
That one took six months before it fully healed, and after that I only had to twist my ankle slightly before I could feel the threat of damage, again, or suffered it. I knew my ankle had become weaker.
It didn’t stop me using it. I still took long walks, still didn’t protect it as well as I should have.
When we bought a new house, I helped carry large old railway sleepers to their position in the garden we established, and dropped one end on the same foot.
Again, the foot was damaged, but recovered in time. But the recovery was fragile. Since then, every time I did too much with that foot, pain and inflammation set in – along with numb spots, which were later diagnosed as neuropathy.
It took a lot of time – years of activity and injury – to get to that point, and many years of ignoring the fragility of my foot and ankle by not protecting it effectively.
When you want to be healthy and to live a healthy life, you can force yourself through situations where you really should be more careful, because you want to believe that all will be well so long as you persevere.
The fact is, though, that today I have arthritis and neuropathy in a foot that has been injured in the same areas too many times and, even with massage and care, that foot is never going to be the same.
There are days when I get out of bed and just hobble. It is what it is. For me, there’s no point dwelling on it. I just deal with it as best I can. It’s too late to change the results, now.
In life, a similar process happens when spirit gets hurt.
When we are young, we may have a sort of resilience that enables us to ‘bounce back‘ from the things that hurt us.
Part of that ‘bounce back‘ is often asserted in a youthful cockiness that stands up to assaults and bears them down.
When we discover that resilience, we can be somewhat abrupt about what we can do and how we can behave.
We can end up making assumptions, speaking out of turn, or putting other people’s ‘noses out of joint‘ all in a day’s work. But with a youthful face and time on our side, we can usually act out such erroneous behavior and get away with it, in the main.
Yes, there may be punishments to suffer, but those punishments are often only temporary, and feel better to deal with than the hurts that initiated our reactions.
We move on, but we don’t always learn the lessons we should.
With an attitude of having ‘stuck up for ourselves‘ we may not see the pain and disruption we have caused to others too clearly – others who did not hurt us on the same level as our original assailants did – but our focus, by then, is on our own hurt and pain, which we keep protecting ourselves from.
Often, we’ll commit the same acts over and over again, despite the consequences, because we believe we are ‘defending our rights‘ – and while we may suffer backlashes, we remain assured because we ‘always bounce back‘.
However, if this sort of reactive and self-centered behavior continues as we get older, others become less inclined to be so forgiving. We are no longer ‘spring chickens‘, no longer ‘dewy in our skin‘, and should have ‘learned something better‘ by then.
We could say that these are just the phases of ‘growing up‘ and that some people take longer to do that than others – but one day, if we’re still ‘falling into the same traps‘, the ‘tide turns‘ and there can suddenly be no redemption.
Others begin to reject us outright.
There are no more ‘willing ears‘ to listen to pleas for mercy based on hurts from long ago, that are nothing really to do with them.
So the inherent limitations in life are eventually faced, even if we have held against them for an extremely long time.
Just like with my bad foot, there are not always ‘second chances‘ forthcoming.
This is especially bad if we have hurt others who are close to us – those in our intimate circles who we thought could put up with our worst bad habits.
When those people turn away and never come back, the lesson comes all too late in sorrow and grief that is extremely difficult to deal with.
The resulting damage to our spirit from the mental and emotional pain of rejection can be beyond repair, simply because there are no solutions to be had by then.
Life goes on, nevertheless, for better or worse – but the scars can be permanent.
Then, it can be hard to not end up living a life that is dogged by misery, regret, or a sense of hopelessness.
Of course, that only magnifies the original assaults that caused the pain that set us on the long path of defensiveness and self-protection in the first place.
While examining the root causes of this position can be helpful, along with mechanisms for redirecting the pain, that pain will always rear its head again whenever a hurt assails us until we can completely detach ourselves from our feelings about it.
That is easier said than done.
Another recourse is to be like Chiron, the wounded healer from ancient Greek mythology.
Chiron was a centaur (half man, half horse) who acquired a wound that could never heal. He was immortal, so the wound was a constant and eternal source of pain. Yet because of this wound he had a marvelous empathy and compassion for others who were in pain and needed healing.
Whenever we use our own pain or wounds as a source of understanding for others who are suffering, we can still find a reason for living though all else seems lost.
By directing our focus toward helping others, we also detach ourselves from the personal aspect of our pain.
We may not be able to cure ourselves but, by knowing the reasons for our pain and all its whys and wherefores, we can foster and support the health and harmony of others.
That can be a far better redemption than acceptance in the end.
(NOTE: While this essay includes some personal history with regard to sprains, the latter half is not based purely on personal history. The essay is constructed from personal observations and trains of thought in which I have been examining the details of life in general, and especially in the society I live in. It is just an opinion and is offered as an idea, not as a tenet. Feel free to add comments if you wish to expand on this opinion with your own ideas).
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