12+ years ago, I fractured the 4th metatarsal of my right foot. At the ER (thankfully I was with a friend at the time it happened and got a ride to the ER), the doc put a brace around my foot and handed me a pair of crutches. I was not to put any weight at all on the right foot for a good 2.5 months and could choose to use the crutches if I needed to move. Needed to move!?! After the 2.5 months, I’d be able to walk with the brace on until my foot was ready for me, if I’d healed well.
Thinking back now, it sounds simple enough. But back then, living by myself, a hospital-phobe and a somewhat self-contained person, who was juggling a bunch of complexities in life, living in an apartment that did not have an elevator, having lost the use of my right leg entirely (and my driving foot along with it), and having to hold on to crutches for every single task, to get up from bed and go to the bathroom, get me a drink or make me a meal, leave alone anything else like getting out of the house, driving to work, or do anything at all, was an interesting experience to say the least and very revealing. (Oh and speaking of getting me a drink, there was no question of carrying my drink “with” me, since I’d need both my hands to hold the crutches to move back to the couch or the bed.)
It was a tough first couple 3-4 weeks, draining on many levels. Physically, I experienced pains in every muscle group in the body. My arms, to my puzzlement, had become rock hard like I have never seen them (no exaggeration)… because they were doing all the hard work of carrying the weight of a 127 lb woman and propelling her forward and back, to make up for the defunct right foot. My back muscles ached due to the over work too and that in turn impacted almost every other kind of movement. I got to know every inch of my muscular body and realized just how interconnected the whole design was. If the right leg is down, it was amazing to see just how many other muscle groups (over)compensated to keep it going. I could feel exactly which muscle group was being used for which activity and that extended way beyond the obvious.
Mentally and emotionally too, it was an interesting time for a whole host of reasons and was just one of those self-defining (or was it self-discovering) experiences. But I’ll keep this short.
My realization was how in any eco-system, whether the system is an individual, a family, a community or a citizenry, when one unit hurts or is down, the other units just swing into action…and sometimes, that even sees them rise to their higher potential, like my arms did.