Let's Try This Again

January 01, 2022

Last year, I didn’t achieve any of my personal goals.

I wanted to save a specific amount of money. (Made progress but fell short.)

I wanted to earn a specific type of promotion at work. (Got my eyes on it but I’m not there yet.)

I wanted to start remodeling our house. (Still waiting on plans to come back from the architect.)

I wanted to embrace a healthier, more “sober curious” lifestyle. (Countless boozy cocktails were consumed.)

I wanted to write more, be vulnerable, and really put myself out there. (Only published five things all year.)

I failed on all accounts.

When I fail, I’m tempted to discard my old goals and start over. I want to reach in a different direction. Set a new objective. Tinker with the KPIs.

Sometimes I need to let go of my goals. Sometimes I re-evaluate and realize, “These things were not meant for me.”

But my old goals from last year feel meant for me. When I revisit them, handwritten on the pages of my annual planner, they still feel true. I crave them all.

This morning, I woke up and made a smoothie with peaches, pineapple, bananas, and chia seeds. Then, I lit one of my favorite candles, turned on a podcast, and sunk myself into a hot bath with eucalyptus salts.

The podcast I picked happened to be Brené Brown with James Clear, talking about Atomic Habits.

In the first few minutes, James Clear tells a personal story about a horrific sports accident he experienced in high school. He describes getting hit in the face with a baseball bat and suffering serious skull fractures. Every detail of his story gets worse and worse. I imagined the pain that James must have gone through, and it broke my heart. It made me remember a boy I went to school with who had a similar accident when he was young—hit in the cheek with a fast ball. I imagined the pain that boy must have experienced, and it broke my heart all over again.

I thought of my own recent injury, and how frustrated I’ve been by the slowness of my healing.

In November, my dog got a case of the zoomies and knocked me off my feet. When I fell, I broke my wrist badly enough that it needed to be screwed back together.

I was weirdly excited about the surgery. I broke my right arm (cheerleading accident) when I was in middle school and had a similar surgery (plates and screws). Having been down this road before, I knew it would be painful for a few days, but I was looking forward to having things fixed.

Plates and screws.

I didn’t understand this surgery wouldn’t be the same. This wasn’t my arm, it was my wrist. And, I’m not a malleable preteen who can magically regenerate overnight. I’m a thirty-three year old woman with poor health habits.

Twelve days after the surgery, when the nurse at the surgeon’s office unwrapped my arm from the splint, I panicked.

Without saying a word, the nurse left me alone in a cold room. I was sitting in a chair, gingerly holding up my left wrist, and everything looked so wrong. I expected my arm to look atrophied and swollen. I was prepared for gruesome stitches. What I didn’t expect was the shape of my wrist as it approached my hand. It looked angled up and disjointed. The length of my arm seemed to sit above my hand, like tectonic plates. I started to think the surgery had not gone well, that they’d somehow miscalculated the hardware and attached my hand in the wrong position. My heart started racing.

“Breathe. It’s okay. You’re okay.”

After a wait that felt like it dragged on forever, the surgeon came in. “X-rays look good! Any tingling?” he asked as he shook my hand and pulled on my fingers. “Let’s get you over to physical therapy…”

Today? Already? Right now?

In the physical therapy office, I set my arm down on a table in front of a woman named Rhonda who measured my degrees of motion. Lay your palm down flat. Twist left. Twist right. Make a fist.

“Can you bend your wrist up for me?”

I’ve got nothing.

“Pull up hard.”

Still nothing.

“We’ll get there.”

I want to throw up.

Later, I’d learn that Rhonda had logged in the computer, “Extension exercises skipped due to state of patient.”

It’s been 45 days since my wrist surgery. The scar is less red. The bruises, once yellow and purple, have faded away. But I’m still fighting for even the smallest smidge of extension, still trying to find my strength.

At night, I rotate between a cold ice pack and a heating pad, catching bursts of sleep where I can.

My morning yoga practice is a short one, without any push-ups or chaturangas.

Last week I cried in my kitchen because I couldn’t open a jar of salsa.

How can I frame this as an atomic habit?

I want to be the kind of person who can bend their wrist.

No, that’s not right.

I want to be the kind of person who does their extension exercises every day.

What would a healthy person do?

What would a healing person do?

This year, I’m scooping up all my unfinished business and carrying it with me.

The money. The work.

The house. The health.

The habits. The healing, and the hope, that maybe, given enough time, I might find a way to get back on my hands.