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How to move when you’re motionless

One year ago today, I stepped out of my front door to call the dogs in for the night and landed exactly the wrong way on exactly the wrong part of my doormat on exactly the wrong part of my foot and broke my 5th metatarsal.

I was devastated. I’d only a month or two before refound my love of working out hard—after several years of wimpy yoga and woods-walking with my dogs, that came after several years of working out like a maniac and hurting myself badly. And then, WHAM—or rather SNAP, BREAK, Sidelined.

Because I’m often a black and white thinker, my initial freak out (made worse by the ER doctor’s prognosis that I’d be in a cast for 12 weeks) sounded like this:

  1. I’m going to be obese….probably within a couple of days.
  2. I won’t be able to be a mom…if I can’t pick up the children, they will write me off.
  3. My writing will suffer…because this whole thing reeks of sufferment.
  4. The world will end…see #s 1 thru 3.

There were tears. There was a massive amount of feeling sorry for myself. I wrote about it, of course.

And then…

I had this friend who said, “I wonder why you did something to yourself that would make you sit still for awhile?”

At first, I guffawed. “I didn’t do this on purpose!” I sneered. “I’m miserable, I hate this and I don’t want it. There is no LESSON. There was NO doing this to myself!!! The doormat did it to me.”

And, then, forced to sit on the porch all by myself—while my family went 4th of July parading and pond swimming and all kinds of other things that I really detest—I read 3 fantastic big books in a row. (Something I hadn’t had the space to do in a looooong time.)

And I thought…hmmmm. This might not be quite so bad. Then I started looking around for other worthwhile things I could do from my ass down, foot up position…and there turned out to be quite a few.

  • I could ride a stationary bike and get my sweat on.
  • I could get out of many distasteful chores like laundry since I couldn’t carry the basket.
  • I could work more hours than before…because I couldn’t do much of anything else.

And, as it seems to always do, time passed and my foot healed. Life went on.

Questions and Answers

But it wasn’t until this morning, when I realized that it had been an entire year, that I remembered my friend’s question…and saw how brilliant it had been. And how loving. And I was finally able to hear it as she meant it—not as an accusation, but as a thing of curiosity and excitement.

And, thus, I was finally able to answer it.

I broke my foot so that I could hit a wall at the end of a path of blind, mindless motion that was so mechanical and cloudy and trafficked that it allowed no room for new or pure or insightful thought. And I hit the wall, so that I could stop doing what I’d been doing and doing and doing…and create the ‘action’ of something else. Entirely.

I think it was something about the bounce. You know, off the wall.

Image credit: karenwithak

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • I’m commenting because I like to see myself commenting on UR blog. I’m commenting because I want U to know I read UR blog. I’m commenting because I have another book for U to read:

  • Julie Roads says:

    Thank you, Jason…I really appreciate it all. This book looks very, very intriguing!

  • Lindsey says:

    Further evidence we are sort of the same soul in two bodies. Last summer I was injured too. And I was insane about it. Until I realized it was just what I needed. If you are interested:
    Thank you for saying it all that much more beautifully here though. It is a good reminder, this, that we ought to always look for the lesson. There’s always one there, isn’t there?

  • Marcella says:

    Interesting because I was recently put off of running for a month or two due to some muscle strains. I was pissed, scared, and feeling restless – much like you did. I soon found, though, that if I tried the elliptical instead, I could still work out and I could easily prop my nook on the machine with the font setting on Extra Large and read pretty comfortably! Only then did I finish Crush It!, Trust Agents, and a few other gems -> which then led me to starting my blog.

    So, yes, the bounce, off the wall.

  • Love this!! And the imagery of hitting the wall SO THAT we can bounce? Brilliant. I feel so intimate with these walls but, admittedly, haven’t done as much to consider (and be grateful) for what the slamming into them has afforded, offered, and invited. Thank you!

  • Jessica Schira says:

    This post made me laugh, mostly because your reaction was so similar to mine when I got laid up a little over a year ago. The difference is that you actually followed the doctors orders.

  • Andi says:

    Oooooh, I LOVED this post!!! Great insight! I just wish when we were going through a crisis we could remind ourselves this, but instead we ALWAYS forget.

  • Nick Stewart says:

    Interesting post. Breaking your foot certainly limits somethings in your life. But you change your focus by asking different questions i.e. How can I use this to my advantage?

    Sounds like you did exactly that.

  • Dave Doolin says:


    I broke my right big toe taking a lead fall on a 5.11a climb called (I am not making this up) Dick The Impaler. I, too, wrote it up (10 years later).

    Can’t say there was any message involved. Just pissed me off and sometimes still hurts.

  • Andi says:

    I am a huge believer in everything happening for a reason, even if it sucks and even if I won’t know why for a very long time. Eventually there is the ah-hah moment and it all makes sense – I love that!

  • Susi says:

    I have had that situation happen twice in my life … the unexpected physical situation that seems to sideline us. I was doing treadmill a lot and ended up with golf ball sized lumps on my arches. Plantar fascitis. Then asthma. Yoga seems to be the only activity I can consistently do.

  • Julie – SO loving reading about your adventures – the good, the bad, the ugly, the transformative, and transcendent. (Sounds like your new video work is fab!)

    This post made me tear up a little. I’m in this place in my life where I feel like I’m about to hit a wall and I don’t even need to break my 5th metatarsal to know it. I work hard, I’ve got sixteen irons in the fire, lots of almost-there tipping points, some great projects, and people who love my work; but I still often feel like I’m putting myself through the paces of “mindless motion” just to feel like I’m making something happen … anything.

    Sometimes, the most productive thing you can do is nothing – even if you have to break something to get to that place of stillness.

    Glad you’re back on your feet, but happier that you had the chance to make room for your insightful thoughts … and that you’re willing to share your travels here. ;)

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