Saturday: The Aspiring Buddhist And The Broken Toe

Last week Sunday, shortly after seven in the morning, I started my morning with three piercing shrieks, loud enough that my neighbors should have been alarmed. They weren’t, but that’s okay. I’m not that good of a neighbor. Right in the midst of my quarter life crisis, I smashed my toe against our dining table and broke it. Badly. I’m still on bed rest. The great thing about staying in bed all day is all the time you get to think. Just kidding, it’s absolutely horrible and the last thing anyone experiencing existential dread wants to deal with. But I’m here, in bed, and forced to face the “quarter life crisis” fears that I’ve been desperate to ignore.

You’ve won this round, universe.

I have been inundated with this sense that I am not “doing enough” since I turned 25. It’s a mixture of millennial angst gone malignant and run-of-the-mill perfectionism. I fear that I have wasted some of my “best” years and that from this moment on, my value as a human being can only go down hill. It sounds horrible, but how many time have women heard negative messages about aging with regards to their value? I think while I recognize this isn’t healthy, these kinds of thoughts are expected with the societal conditioning we all go through.

Achievement is one of the ways we have come to see ourself as “valuable” in our society that’s prioritized the person as a brand rather than a human being. Still, it’s our responsibility to take control of the little voice in the back of our heads that says we lose our value after a certain point or that links our value to achievements. We are people and our value is inherent in that fact. Age and achievement have nothing to do with it.

I have fully accepted that my daily actions create the person I want to become. Wishing and dreaming are powerless tools of distraction from our current situation, and dreams may be powerful motivators but daily action is what really defines “who we are”. I had the misfortune of breaking my toe shortly after getting back into a more intense exercise routine since my last yoga practice in May. I was BACK! At least, I was back until my giant metal table leapt out of nowhere and smashed my toe to bits. Since then, guilt over losing my routine has all but stopped me from sleeping. I worry that I will never get back into my routine and I feel depressed that I “lost” my progress.

This view is completely wrong. While my routine may currently be stymied, my core identity as someone committed to looking after my health doesn’t have to change as a result. James Clear expands on this kind of thinking in his book, Atomic Habits. When the goal is just showing up every day, it’s okay to miss a few days. As soon as I can, I’ll show up and I’ll be well on my way to building up some of the strength I’ve lost from perpetual bed rest.

Thinking of myself as a “failure” for not exercising with a broken bone never has to enter the picture.

I have to let go of what I can’t control. This idea is nice in theory and in theory, most people think they believe this. Of course we have to let go! In practice, it’s not so easy. If it were, people wouldn’t be hung up on ex-relationships. People wouldn’t try to change their parents or their friends if this was the most intuitive thing in the world. The best thing about a surprise broken bone is that now I have no choice. I can’t control the fact that I haven’t been able to get upstairs all week. I can’t control the fact that getting to the bathroom is a Herculean effort that makes me feel like a retiree.

Despite the obviously sucky parts of life trapped in bed, I’m grateful that I have this chance to give up control and I am grateful that I have enough time to contemplate my life that I can turn around the negativity that might seem natural when a table takes away two weeks or more of your mobility.

When I was younger, we used to play this game called “two truths and a lie”, where you would say one thing that was a lie and two things about yourself that were true. The other players guess which statement was which. One of my truths used to be “I’ve never broken a bone” which at the time seemed unrealistic. I now have the chance to come full circle, and make that statement one of my lies if I ever choose to play this game again.

My new “truth” is, I’m glad I broke my toe because while it hurt like hell, I’ve had an opportunity to contemplate the thoughts that have bothered me since I turned 25.