How Getting Injured in a Fall Taught Me to Slow Down and Be Mindful


Providers regularly ask whether I’ve fallen in the last 30 days. Last year a nurse insisted that everyone on the floor was considered a fall risk, handing me bright yellow slipper socks with tread on both sides and wrapping a band of the same color around my wrist. Since then my dismissal of this particular question has become increasingly emphatic. I take pride in my ability to extricate myself from lengths of oxygen tubing more gracefully than the average geriatric patient.

Having procrastinated on blogging, today I can affirm I have not fallen in the last 30 days. It has been 47 days since my last fall, and oxygen tubing is inculpable. I tripped on uneven concrete walking in flip-flops intended to make changing into my indoor rock climbing shoes less of a hassle. I fractured a bone in my right palm and had to wear a splint.

I felt particularly unfocused in the weeks leading up to my fall (probably a contributing factor in retrospect). Performing tasks with one hand instead of two slowed me down and made me more mindful. My morning breakfast routine involves a bowl, a box of Cheerios, a banana, a knife, a spoon and a quart of milk. I had to retrieve each item individually and arrange them on my dining room table for proper combination. While I’ve experienced astounding benefits from getting my body moving early and often, I’m finding it equally important to make time for stillness.

Prednisone makes my hands shake, increases my anxiety and gives me bursts of manic energy. Unwilling to stop moving my feet, even with a camera in hand, I missed opportunities to capture beauty. Hours glued to Adobe Lightroom revealed shots marred by motion blur, compositions one permutation away from success. Photographer Minor White famously urges:

“When you approach something to photograph it, first be still with yourself until the object of your attention affirms your presence. Then don’t leave until you have captured its essence.”

Since I normally swing my camera body around in my right hand, I thought I’d have to stop taking photos entirely while my hand was splinted. Instead, I used my left hand to hold the camera and two right hand fingers for pressing buttons and turning dials. Each shot took time and effort, forcing me to pay attention to what I included in the frame.

During a portrait session, I strive to make my client feel comfortable with me and my camera. A lot of people, myself included, are intimidated by a giant lens pointed straight at them. The moment I know I am being recorded, my face and limbs stop behaving naturally. If I can get my subject to relax and forget about the camera for a moment, I can take a photo that captures genuine emotions. In order for them to be calm in front of my lens, I need to be calm behind it.

The factors that make me impatient in the aftermath of my operation are not all chemical. Long-term goal setting has always been tenuous in my chronically ill state. I’m struggling to convince myself that making the most of my second chance at life does not mean being in the greatest number of places in the shortest amount of time possible. While I don’t want to lose my reverence for the gift of life, I want to find stability and allow for relaxation. I do not have to accomplish everything today – just some of the things. The challenge is living every day like it’s my last without being completely panicked that it actually is my last.

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Thinkstock photo via Paul Sutherland.


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