I’ve spent this week completely laid up because last Sunday I ruptured my Achilles tendon playing tennis. The fastest I could get in for surgery was 5 days later and in the mean time, the orthopedist put a cast on my leg, gave me some crutches and pain medication, and told me to keep my leg elevated. “See you Friday,” he said, smiled and went to see the next patient.
So home I went to fend for myself for a week (with the help, of course, of my lovely family). Now I should mention that the leg I injured is my right one and so that pretty much eliminates any attempt I might make to drive anywhere. And when the doctor says don’t put any pressure on it, it’s not because I’m doing him any favors. An ounce of weight on my foot sends a shooting pain up my leg that reminds the Percocet who’s really the boss around here.
And so here I am, trying to make do with two new appendages that I’m still trying to figure out how to use and one that just won’t work. I’m like an octopus with stiff legs hobbling down the hall. And stairs! Yea, you should see that! It’s probably worth a YouTube video. And so the greatest challenges of the day, aside from avoiding pain, can be summed up in one word: balance.
Ever tried to go to the bathroom balancing on one leg? How about putting on a new pair of shorts? Sounds easy, right? Taking a cup of coffee from the kitchen to, well, anywhere for some quite time early in the morning? Right, you gotta be kidding me. How about trying to carry a laptop from one room to the next because I need a change of scenery, oh, and then remembering that I left my cell phone & some papers I need downstairs? I have to confess that for once in my life, I actually thought I might use a man-bag if I had one (tell me I didn’t just put that in print)!
But my struggles with balance go even deeper than that. Because while I’m attempting to shave while supporting myself with one leg on the floor and one hand on the wall, it becomes clearer how often I’m trying to balance things on a much larger scale. For those of us who are managing life in the middle of some of the craziest years – those with young children – things are hard enough with work, children, marriage, family and church commitments. Throw in things like starting new businesses, trying to write books, train for marathons, dive into new hobbies and, believe me, things can get really out of kilter.
So life becomes a question of priorities. Since there’s only so much time in a day, no matter what strategies you use to get more productive or what you choose to sacrifice, you will inevitably hit a ceiling. And as I’m laying on the couch thinking about that, it occurs to me that the answers are deeper than just itemizing what’s important for the day or for the task at hand.
One convicting thing for me in particular is the thought that I really can’t have it all. If you’re like me and have more dreams and ambitions that one person can possibly accomplish in a lifetime (with the exception maybe of the biblical Solomon, and we see where it got him), it’s important to come to terms with that reality sooner, rather than later. And when it comes to accomplishments, it may be better to spin the question, “What do I want to do?” into the question, “Who do I want to be?” Because here’s the challenging and provocative point for folks that are achievement oriented: Your character and relationships are more important than your accomplishments and experiences.
Of course, it helps to be on pain killers when coming to painful conclusions like that, especially for those of us that have a tendency to measure our worth by the things we do. But seriously, being in a relatively helpless state is a very good perspective changer. Yes, it’s great to be “on” and hitting on all cylinders and movin’ and shakin’ and all that. But guess what? We weren’t always like that and we won’t always be. Time and age will make sure of that. And when our human frailty catches up to us in some way (and eventually it will), suddenly it will be the relationships that we have and the character that we’ve cultivated that will want so desperately to cling to. And if we’ve gotten in the habit of living an unbalanced life, we just might find that all those things we once counted as gain are the very things we would gladly give up if we could.