Arriving in Vancouver on May 28, sleep deprived and jet-lagged, we were met at the airport by a friend and driven to our first housesit, generously offered to us for a month by friends of friends. People we haven’t even met. We are once again astonished by, moved by, and grateful for, the kindness of strangers. And the very great kindness of friends who have lent us their BMW for eight weeks. We are blessed beyond expectation or imagining.
We walked in the door of the apartment and our jaws dropped. Stunning! A beautiful, well-equipped apartment with a million dollar wall-to-wall view of the sea. For those of you who know Vancouver we are in the West End just a little up the road from the Sylvia Hotel. We have died and gone to heaven.
Well Don especially has died and gone to heaven. He is so very happy to be back in Vancouver. This city is home to him and he can’t imagine living anywhere else. Neither can I, though I think the connection runs a little deeper for Don. The weather has been brilliant and just about everyday since we’ve been back I find myself saying – Vancouver’s a beautiful city when the sun is shining. And indeed it is. A gorgeous city, and one we know well. For the first time in a long time we don’t have to figure out language or communication, or how to get where we want to go, or where to buy groceries, and most important, where to get safe drinking water. It’s good to be home for a while.
We arrived in the evening. The next day we went to our storage locker for file boxes and clothing and some other bits and pieces. We hauled it all from the car to the apartment. Nearly done. I’m carrying two shopping bags with little in them. No weight to speak of at all really. Suddenly I’m on the floor screaming and writhing. My foot has slipped off the side of my (unlaced) shoe and I’ve twisted my ankle. Badly. Oh the irony. Hiking all over the world, through the jungle, up volcanoes in the dark, over glaciers, in howling gales, down narrow slippery mountain paths, and I twist my ankle on a perfectly smooth flat carpeted floor.
The next day we decide I need to go to Emergency. I’m told the sprain is so bad that I have an avulsion fracture – the strain on the tendon was so severe that instead of the tendon breaking it snapped off a piece of bone where the tendon is attached to it. Oh joy. Still a broken bone heals quicker than a broken tendon. I’m offered a splint and crutches for free or an air-cast boot for which we have to pay $180. I opt for the boot grateful we can do that. At least with the boot I’ll still be able to walk. Nothing is said about whether I have to wear the boot overnight or not. The doctor kind of dismisses the injury saying it will heal itself in a couple of weeks. I’m too dazed to mention that I understand it takes six weeks for bone fractures to heal.
My family doctor assures me that yes I must wear the boot overnight. It is agony. The boot creates searing pain on the non-injured side of my ankle. The boot creates infinitely more pain than the injury does. Especially when lying down. We buy some large corn pads to put over the anklebone that’s taking all the pressure. I have a mild allergic reaction to the glue on the pads: the pain gets worse. After a couple of days I return to my family doctor hoping I can get a splint or a cast to replace the boot. He said I need to go back to the hospital for that. We spend another few hours in Emergency to finally get the best news ever. It takes eight days and talking to three different doctors to get some clarity. The doctor shows me the x-ray. She assures me it is a very very very stable fracture. I do not need the boot. I certainly do not need to sleep in it. I am now getting around with crutches and walking a little, very carefully. I’m hopeful that it will all heal itself within the next couple of weeks. And how lucky that it happened in Vancouver where we plan to stay put for a few months and not while we were travelling.
So what’s it really about? Issues to do with ageing and body image. I knew I wasn’t done with both, but stubbornly refused to look at where I was holding on and in resistance. So the Universe sent me a two-by-four. If I can’t exercise I’ll gain weight. If I get old I’ll become less agile, less mobile, and gain weight. If I get old, and if I’m not skinny, I’ll be less respected. Seriously. The insidious teachings of our society were lodged deep in my psyche. I was completely brainwashed. Skinny and young is acceptable. Anything else is less than. No matter that I have close friends and family members who are less than perfect in this way (chuckle) and who I adore and don’t give a toss about their age or their size. This was all about me trying to be good enough.
A clarity arose that I am embarrassed to admit. I finally get it that being old does not diminish me as a person. Being ‘overweight’ (whatever that means) does not diminish me as a person. I finally get it. Since we began this journey I’ve gained about twenty pounds. I think. I don’t weigh myself but I know my clothes no longer fit me. Time to go shopping.
And another belief that was thrust unbidden into the light of consciousness: the bigger the drama and the bigger the suffering then the bigger the benefit in terms of personal evolution. As Don said after I received the good news from the third doctor – I guess you’ve cried enough. Amen to that. Time to practice another of our mantras: let it be easy.
Photo of the day: At the entrance to Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.