Speed limited

Over two months ago I was rushing into the study and missed. I kicked the door frame so hard I was pretty sure I had broken my toe. Fortunately it was not nearly as sore as I expected the next morning, so I ignored it and continued hurtling about. Around the same time I was suffering from a heat rash caused by the intense summer heat and a lack of air conditioning in my workplace, so I reluctantly put both the running and the cycling on hold for a while.

During the Easter holidays I attempted to start running again and discovered that my toe was distinctly unimpressed with the idea. Once term 2 began I resumed riding to work and taking the kids to school in our beloved Christiania bike, which together with all the standing and rushing about I do at work, began to take its toll. My foot began to get increasingly sore, and a little poking and prodding indicated that it wasn’t so much the toe as the second metatarsal – the bone in the foot that connects directly to the toe. And it hurt.

Nonetheless, I kept telling myself that there wasn’t much to be done about a foot – that it would simply take its time to heal, and I didn’t have time to see a physiotherapist anyway. During the holidays a friend gave me a hard time about not getting it checked out, and as the pain grew to the point where it was beginning to impact on both my temper and my day, I decided it was time to seek professional advice.

Today I finally saw a physio, who poked and prodded the foot until it was howling in protest (I managed to contain my howls, but I have been appallingly sooky ever since), and said if it didn’t respond to her prodding by Saturday I would need an x-ray. Her opinion was that it is probably a hairline fracture, and I may need crutches for a while, in order to keep the pressure off the toe.

Slow down, you crazy child
you’re so ambitious for a juvenile
but then if you’re so smart, tell me why are you still so afraid?
Where’s the fire? What’s the hurry about?
You’d better cool it off before you burn it out.
You’ve got so much to do and only so many hours in the day, hey hey.
Vienna, Billy Joel

Suddenly my hurtling is under threat. Even this afternoon, pre x-ray and sans crutches, my foot has been sore enough that I have been choosing to sit still more and dash about less. I am trying to picture my working day – typically characterised by a fair bit of rushing around classrooms, a lot of leaping up and down stairs, and a whole heap of zooming about – curtailed by crutches. For starters, I don’t see how I’m going to manage getting my essential cup of tea into my classrooms. I think I’ll have to get my students to design some kind of anti-gravity tea carrying device. Perhaps I can use the same device to attach my crutches to the side of my bike while I ride to work.

If I am lucky I won’t actually need the crutches, and the foot will sort itself out given time. But perhaps there is something to be learned from my visions of life in foot-protection mode. I’ve spent a lot of this year moving at such high speed that I have failed to notice the world around me. On the bright side that doesn’t give me time to fret about things outside my control, but it also leaves me rather breathless and permanently stressed, with a worse memory even than the string bag I pretended was a mind when I was pregnant.

Ironically, one of the ways I have tried to combat this is using the mindfulness technique of “feeling your feet”, whereby you concentrate on feeling the sensations of your feet and toes as they press against your shoes. How Fate must be laughing. But despite the pain in my foot, feeling my feet is still a good idea. Living in the moment, and such skills as breathing and sitting still, have never been my strengths, but perhaps my foot can remind me that it’s worth slowing down a little to smell the roses from time to time. Or at least to miss the doorway.

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