Last week, I smashed my finger in the sliding door of my minivan. It was late. I was tired. All I wanted to do was to get home from work as soon as possible. It happened so fast: I hoisted my rolling case into the van and slammed the door; I felt the pinch and reflexively jerked my right hand. I thought I’d had a narrow escape until I reached out to open the driver’s door and saw the blood on my middle finger. And my life, which had been buzzing along at 60 miles per hour, rapidly decelerated to an agonizing crawl.
Dogged by a policeman who switched on deafening sirens of pain at almost every turn, nothing I did was simple or automatic any more. Pick up my purse–no! Pick up my purse with my left hand. Get the car key–no! Gently place the purse straps over my right forearm, extract the key with my left hand. Transfer purse to left arm. Gently grasp the key using ONLY the right thumb and index finger and VERY CAREFULLY turn the ignition switch.
An unwilling disciple, I was forced to practice the discipline of intention. Every action now required forethought and my complete attention, which meant no hurrying, no rushing. I first had to figure out if I could use my right hand for a particular task. If the answer was “yes”, then all movements had to be careful and precise to minimize any movement or strain to my middle finger. If the answer was “no”, then a great deal of concentration was required in order for my left hand to accomplish the task successfully. I felt like a 5-year old, awkwardly maneuvering my toothbrush around my mouth as I brushed my teeth left-handed.
In brief moments of maturity, I admitted to myself that there was a certain peace in focusing solely on the task at hand (no pun intended). I could even see how this way of intentionally moving through life would be pleasurable, if it weren’t for the pain (which was fairly constant those first two days). But there’s the rub–if I’m honest, I admit that the pain is what compels me to this more peaceful pace; I would not choose it for it’s own sake. I know this because the more my finger has healed, the more I find myself slipping into a faster pace of doing things. And in my current phase of the healing process where the injury hurts less, but I am still unable to do certain tasks, I find myself frustrated and impatient.
Rather than being grateful that I was able to return to work yesterday, I was annoyed at my limitations and unhappy with having to modify nearly all the movements I normally do fluidly. “Yes, I’m working, but this isn’t how I want to be working,” I mentally griped, “I don’t like doing it this way.” So ultimately, this speed bump in my life has drawn sharp attention to this grace I have yet to master–embracing the good in life as it is, instead of obsessing over what I wish it would be.
“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”
— Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl