I’ve been off this page for a couple weeks; I'm not the "good" kind of blogger that has a library of prewritten scheduled posts. I broke my arm and it has set me behind in many things. It wasn’t a bad break, not the kind that requires surgery and pins and weeks of physical therapy. It didn’t even require a cast. But I didn’t know that when I fell. The degree that it hurt and the way it wouldn’t move gave me the message that this indeed could be bad.
In the spirit of being vulnerable with readers of this blog, I’ll tell you I felt scared as I walked home with the fresh break, the arm that was whole cradling the arm that was wounded; scared as my husband drove me to the emergency room; scared as the radiology technician positioned my arm for X-rays. It wasn’t so much that I was afraid of a broken arm as I was afraid of what I imagined lurked behind the broken arm: the weeks of not being able to work, which mean for a freelancer no sick days and no income, missing deadlines and failing clients; the potential for another crisis to come on the heels of the break, which I'd be less able to handle given the break-related limitations. An Ebola outbreak, for example! While waiting for Vicodin to take effect, why not imagine the worst? I could fall again and break the other arm. I remembered my son’s wrist break that required three surgeries to fix. Irrational fears but fears nonetheless.
I’m old enough that I’ve gone through plenty of other difficult times that more reasonably warranted fear and from which I’ve learned the lessons of coping. I’m grounded sufficiently in faith and experience that I should long ago have learned the basis of courage for every situation. But the arm broke and I felt overwhelmed with potential consequence and became afraid.
The next day, assured of no surgery and with the arm neatly immobilized in a fiberglass splint and that oh-so-effective painkiller in my bloodstream, I felt more relaxed. I dipped into a book on my reading stack. Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor. I didn’t make it far into the book (painkillers make you sleepy), but the part I read was enormously helpful and made me feel not so bad about the fear I had felt. It linked “practice” with fear.
Taylor describes how fearful actual darkness can be to walk in, literally, and how for many of us, in our current lifestyles and neighborhoods, we have little experience walking in the pitch dark. She asks, “How do we develop the courage to walk in the dark if we are never asked to practice?” Here, of course, is her transition to darkness as metaphor for the feared unknown. We need to practice walking where we feel fear, practice walking into the unknown.
Practice implies imperfection. There is no requirement to be brave at every turn. We are broken and get afraid, and it is time again to practice walking anyway.