"Though your life felt arduous/ new and unmapped and strange. . ."

I’m talking to you, 2012. You were a long and hard year for so many of those I love. You felt helpless and horrifying at times. And you are almost over.

I’m thinking about the smallness of human life. The smallness of my life. Of this year. The smallnesses are what I remember.

Like the sound of my sister’s laugh on the other end of the phone that night when she called me back after I left her that long message.

Like the night I was playing dirty word Bananagrams with my daughter and an old friend and they both called PEEL at the same time for the same dirty word.

There was a morning in February that I ran on a deserted beach while dolphins kept pace with me fifty feet from shore.

There was a night in May that I spent sitting on the couch with someone I adore, drinking limoncello and youtubing classic songs from our youth.

There’s the fact that I can send out a smoke signal to my other sister and she will call within an hour, saying Got your smoke signal. What’s up?

There was the day I found those beautiful, vintage, handmade boots at Experienced Goods in Brattleboro and I tried them on and couldn’t take them off even long enough to fork over the $8 at the cash register.

There was the night last summer when I danced late one night to every single song –yes, even the Hokey Pokey, thanks Stinky– from that crowd-sourced dance mix.

There was that night at the open-air restaurant by a faraway sea with my daughters, candles flickering on the wooden tables. There was that perfect Greek salad and seafood from the sea a few feet away.

And that maitre d’ who kept smiling at the three of us and sending over treats: little glasses of ouzo, stuffed grape leaves, a plate of chocolate cake.

There was a pillar at an airport, a pillar I leaned against while waiting for someone, and there was that familiar and enormous swell of love when the someone I was waiting for got off the plane.

There were nine circuits around the dog park on a 2 degree day because the dog was so happy to be out there, and how could I let him down?

There was the night I stood in line for pie at a community play in my hometown and felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see my high school friend, unglimpsed in over thirty years, and I flashed back to slow-dancing with him late one night when we were 17, and the Denny’s breakfast that followed, and I remembered thinking, that long-ago night, What a great guy he is, and there he was, and I could see right away that he was still a great guy, and we hugged each other and smiled and smiled.

There was the afternoon I sat down and wrote a thank-you note, an actual thank-you note, to my brother because he is so damn funny and he makes me laugh so hard.

There were the tiny blue and yellow Italian pottery cups that came with that bottle of limoncello.

There is the ongoing fact that even though my grandmother has been gone for so many years now, I still talk to her every day. I still feel her presence, like the electricity inside the walls of my house. Invisible, and everywhere.

There is the handleless handmade coffee mug that I have to keep circling in my hands so that my fingers don’t burn but which I use every morning anyway because there’s something about it that feels exactly right.

There was Big Fat Bacon on a Stick at the state fair with my friends Stinky and J.O.

There was the day I sat down to write a blog about my best friend and I didn’t know where to start, because she is threaded throughout my entire life, and where do you begin?

There was the gratitude –what would I do without her?– and the panic –what would I do without her?

There was that day out on a run, stopping at a bridge to look down, far down at the river below, and all those bright kayaks lined up in a row on the dark water, and I couldn’t stop looking at them, remembering my living-with-cancer-for-many-years-now friend’s comment on how she can hardly stand going to the Farmer’s Market anymore, because “the colors knock my socks off,” and I knew exactly how she felt.

There was the afternoon that my quiet student, after reading aloud his strange, unearthly and beautiful-in-an-ugly way piece of writing to the class, looked over and met my eyes while everyone else’s head was still bent, and there was me nodding so that he would feel the Yes that I was trying to send to him, and there was the relief in his eyes when he got my silent Yes.

There was the night I went to see my father pretending to be crazy King George in a community play and I watched him, in his long white ruffled shirt and his rolled-up and safety-pinned black pants and his moth-eaten velvet robe, and I was so glad that sometimes in life, you get to live long enough so that everything gets worked through, gets left behind, gets washed away, so that there’s only one thing left, and that one thing is this: love.

Yup, I’m talking to you, 2012, here on the last day of a long hard year in the still-young years of a century whose end I won’t be here to see. Those moments above are a few of the millions of moments that I remember from you.

I’m marking you, 2012, acknowledging you, so that tonight, at 12:01 a.m., the world will be new again.

And we will all have yet another chance.

What would it mean to live
in a city whose people were changing
each other’s despair into hope? –
You yourself must change it. –
what would it feel like to know your country was changing? –
You yourself must change it. –
Though your life felt arduous
new and unmapped and strange
what would it mean to stand on the first
page of the end of despair?

Poem of the Week, by Yehuda Amichai (tr. by Chana Bloch)

A Quiet Joy
– Yehuda Amichai (translated by Chana Bloch)

I’m standing in a place where I once loved.
The rain is falling. The rain is my home.
I think words of longing: a landscape
out to the very edge of what’s possible.
I remember you waving your hand
as if wiping mist from the windowpane,
and your face, as if enlarged
from an old blurred photo.
Once I committed a terrible wrong
to myself and others.
But the world is beautifully made for doing good
and for resting, like a park bench.
And late in life I discovered
a quiet joy
like a serious disease that’s discovered too late:
just a little time left now for quiet joy.


For more information on Yehuda Amichai, please click here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/yehuda-amichai

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Poem of the Week, by Gary Johnson

December
– Gary Johnson

A little girl is singing for the faithful to come ye
Joyful and triumphant, a song she loves,
And also the partridge in a pear tree
And the golden rings and the turtle doves.
In the dark streets, red lights and green and blue
Where the faithful live, some joyful, some troubled,
Enduring the cold and also the flu,
Taking the garbage out and keeping the sidewalk shoveled.
Not much triumph going on here—and yet
There is much we do not understand.
And my hopes and fears are met
In this small singer holding onto my hand.
Onward we go, faithfully, into the dark
And are there angels singing overhead? Hark.



For more information on Gary Johnson, please click here: http://www.amazon.com/Head-Trauma-Sonnets-Other-Poems/dp/0595403387

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Poem of the Week (excerpt), by Hafiz

Tired of Speaking Sweetly (excerpt)
– Hafiz

Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
break all our teacup talk of God.

If you had the courage and
could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
he would just drag you around the room
by your hair,
ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
that bring you no joy.

Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
and wants to rip to shreds
all your erroneous notions of truth

that make you fight within yourself, dear one,
and with others,

causing the world to weep
on too many fine days.

God wants to manhandle us,
lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
and practice His dropkick.

The Beloved sometimes wants
to do us a great favor:

hold us upside down
and shake all the nonsense out.



For more information on Hafiz, please click here: http://www.poetseers.org/the-poetseers/hafiz/

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"Ni hao" (on teaching, another in a series)

You’ve always loved this drawing. One of your students gave it to you long ago, when you quit your teaching job at South High School. It was his parting gift to you. His name was Binh, which means “peace” in Vietnamese, and he had emigrated to the U.S. when he was a baby.

Binh was a quiet person and he carried himself with deep confidence. You remember the first time you ever saw him, in your Chinese I classroom. He sat in the middle of the rows of desks, his black hair falling sharply over one eye. I bet he’s a dancer, you remember thinking. That was the grace with which he carried himself.

He’s one of many students that you remember from those days, faces that occasionally surface in your mind. You wonder where he is, if he went on to art school. When you think of Binh, you always picture him living on the California coast, in a beach town like Venice, Santa Monica even. It wouldn’t surprise you at all if he were a famous artist now.

The drawing Binh made for you has moved with you everywhere you’ve moved since those long-ago teaching days. It was one of the few things you took with you during a stage of great upheaval over a decade ago. You’ve pounded nails into, let’s see, four walls in four different apartments and houses in the intervening years, in order to hang the drawing so your eyes could fall on it every day.

You think of it as your little Chinese girl.

“Go take a photo of my little Chinese girl, will you?” you said the other day to your youthful companion, pointing to your broken leg. She obligingly trudged upstairs and took the photo.

Your little Chinese girl hangs right now on an upstairs living room wall, just above a desk that you bought at a garage sale and painted orange. On the desk sits a lamp, also bought at a garage sale, and in front of the desk sits an office chair on wheels, which you found on the curb and rolled three blocks to your house. Whenever you walk into that room you look over and say nihao to the little Chinese girl.

She’s looking up at her teacher. She’s wearing a puffy padded Chinese jacket. You imagine it’s winter where she is, and her school is unheated. Her teacher, whose arm and hand are all that’s visible of her, stands in front of the little girl’s desk. She too is wearing a quilted jacket. Their breath plumes into the cold air of the schoolroom.

You feel simultaneously cold and warm every time you look at the little Chinese girl, and every time you look at her, you think of Binh. You picture him as he was in your classroom, how perfect his written Chinese characters were, as perfectly formed as the letters he wrote in English, all in capitals, darkly pencilled on sheets of lined notebook paper.

Other gifts from students can be seen in every room of your house. There’s a heavy brass oversize Chinese fortune cookie on a shelf in the kitchen. A Hmong tapestry over the back of a chair. A handmade black choker with little silver beads hanging from it. A bracelet of small, painted circles that looks, to your eye, like an art gallery taken down from its walls, miniaturized, and strung on elastic.

When you wear that bracelet, people remark on it. They reach out to touch it, turn and twist the tiny paintings. It’s an irresistibly touchable bracelet.

You weren’t much older than your oldest students when you first got that job at South High. (You would later learn that you were only a couple of years older than the very oldest, those who didn’t have a birth certificate and who had stated their ages as young enough, when they emigrated, so that they could go to school. So that they could learn English, learn to read, get an education. Get the tools they needed to get a job.)

Because you hadn’t ever intended to teach, you had never taken education classes or done any sort of student teaching. All you had to go on, by way of teaching, was the teaching that you yourself had experienced, and at that point in your life, two teachers from your past stood out.

One was your high school English teacher, Mrs. Watson, who had eaten a zinnia during your senior year Great Books class during a discussion of the five senses and their importance in literature.

You and your friends had all watched in stupefied fascination as she put the zinnia in her mouth and chewed it up and swallowed it. It was as if you could feel that zinnia going down your own throat, taste the sun and summer air and green livingness of it.

The other teacher was your college Chinese teacher, Bai Laoshi. He was the reason you declared your major to be East Asian Studies/Chinese. He was a magnetic teacher whose presence filled any room he walked into. You still remember the first day of Chinese 101, freshman year in college, sitting around a big table with 15 or so other students. A man with a big nose strode into the room and looked each of you in the eye.

Nimen hao!” he barked.

In your memory, you all sat straight up, frozen with attention, and the class progressed from there. Chinese 101 met every single morning from 8-9 and every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon from 2-4:30. Next day, the second day of class, seven students remained.

You had many other good teachers and lots of mediocre ones, but those two –Mrs. Watson and Bai Laoshi— were the ones who were burned into your brain. It made sense to try to be like them, didn’t it?

But you couldn’t. Right from the start, you knew that. This was long before you understood the now-tired definitions of an extrovert as someone who’s energized by a party and an introvert as someone who’s drained by one, but instinctively you knew that you were no Bao Laoshi, nor were you going to eat a zinnia.

Over the years you’ve thought a lot about teaching. It seems to you that at heart there are two kinds of teachers, those who hold the students, every student, to their own standard and personality, and those who have an unspoken, intuitive give-and-take with each individual student.

The first kind of teacher is like the big circle in geometry that holds all the subsets within; this teacher’s personality and standards and beliefs are unbending, and students rise (or don’t rise) to meet them. The teacher does not change her teaching style; the students conform to it.

The second kind of teacher is a line, a force, that connects many different, contained subsets. She is always attuned to the individual forces –forces comprised of all the facets of an individual student’s personality, home life, work life, and physical being– at work in the classroom. She responds instinctively to these forces, subtly, almost imperceptibly, altering her teaching style for each student.

(It just occurred to you that maybe this is a better definition of extroversion and introversion than the party-effect definition.)

These teaching types translate to personality type. There’s no right or wrong, there’s just the way it is.

You are the second type of personality; you are the instinctive, intuitive, alterative teacher and person. Sometimes, as you go through your days, it feels as if your hands are full of many invisible strands of thread, and you’re weaving, weaving, weaving, invisibly weaving everything together.

This kind of person, the intuitive teacher, has to learn how to handle the on-on-on-ness of teaching. You are a person who hates being still, but your first few months of teaching at South High, you would come home after school and lie on the couch, unable to move. Every cell in your body would tremble invisibly under the on-on-on-ness of what those days were like.

“Five classes a day, five days a week,” is the mantra you chant now, whenever you’re talking with a high school teacher, or with someone who used to teach high school. “Hardest job I ever had.”

(Constitutionally, you’re much better suited to college teaching, which is what you do now, part-time in the fall. Classes that meet once or twice a week for looooong stretches of time, four hours in a single block, suit your personality.)

After you lay (laid? had lain?) on the couch you would haul yourself up and out the door, to tromp around Lake Calhoun until your muscles and heart and mind had been hypnotized into calm. Sometimes you walked around the lake once, twice, three times before that happened.

Next morning you would get up at 4:30 to write your stories before heading to school at 6:30 and do it all over again. Sitting here, typing this out, you once again feel the familiar rush of admiration and disbelief at the job that high school teachers, middle school teachers, elementary school teachers do day after day, month after month, year after year. They are astonishing human beings.

Back to Binh, and the other students in those classes: Chinese I. Chinese II. Chinese III-IV.

It didn’t take too long before you figured out that you, being you, could power-teach only three days a week. Power-teaching meant standing up in front of the class, writing on the board, turning and explaining words and phrases and grammar to the students. Laughing, chatting, making sure that they were all focused, as much as you possibly could.

Your close friend at South, another teacher, loved that phrase.

“Power teaching!” he used to say. “I power taught today.”

He would be proud of himself for power teaching. But the reality was that this particular man was capable of power teaching every day, and he did. He had the ability just to keep going without feeling his battery drain and drain and drain. He did not go home and lie on the couch trembling, then haul himself around the lake like a robot.

On one of the two days that you couldn’t power-teach you quizzed the students or had them perform plays or presentations that they created.

The other day, Friday, you either showed a movie that was in Chinese or had something to do with China –social policy, rural life, Chinese cooking, music, opera, taijichuan— or read aloud to the students.

Reading aloud to them was your favorite time of the week. You sat on your desk and they stretched out in their chairs or on the floor, on the big corduroy pillows you kept in a big heap in the corner of the room. All the garage-sale lamps were on and the overhead fluorescence was off.

Something you loved about teaching Chinese was that no one had to take it, which meant that each class could have anyone in it, any sort of student from any one of the many programs offered at the school. Fridays, when you looked up from the book and out at the class, hockey players and honor society members and swimmers and kids who held down full-time jobs after school and at night were all together, quiet and listening.

In the lamplight, all their faces were so young. So beautiful. You see them all now, in your memory. Where are you now, Binh and Sally and Ravi and Brian?

Iron and Silk, by Mark Salzman, was your favorite read-aloud. This is a book about Salzman’s two years living in Changsha and teaching English there, told in vignettes, lovely little three- and four-page snippets of life, each one funny and soulful and charming. The students loved it, and so did you.

Sometimes, even years later, you would see some of them in the hall, carrying their own copies of that book.

Sort of like right now, when you look around your house and see all those gifts, treasured over many years.

“We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.” (On teaching, the first in a series.)

The classroom was square and windowless, with white cinder block walls and overhead fluorescent lighting. Six rows of six chairs each filled most of the space, with my gray, regulation-size desk facing them. Behind my desk was a tall filing cabinet. A blackboard covered the wall next to me, a real blackboard with real chalk.

This was a long time ago.

I remember it perfectly. I can still feel what it felt like to walk in there every morning at 6:30 a.m., what it felt like to prop my legs up on the desk, what the buzzer that ripped through our eardrums at the end of every hour sounded like.

I had just moved to Minneapolis from Boston, where I had made enough money to support my life as a writer –meaning enough money to pay the rent on my one-small-room apartment, buy a pumpkin muffin every morning from the market down the street and go to matinee double features at the Harvard Square Cinema– by typing papers for Harvard and MIT students.

Charles Street Typing. $1/page. Quick turnaround. One block from the Charles St. T stop.

This was in many ways a great way to make a living if you were trying to be a writer. Make your own schedule. Get up early, write your own stories, then type other people’s papers. Get paid in cash and checks. I made so little money that I didn’t even have to file income taxes.

When I moved to Minneapolis, all this went away. There was no paper-typing market in Minneapolis, there were no lucrative temp jobs. How was I going to support my writing? I answered an ad in the paper for a part-time community liaison job at South High School. I didn’t get the job, no surprise, seeing as I had no idea what a community liaison did, nor did I know anything about either South High School or Minneapolis in general. I had moved there a few weeks earlier; it took me half the morning just to find the place, given its strange all-numbers address, so typical of Minneapolis.

But the school must have read my quickly-thrown-together resume, which listed my college major as East Asian Studies/Chinese, because they called me a few weeks later to offer me a two-week job substituting for the Chinese teacher, who was going to be out of town.

I accepted. Why not?

Those two weeks are a blur. I don’t remember anything specific about them; I had geared myself up for ten straight days teaching Chinese according to the regular teacher’s lesson plans, and then: Goodbye. Or, as we say in Chinese, zaijian.

But  it turned out that the regular teacher was actually moving to California, and the two-week substitute-teaching job was actually a full-time regular teaching job, and did I want it? This was an odd turn of events and I still, after all these years, don’t fully understand how it came about. The best explanation I can come up with is that the regular teacher loved her job and her students so much that she couldn’t face the fact that she would not be returning.

This makes sense to me, because it took only a month or so in that interior, windowless, cinder-block classroom for me to love those students too. I stayed for four years in that job, a job that was handed to me unexpectedly and that I never would have applied for.

Writer. That was the only thing I ever wanted to be, and it still is. Ask me what I am, what I do, and the only answer you’ll get is “I’m a writer.” It still and always takes me a while to remember that I also teach.

(Teaching is not an “also,” though. Teaching is a more important job, for the good of the world, than writing. It might be the most important job there is. This is something I know in my gut. Knowing it doesn’t make me less of a writer or more of a teacher; it’s a fact that I hold in my hands and heart.)

South High School, back then and still, was a cross-section of the big city of Minneapolis. Some kids who lived in the neighborhood went there because it was their community school. Some went because they were part of an “Open” program (it was easy to tell who the Open students were because of the happiness they took in questioning authority). Some went to South because they had babies and toddlers and they were part of the MICE (Mothers and Infants Childhood Education) program. Others were there because South had a Partnership program, designed to keep kids in serious danger of dropping out, kids with serious family difficulties, kids who often had serious difficulties with the law, in school and on track to graduate. Other students were there for the Arts & Humanities magnet program.

The student body was, and is to this day, representative of all races, economic classes, family backgrounds. Any and all of these children could, and did, take Mandarin; Chinese I, II, and III-IV were electives, part of an international language program that at the time included German, French, Spanish, Latin and Chinese.

Many of my students were first- or second-generation immigrants from Southeast Asia: Hmong, Vietnamese or Laotian, for the most part, with a few Chinese kids who spoke Cantonese (as opposed to Mandarin, which I taught) at home.

This was my first experience with Hmong culture and history. I had no idea until then that the U.S. hired Hmong men in the mountains of Laos as guerrilla fighters before and during the Vietnam war. I had no idea that after the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam, these men and their families were in danger of their lives. I had no idea that, when offered asylum in the U.S., they ended up in Minnesota and California because that was where churches sponsored them.

All this was new to me. But everything was new to me: Minneapolis, teaching, and especially teaching Chinese. I was teaching myself how to teach as much as I was teaching the students Chinese.

Three images come shimmering up every time I think back to that classroom.

Lighting. The windowless room had overhead caged fluorescent tubes that buzzed and cast that eerie pallor over everyone’s face. Fluorescent lighting is horrible for many reasons, including its ugliness and the eyestrain it causes, so the first thing I did, when I got that job, was buy lots of lamps at garage sales and plug them in with extension cords (probably breaking fire code). We turned the lamps on and the overhead off, and the room was lit with soft, warm incandescence.

Pillows. The floor of our classroom was covered with thin, tough, ugly industrial tan carpet. I had an old green sewing machine that I found at a thrift shop, the one that I still sew on, come to think of it, and I made a bunch of big pillows out of corduroy in brown and red and ochre and orange. They were heaped in a pile in a corner and the students were free to haul them out and sit or lean on them when they worked on projects or assignments.

Dark brown eyes. These are the eyes of my students, the immigrant students who wanted to take Chinese because it was closest to the languages spoken in their homes. Vue* and May and Thuyen and Phuc and Hai, dark brown eyes and dark brown hair. After a while, some of them began to come in to the classroom during lunch, or after school, and stand in front of the desk or sit in the chair I kept next to it, and talk. Their stories are with me still.

That high school classroom was my teaching crucible. What I learned in it, about teaching, about observing, about connection, about being a human being, has stayed with me my entire life.

(To be continued. *All names and identifying characteristics have been and will be changed.)

Poem of the Week, by Edward Hirsch

My Father’s Track and Field Medal, 1932
– Edward Hirsch

Cup the tarnished metal in your palm.
Look closely and you’ll see a squirrel
scampering up a beech-wood in the forest.
You’ll see a cardinal flaming in the branches.
You’ll see a fleet-footed antelope racing
through the woods ahead of the hunters.


For more information on Edward Hirsch, please click here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/edward-hirsch

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13 Ways of Looking at a Broken Leg

I. Falling is never as bad as the anticipation of falling. It happens so quickly that there’s no time for fear or pain. One moment you’re walking down a little ramp that leads from one room of the bakery to another, the next you’re lying on the floor looking up at the ceiling.

II. When someone falls, it deeply disturbs something in the ones who witness it. They want you back on your feet immediately.

Are you okay? Here, give me your hand, I’ll help you up. Here, you put your arm under her shoulders and I’ll put my arm under her waist and we’ll pull her up.

Sit up as much as you can. Smile and put your hands over your right leg. “Thank you. But I’m just going to stay down here a little while.”

No, no, come on. Give me your hand. We’ll help you up. It was a little spill, that’s all. You’re fine.

Keep smiling. “I’m pretty sure it’s broken.”

No, no, no, it’s not broken! It was a tiny fall. If it were broken you’d be crying in pain.

Keep smiling. Shake your head until everyone droops back to their tables. After a while, take your boots off. Try to stand. Hop on one foot back to your table. Collect your things. Ask your Spanish-speaking friend, the one who’s there at dawn every morning sweeping, clearing tables, smiling, asking how you are, to help you to your car. Lean on his shoulder and hop on your left sock-footed leg.

III. Once in the car, realize that you’re going to have to drive two-footed. This will be a new experience. Bad leg on the gas, good leg on the brake. Surprisingly, this isn’t that hard.

IV. Park as close as you can to the Urgent Care entrance. Hop on one sock to the trunk of your car. Scrounge around for that extra-long windshield scraper thing you bought a couple of years ago. Aha! Pull it out and use it as a cane. Hop and windshield scraper-cane your way into Urgent Care. Use the scraper-cane to punch the automatic door opener button. Feel great happiness as the doors yawn open and stay open while you hop-scraper-cane your way in.

V. “What makes you think it’s broken? It’s not very swollen.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s broken.”

VI. Try to answer the question “On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever felt, what is your pain level right now?”

The worst pain you ever felt? Childbirth, just like a million other women. This is definitely not as bad as childbirth, so. . . 6? 7? Wait. Even childbirth had moments that didn’t hurt so bad, like when the contraction receded and you had a few seconds to regroup before the next one. And this doesn’t hurt all that much unless you try to stand on it, in which case it hurts way worse than . . . childbirth? So should you say “8” then? “9”? But you’re not putting any weight at all on it right now, you’re sitting in this wheelchair, so it doesn’t really hurt much. So. . . 3? Wait, maybe you should split the difference between 9 and 3. 6? Isn’t 6 what you started out with? Yes, it is.

“6.”

VII. “I have bad news. Your leg is broken.”

Smile and nod.

VIII. Stick the windshield scraper-cane down the sleeve of your coat and crutch yourself and your compression-booted broken leg back to your car. Start the car. Put the boot on the gas and listen in surprise as the gas roars and the brake clenches simultaneously. Realize that the boot covers both the gas and the brake. Take the boot off, which you have been told not to do until the broken leg heals. Drive to the orthopedic doctor/surgeon/specialty clinic with your broken-legged foot on the gas and your left foot on the brake. Drive home the same way.

Once home, realize that it is 100% dangerous to drive like that. Realize that you will not be able to drive until the broken leg is no longer broken and the boot/cast is off.

IX. With immediate, unquestioning and surprising calm, accept this new reality. Mentally shrug and think, Okay then. No driving. Cancel everything that requires you to be somewhere for the next two weeks except the class you teach. Figure out how to get to/from the class without driving.

Think: You have come a long way. You really don’t sweat the small stuff anymore, do you? Feel proud of yourself.

X. That night, almost fall as you let the dog out and in. Almost fall as you put the cat’s food down. Almost fall as you figure out how to get up the stairs. Think: Yikes, you better carry your phone with you everywhere, because what if you did fall and you couldn’t get up again? Remember the long-ago commercial about the woman who fell and couldn’t get up. Think: You can do this.

XI. Late at night, drink some whiskey and take a painkiller and lie in bed completely enjoying the silky blurry feeling traveling up and down your body.

XII. Three days later, hobble around your kitchen cleaning it up. Think: You are so lucky this didn’t happen in the beginning of summer. Think how miserable and pissy you’d be then. 

Use a crutch to haul the wastebasket closer. Think: You are so lucky that it was a clean break. No surgery. No pins and screws.

Use the backs of chairs as little springboards. Think: You are so lucky to have all these friends bringing food and offering to do the laundry and walk the dog and go grocery shopping and keep you company.

Lean against the sink for support. Think: You are so lucky that you knew it was broken even though everyone kept telling you it wasn’t. Imagine if you had just come home and iced it and then kept trying to walk on it.

Run the water until it’s extremely hot and then soap the sponge and hobble around on the crutches and scrub the table and all the counters. Think: This took you an hour and a half and it would usually take you 15 minutes.

Lean back on the crutches and admire the clean kitchen. Be flooded with a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. Think: When was the last time you felt this great about something you accomplished?

XIII. Think: What if you felt this good about something like a clean kitchen all the time?

Think: Maybe you could. Maybe you could choose to.