Gratitude and a Broken Elbow

Posted by on November 22, 2020

Gratitude and a Broken Elbow

Every year I write a blog about gratitude in November. This year it seemed especially important, with my right elbow in a post-surgery splint and sling…

On election night, I stepped on a stick, rolled my ankle, fell onto my knee, and then caught all of my weight on my right hand. The result was a dislocated, fractured elbow – an injury known as “the terrible triad.”

Since then, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks. Learning to navigate the day with my left hand has been frustrating and something of a comedy routine. It goes like this: open the refrigerator door with left hand, go back to counter and pick up container, go back to fridge to find the door closed. Walk back to the counter and set the container down again. Go back and open the fridge…

I’m not sure that I ever realized what a beautiful ballet our hands do all day long. Sometimes they’re both doing the same thing; for example, taking the turkey out of the oven. But often, they’re doing different things while still working together, like the left hand opening the refrigerator, while the right hand returns a container to the shelf. It’s an amazing dance that I hadn’t noticed and have taken for granted — just as I take for granted the coordination and grace of my right hand.

I have gotten better at feeding myself with my left hand (although I noticed dried grains of rice stuck to a shirt I put in the laundry the other day). My writing has not gotten better. It’s also a struggle to open containers of all kinds, to get contact lenses out of my right eye, and using plastic wrap is simply not an option.

In addition, everything takes a little longer. I’ve had to slow way down. Sometimes I just stand for a moment to think through if I can even do a thing with just one hand. In that slowing down, I’ve gotten really present. I can only do one thing at a time. And sometimes, I can’t even do that!

I’ve had to accept a lot of help. That isn’t easy for me; I’m used to being independent and self-sufficient. Now I can’t drive or grocery shop alone. I need help to wash my hair, to cook dinner, to change the sheets on the bed – again, every day things I’ve been taking for granted.

So while I wouldn’t choose a broken elbow to cap off 2020, I will say that I am grateful for all of the lessons. For a healthy and healing body that I am no longer taking for granted. For the slowing down and being present. And for all the help, support, understanding and love I’ve received.

And if you want a different kind of gratitude exercise, try this: use your non-dominant hand for daily tasks for the next hour or two!

Wishing you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

p.s. As always, your comments are welcome on this post at

p.p.s. If you’d like more thoughts on gratitude, here is last year’s blog, which contains links to the previous five years of gratitude posts: