thankful

At some point during recovery, I was assured that I would "100 percent" be off crutches and walking without a limp by the holidays. This was more daunting than it sounds: for months, every time I tried to drop my crutches and walk from point A to point B, I leaned so heavily on my right leg that it was actually impossible for me to walk standing straight up. Instead, I craned so far to the side that I was almost parallel to the ground.

So, the holidays became my metric. By the holidays, I would be able to walk normally again, they reassured me. Something I'd once taken for granted became a tease, a prize, a glimmering hope just slightly out of reach. I thought by the holidays, not only would I be walking, I'd be normal. For most of 2016, I walked through life in a haze. I smiled, said the right things, made my doctors' appointments, cycled through physical therapy, but inside, I felt as if I was continually screaming. It was strange for me when people treated me as if nothing was strange - they couldn't see the giant hole in my chest? The pain thrilling every nerve ending, every memory, every moment?

I'd be back to normal by the holidays, the doctors told me, and I took it as gospel. I'd be myself again, I thought. It would be almost a blank slate, as if 2016 hadn't done such a number on me that I'd had to remind myself every morning for months that getting out of bed was necessary.

As has happened many times this year, I now know I was naive. I will never, ever be the same again. But I'm thankful for that.

Thursday was a day to spend surrounded by loved ones (and food), reflecting about what you are thankful for. It felt weightier this year, more meaningful. I volleyed from a family meal to one of my best friend's garages, surrounded by people that make me laugh more than anyone else in the world, drinking beer late into the night. And I was so thankful.

I am thankful for many things this year : I am thankful that my joint healed. I am thankful for medical insurance. I am thankful for my parents, who literally showered me, clothed me, combed my hair, helped me to the bathroom, helped me to eat, helped me to sit up, helped me to move and helped me learn how to live again. I am thankful for friends. I am thankful for grief counseling. I am thankful for trips and sunsets and good wine and eating too much food. I am thankful that I am running again.

But I'm thankful for bigger things, too. I'm thankful that I will forever be a different person. I cry more easily now - quick to tear up, as if there's an untapped reserve. I laugh more. I advocate for myself more. I'm learning to tell people that I need time alone, when I'm having a bad day, when I just need a break. I've learned to take absolutely nothing for granted : not your health, not your body and definitely not the people that you love. I've learned to tell people how important they are to me, to spend as much time as I can with the people who make my heart feel as if it may swell out of my chest.

And I've learned how strong I am. Physically, yes - I'm thankful that I've returned to running, to strength training, to all activity. But also mentally. I've learned that my heart can break, that I can lose someone special and precious to me, and then, immediately after, can be confined to a bed after a devastating accident - and I can survive.

2016 will always be with me. It is a year that has forever altered my life, that will send shockwaves through 2017 and 2018 and years beyond. It was a terrible, awful, wrenchingly painful year. Yet it's taught me much. Every minute, every laugh, every smile with friends, I don't take for granted. My life is filled with greater happiness and love than I ever realized. That, I think, is reason enough to be thankful.