I broke my foot. The doctor’s office phoned at lunch yesterday to confirm Monday afternoon’s x-ray: I broke my foot.
I broke my foot about 10 days ago, actually, in Nova Scotia, falling down some dew-covered stairs in the dark. At the time, it hurt so much I nearly threw up, and when I stood I was incredibly dizzy and disoriented, but I really had to go pee and I was all alone in the dark on the grass so I kept walking another 200 meters or so to the camp bathroom. And when I got back to my cabin it hurt to even have the pressure of the lightweight sleeping back on it, so I stuck my foot out into the open air, and gritted my teeth for the hour or so until the pain subsided enough for me to sleep. I mean, people were sleeping, what was there to be done? The next day I clocked about 8500 steps. I let my friend Megan carry my luggage for me, out to the camp bus, and up and down the stairs at her house. My foot was comically swollen. I walked to Erin’s house and back. (WORTH IT–BISOUS BISOUS TO THE WONDERFUL ERIN WUNKER.) The next day, I walked around two airports, took the dog around the block. The day after that, I taught all day, on my feet, walking around the room to every student, every group work laptop, writing all over the boards. Later that week I walked to and from campus. Yeah, my foot hurt, and was weird colours and was swollen, but there were things to do, you know?
My partner and my sister eventually convinced me to go the doctor on Monday, after I’d insisted on a 5km walk on Sunday to clear my head: my toes bruised solid purple and the top of my foot turned an alarming green.
I should have sought medical attention the night I hurt my foot.
I didn’t, and probably, you wouldn’t, either. People kept suggesting it and I was like, but what’s the point? I can walk, I’m fine. I don’t have time for the appointment itself, let alone whatever nonsense convalescence anyone is going to recommend to me. Rest. Elevate. I laughed out loud when the doctor murmured rest-and-elevate, stay-off-your-fee, a big mean guffaw: BUT WHEN? I demanded, HOW? There’s a dog, and I teach, and what about the groceries, and my kid’s pickups and her lessons, and all the rest of it. I have an incredibly supportive partner, and the blessing of a sister in town, but I was really like, meh, I’ll just muscle through it.
There’s something in that, something about the contemporary academy and contemporary woman- or mother-hood. There’s no slack in the system: we break our feet and we keep walking, because we feel we have to, just to keep the system moving forward, but also, and importantly, because we just don’t want to be a bother to anyone.
We break our feet and keep walking.
There’s something in me that doesn’t want to listen to my own body: I wanted to start the term strong, teach my classes, keep my writing days, be the prof I want to be. The life of the mind, the knowledge professions, can be intensely alienating: our bodies are impediments that we appease in order to keep thinking, seamlessly, frictionless. There was no room in this narrative for a broken foot and so I edited that part out. My partner already does at least half of the child care and the house work and the emotional labour and I don’t want to burden him, so I carried my own weight. My sister has a family of her own and a demanding job: she doesn’t need to come walk my dog at lunch everyday so I hold the leash in my other hand and pretend that makes things easier. My own pigheadedness and refusal to acknowledge my own body’s reality is pretty impressive. My denial game is STRONG.
We break our feet and keep walking.
I’ve emailed my chair and department administrator and the occupational health and safety officer to let them know about my foot, and ask about parking accommodations. I’ve canceled my on-campus meetings today so I can stay home and type with my foot up high on the desk beside me. I’ve taken off my fitbit and put it in a drawer. My sister is coming at lunch. I feel really awful about asking for and accepting this help, this help I would gladly and unhesistatingly extend to friends and colleagues.
So I ask you, dear readers, beyond pig-headedness and heavy responsibilities and maybe some guilt, why, why, why do we keep on walking, alone, when our feet are broken? And how can we stop.
6 thoughts on “Hustle and no”
Our women friends/relatives/SOs will give us a lot of support IF WE ASK THEM. But we have to ask them because the image of all women is “the weaker sex”. And that image means that we walk on broken feet so men won’t belittle us.
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I’m not sure what you broke, but I broke my fifth metatarsal and tried to ignore it for some time.
Eventually I conceded it will not heal with constant aggravation and needed up in a walking air boot for 8 weeks.
Months later I continue to have severe pain off and on.
Take it seriously. See a podiatrist. Treat it well.
Arthritis in your feet is a lifelong problem!
I dislocated and fractured my kneecap and went back to teaching the next week. Leg brace, crutches, the works – couldn’t keep me from doing my job. While I think it was a stupid decision on my behalf (I never regained full range of motion & still have problems), I completely understand your comment about academia being the life of the mind, that our bodies are something we just drag along with us sometimes. We don’t give them the care or respect they deserve. Look after yourself as best you can, would be awful if it became a chronic problem.
I should have taken FMLA last semester when my divorce/custody situation began to take a toll on my mental health (my ex’s gf was stalking me, he was making wild allegations, I was in court every two weeks fighting nonsense, I had to sell my house to pay my lawyer). I didn’t. I begged my chair to be able to finish the semester online so as not to let anyone down. I am now teaching FOUR courses because of faculty reshuffling, the situation is not resolved, and I spend every day wondering how the hell I can get through this. I’ve put on 42 lbs through trying to be supermom, superprof, and supergirlfriend, when I should have said six months ago “I cannot keep going, I need a break, I need support”.
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