A recent accident in which I fractured my hip and became temporarily disabled, reminded me of an essay I wrote several years ago following a similar injury. I was visiting an old friend in Chicago when it happened. Just for fun he took out the accordion he used to play when we were young. And as he played, just for fun I started to dance like I used to when we were young. I rarely dance now, but as I glided around the room I felt the wonderful joy of moving my body to the rhythm of the music. I dance faster and faster until all of a sudden I tripped and collapsed in a heap on the floor. When I tried to stand up I realized that I had broken my foot.
Fortunately it was the New Year’s holiday season so I was able to rest and recuperate when I returned to my home near San Francisco. I had planned on hiking with a friend but had to call her and cancel. “Well, I guess that shows you that joy is not free, but has a price,” she said. “Yeah,” I answered “it sure does.”
I hung up the phone and thought about what she had said. We should try to experience bliss, but it is never easy. Whenever we go beyond what we normally do we are taking a risk. When we venture out into the unknown, we are vulnerable. Of course, it is just these risks that make life exciting and meaningful. If we really live our lives fully, we must take chances and try to challenge ourselves.
Since I couldn’t go hiking, I just sat on the sofa watching television. A program broadcast from Japan to the U.S. caught my attention. It was an enlightening interview with a man who was 107 years old. He expressed no regrets about his life, only appreciation and enjoyment. Other interviews with 100-year-olds revealed the same secret to long life. Optimism brings health. People who lived the longest see their glass as “half-full,” rather than “half empty.”
I looked at my broken foot and try to think positively. But at first all my thoughts were negative. It hurts. I can’t walk. I’m disabled. I envy those who can walk freely. I feel sorry for myself.
But then I recalled the poet Tennyson’s inspiring words: “It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” Yes it was true of love, I thought. But could I also say, “It is better to have danced and broken my foot, than never to have danced at all?”
Sure, I could. Although it was only for a brief moment, I had experienced joy. And my accident reminded me that I must take better care of my aging body. It gave me empathy for those who face far greater difficulties than I do. And I felt appreciation for those people who took care of me.
I also learned that I am a pretty good dancer, at least when I’m not stepping on my own toes. And when I get this cast off my foot, I think I’ll take a few dancing lessons and get really good.