Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head. ~From the movie Finding Forrester
I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter. ~James Michener
I’m currently sporting my third cast in three weeks, thanks to the injury to my hand Easter weekend. As you might suspect, I’ve had a bit of time to think and ponder as I’ve waited for doctors, surgeons, assistants, physical therapists, and the like. I’ve spent time staring at my cast-encumbered right hand willing it to heal quickly.
I’ve also done a fair bit of revising — how to get things done (or not) using only my left hand, my calendar entries from work activities to medical ones, and the things I want to do to the things I can do. And as I looked at the evolution of my three casts, I began thinking how they mimic my writing, or, more specifically, my revisions.
This beautiful creation was cast #1. It graced my arm from the emergency room until surgery five days later. The atmosphere in the ER was hurried, as many other patients came in and out in various stages of medical need that Saturday night. Once the doctors knew my injury was far from life-threatening, they settled into their routines, moving from task to task with practiced speed. It looked chaotic, but underneath, there was a sense of order and purpose. I knew the purpose – to fix me up to the best of their abilities, to make sure I was feeling only minimal pain, and to start me on the road to a hopefully happy ending. What I didn’t know yet was that underlying order. What happened next? Who else would be involved? How long would this story be? After a few quick whipstitches, they put on this cast. Serviceable if not stylish, it was designed to give support to a hand that could not yet move on its own. Not intended to be pretty or anything but a first layer of the story, it was clunky, heavy, itchy, and bulky. But it was done. I had the basic idea of how things were going to proceed, though only in the sketchiest, hazy forms. I was not pleased with this cast, but I knew it was temporary and necessary to take the next step.
Cast #2 was decidedly different from #1. This version traveled with me from surgery to my first physical therapy session. Like the first, the cast weighed heavy on my hand. All that plaster, cotton, wrapping, bandages and such created a slow-moving creature. The thing was unwieldy, intent on preventing movement. I didn’t even have the use of my thumb any more. Everything was bound up tight, constricted. All I saw were the things that I missed doing, that needed to be done, and, hardest of all for me, things I could no longer do. Those things haunted me, dragging me lower and lower. In spite of comfort and support from friends and family, I felt alone with this beast, with an internal editor shushing my attempts to move ahead, to make progress, to heal and get better. I tried to make friends with the beast, but never did. What I overlooked, though, in my focus on all the things that were wrong, were the good things happening. Surgery brought both new cuts and better stitches to hold the fragile repairs in place. By limiting movement, the story of healing began a solid start towards a happy recovery. Post-surgery, I had a schedule of regular appointments, a plan of attack to make the healing happen. I knew more of what was happening, what I needed to do to help it along, and a glimmer of both the pain and the happiness on the road ahead.
In deference to the long gray skies and rain clouds which have been around lately, I took advantage of some color options for cast #3. As casts go, this one I can live with, work with to accomplish something. Cast #3 will be with me the longest, a month or more together. With the support structure in place and the initial stitches holding things together, I am able to get to work making my hand better. Stretching the newly mended tendons is anything but fun, but despite some painful moments, it feels like good work. Physical therapy brings attempts to try new ways of accomplishing goals. My motivation is clear, purposeful, directed. This version of my cast is lighter, with holes to allow it to breathe. No heavy, clunky plaster. And I have the use of my thumb back. With each session, the tendons and muscles get stronger and more limber. There are conflicts to be sure, external and internal, which must be dealt with somehow. When I miss a session of my exercises, I feel the backstep and have to work a little harder to get back up to speed, get limber again, push forward. My internal editor is more in evidence, and most often the suggestions made are for the good of the work in question. I still have moments where I want to begin again, abandon the work completed as beyond redemption, too much to be done, impossible to fix. But, I’m learning to fill in the gaps of what needs to be done, what I can do more of or need to do less, and to keep the goal in mind. I just have to keep revising, adjusting, pushing until it’s done.
Each session, every moment gets me one baby-step closer to the end of this process. Towards recovery and a happy ending.