Break your ankle, face an existential crisis

An injured leg forces Jared Axelrod to ask whether he's merely the sum of his parts.

By Jared Axelrod
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jan. 15, 2014

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I am so little aware of what makes my body function, I’m not sure how to work around it if something goes wrong.  The best I can do is to be sewn back together and work tirelessly to be as close to before as possible. But it won’t be like it was, because the fragility of my body’s functions has been made apparent.

This isn’t, I should point out, a memento mori, a reminder of our all-too-brief time on this world. It’s a different sort of creeping terror, the kind that usually comes with latex prosthetics and bug-eyed screams. When something attached to you that you took for granted fails, for reasons you can’t fix on your own, it’s not the cold slither of death—merely a fact of life. Our bodies are meat animated by electrical signals: hardly a foolproof construction. Any shmuck with a high enough wall can disrupt it.

I run five miles a day now, my right leg moving in perfect sync with my left. I am now far more aware of the difficulty that special-needs folks having maneuvering in this city, and why access for all should be of paramount importance.

My ankle gives me a twinge now and then, apropos of nothing. It doesn’t even predict oncoming storms.

When I look at my body today, I see something that can be shaped, that can be harmed, that can be changed. My body is fragile, but it is also resilient.  It is sturdy, but it is also mutable. It is what people think of when they think of me, but it is not who I am. My body is but a piece of all I encompass. An important piece, no doubt—but it makes up far less of who I am than I previously believed. 

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