Ann Patchett on Taking a Bad Fall to Find Good Luck

On a Sunday morning in the course of July, I awakened drained. Who is aware of why? Maybe, just like the canine, I had spent the evening chasing rabbits in my sleep. I gave critical consideration to skipping my morning workouts (hadn’t the rabbits been sufficient?), however then determined to push forward on the idea that an adherence to routine helps extra usually than it hurts. Surely gold medalist Sunisa Lee had been drained in Tokyo that morning, however she went flying via the air all the identical.

When I obtained to the step-up portion of the 7-Minute Workout, I too was briefly flying. But my liftoff was misaligned, in order that coming down I glanced off the sting of my step stool and hit the ground with my full weight on the aspect of my left foot.


After mendacity on my again for a jiffy, panting via self-recrimination and the intense crush of ache, I crawled to the cellphone and known as my husband. Karl discovered me on the ground, foot aloft. He’s a physician, and he took my tennis shoe off with skilled care. “Did you hurt yourself anywhere else?”

I mentioned no, considering my rapidly inflating foot was harm sufficient.

“Did you hit your head?” He was gently palpating my foot to see what factors made me yelp, whereas introducing the subject of gratitude into the dialog. I had not hit my head.

“That’s how it happens,” he mentioned, serving to me to the mattress. “You hit your head on the bookcase on the way down. Then it all falls apart.”

Karl mentioned we may go to the emergency room immediately or wait till tomorrow to see a physician within the clinic. I opted for the ice pack, the Motrin and the pile of pillows. I opted to wait. Tennessee, the state the place we stay, is rife with individuals who determined to move on the Covid vaccine, which meant that regardless that we have been vaccinated, emergency rooms have been no place to sit and wait.

The subsequent day the orthopedist confirmed me the X-rays of my left foot. He informed me I had badly sprained it, together with tearing some ligaments. He would get me a strolling boot and, in time, all can be effectively. The physician was virtually to the door when he turned and checked out me once more. “Let’s get one more X-ray,” he mentioned.

He was smiling when he got here again, the bearer of excellent information. He informed me my ankle was fractured. “I’m not going to do surgery,” he mentioned cheerfully. “I could put a screw in there, but I’m not going to do it.” Once immobilized, the little bit of bone that had cracked off would mend itself.

“Oh,” Karl mentioned, shaking his head after the physician left us, “are you ever lucky.” He had seen his share of poor outcomes for ankle surgical procedure. In his lengthy profession, he had seen just about the whole lot.


When I used to be a baby in Catholic college, the nuns by no means bored with telling us how fortunate we have been. Of course we have been fortunate within the apparent ways in which ought to by no means be taken as a right — fortunate for our well being, our meals, our households, fortunate to give you the option to go to college — however within the face of actual catastrophe, our luck escalated dramatically.

At 9, after I got here again to college after a automotive accident, they tallied up my luck: a damaged nostril, a damaged wrist, my lip stitched again collectively, shards of glass nonetheless pushing out of my cranium — it may have been a lot worse! My sister was worse, she was nonetheless within the hospital. She can be there for awhile, resting between the white sheets of her astonishing luck. She ought to have been lifeless, and she or he wasn’t.

At the time, I assumed the nuns have been idiots. They merely refused to see how we suffered. But now — 48 years later — I feel, man, have been we fortunate.

“If you won’t even complain about being injured and bedridden, I worry that you’re a constitutionally cheerful person who can see the bright side in any situation and this whole thing isn’t going to work out,” a new younger buddy teased me in an electronic mail. I informed her not to fear, I’m absolutely able to distress and criticism, I’m simply saving mine.

Had I leapt up on a step stool and missed my touchdown two years in the past, I doubt I might have managed the scenario with fairly a lot sagacity. I might have discovered the boot burdensome (it’s). I might have mentioned the timing was unattainable (it doesn’t matter what the timing was). But the pandemic has taught me that my plans are of no significance, that the whole lot could be canceled, that I’m fortunate to have a home to stay in and a individual I like to stay with.

As is true with most writers, I’ve a expertise for stillness which has solely been fortified by the final yr and a half. Eight extra weeks in the home doesn’t truly represent a downside. My sprain-ligament-fracture trifecta doesn’t truly represent a downside. It seems I do know a lot of people that’ve had steel plates screwed into their ankles, and everyone knows a lot of people that’ve had to cope with issues a lot worse than that.

My buddy Sister Nena, who taught me to learn after I was 6, known as to test on me. She’s damaged each of her toes earlier than, as soon as the left and as soon as the appropriate. She needed to know if I had a strolling boot. I informed her I did. “Oh,” she mentioned, “you’re so lucky.”

Bad luck in small doses can solid a glittering gentle on the remainder of life. It reveals us simply how shut we got here to smashing our heads on the bookcase, and so makes us have a look at the bookcase (the room, the home, the road, the city, the life) with a new sense of marvel. Sooner or later, in a single type or one other, the horrible factor will occur. I didn’t perceive that after I was younger, regardless of what number of nuns tried to inform me. Now, I feel I do. And I’m grateful that this time I obtained off simple.

Ann Patchett is the co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville. Her essay assortment “These Precious Days” will likely be revealed by HarperCollins in November 2021.