How to respond to misfortune

Published 10:25 am Saturday, April 16, 2016

As a famous character in a famous novel once famously said, “Well, I’m back.”

As many of you discovered over the past several weeks, I have been out of the office since late February. Suffice it to say this was due to a work-related injury, which resulted in a broken arm. That incident shattered my record of living without ever having damaged any bone in my 54 going on 55-year-old body.

Stunned by the fall, I initially cursed both the location where it happened and even the Tony the publisher — we all need scapegoats. But it didn’t make me feel any better.

A few other things came to mind the day of the ordeal:

• At the start was a brief, but powerful feeling of utter helplessness. Somehow the imagination went to warp speed and even for an instant I knew what it must be like to be elderly and handicapped in some way. I’ve considered that moment a preview of coming attractions.

• Why didn’t I bounce considering all the belly fat I’ve been carrying?

• Would I lose weight from this ordeal? Later, it turned out, that happened, but it’s not a diet plan I recommend. No, no.

• Over and over in my head that day and many others to follow, I could hear performance artist Laurie Anderson reciting from her song (if you can call it that) “Walking and Falling.”

“You’re walking. And you don’t always realize it,

but you’re always falling.

With each step

you fall forward slightly.

And then catch yourself

from falling.

Over and over,

you’re falling.

And then catching yourself

from falling.

And this how

you can be walking

and falling

at the same


Those words resonated while making my way around the home of my parents, who graciously took me in for the length of the recovery. Not a few times did I find myself closer to falling than catching myself…from falling.

All that being said, what I realize now is that the correct response to the ordeal has become one of gratitude. No, I’m not glad the accident happened. Anyone who tells you that suffering is good for you merits a hard slap or two across the chops in hopes of knocking some sense into them.

Accidents or tragedies are not inherently blessings in disguise. But how one reacts to misfortune is telling.

In this instance, I had the sense to recognize that the injury could have been much, much worse. But it wasn’t, and so I’m grateful.

My aforementioned cursed publisher truly deserves my thanks for having quickly arranged help and seeing to the workman’s compensation issue, which spared me a lot of headache.

My coworkers in the newsroom, Rebecca Chappell and Andrew Lind, in particular, stepped up and continued to provide you with news without missing a beat. I am very proud of you.

My parents, of course. Sure, I could have recovered at my home, but it would have been much more of a struggle. Their love, concern and patience made the ordeal much more bearable.

Dr. Nicholas Sablan and Tidewater Orthopaedics in Hampton deserve a shout-out for their excellent care. I’m building a shrine to you…because I’m grateful. Finally, I’m thankful to be returning to work and resuming service.

Stephen H. Cowles is a staff writer at The Tidewater News. He is discovering that physical therapy is more intense than even he could imagine. Contact him at 562-3187 or