On May 28, 2015, I got my foot tangled up in a lawnmower and kicked off the worst year of my life.
The first thing I felt, after the panic, was embarrassment. I was sitting there, half-naked on the ground waiting for the ambulance to arrive (I'd ripped off my shirt to wrap around my foot to try and stem the flow of blood), and through the pain and the terror, I remember feeling just plain stupid. HOW could I have so flagrantly ignored the safety rules that I would never have let my employees or students disobey? I had my boots with me at the farm that day, but I decided that those blisters that the boots gave me were getting too obnoxious, and I'd just finish mowing this last little area IN MY CHACOS.
The worst part was, I'd paid for my flippant disregard of safety rules before. I've dropped a T-post driver on my foot. I've accidentally kicked the sharp end of shovels as I ran in flip flops through my fields. I still didn't learn. I felt like a complete fool.
Fast forward through 18 days in the hospital, seven surgeries, and weeks at home in recovery, I lost my big toe and my foot was being held together by pins and a device called a wound vacuum that still gives me nightmares.
At the time of my accident, my husband and I ran a non-profit training program for aspiring farmers together. We had big, overly-idealistic dreams about saving the world through the proliferation of sustainable farms. Between us, we made up half of the executive staff. Needless to say, neither one of us were able to give our attentions to work, and the employees were beginning to burn out from pulling all of the extra weight. (They were admirable and heroic, but even heroes need a break!) I threw myself into physical therapy to get back to work as soon as possible. I consulted with students by phone while bed-ridden. I graduated from wheelchair to walker to crutches to a slow walk. By the end of June, I was able to do seated farm chores with my foot propped up, like seeding or veggie processing. By mid-July, I was slowly working my way back into the fields.
I was finally back up on my feet in the fall, only to be pushed back down again. As I mentioned, I used to train aspiring farmers. Farming is really hard work, and the truth is, most people can't hack it. During this time, a small group of former students who had failed out over the years for a variety of reasons got together and decided to harass and stalk both my husband and me. They embarked on an online disinformation crusade that would make the Russian intelligence service give them high-fives. This lasted for close to a year. Anyone who has ever been through prolonged harassment knows what kind of damage it can cause. At the time, I honestly would have preferred to lose another toe than endure the onslaught of relentless harassment.
I'm not sure what makes people suspend better judgment and act in ways that are purposefully malicious. I don't know if they got it into their head that their failures were so fully a result of a moral or professional failing on my fault, that they felt justified in doing what they did. I even tried to empathize with the people that were hurting me, put myself in their shoes, and rationalize their behaviors. It's impossible, though. There is no justification for harassment. None.
Dealing with months and months of harassment was almost more than I could bear. I became pregnant with twins, then lost one of the twins. I was still losing weight from the stress of the harassment well into my second trimester. I was scared. We would triple-check the locks at night and make sure all the curtains were pulled. I was scared to go to work. I was scared of losing my other twin. Every day, every mundane task, became a whirlwind of anxiety.
But you know what they say, about the night being darkest just before the dawn?
I think it's true.
There came a day when I was sure I couldn't face another moment of false accusations, name calling, and malice. I couldn't take another day of feeling like that stress that I couldn't escape was killing my other baby.
That day, a friend reached out to me to tell me about a similar situation she had been through. Another friend dropped soup off on my front porch.
The next day, another friend reached out just to tell me he cared. A little bit at a time, things got better. Terrible, stupid accidents happen, mothers lose and grieve their babes they'll never meet, and human beings do cold-hearted, myopic, and selfish things. And things can still get better.
As it got better, I was able to better realize that they only reason that I was able to walk through this storm at all was through the love and grace of those friends and family who were there through the entire journey. They brought me smoothies in the hospital when I couldn't eat solid food. They hung up a porch swing at my house so I could sit outside while I was stuck at home. They threw me a surprise birthday party. They poured money into a GoFundMe to help me cover my bills, even though the whole damn accident was my fault. They came to my house EVERY DAY to change my wound dressings. They took my husband out for a beer to give him a break. They knitted me socks to keep my healing foot warm. They hugged me when I was sad. They walked my dog. They spoke up for me when I was being harassed. They gave me grace to be imperfect in the face of adversity. They welcomed my child. They never let me forget that I was loved.
May 28, 2015 was the start of a year I didn't think I could survive. But things got better. They get better.
The funny thing is, the year of trial by fire helped me better realize who I want to be, the friendships I want to cultivate, and what I want to do. It made me who I am, and I like who I am. I still carry the scars of that year, both obvious physical scars and deeper emotional ones, but even scars fade. I never thought that this could be true, but right now, save for an occasional night of uninterrupted sleep and a whole and healthy foot, there is nothing about my life that I would change. I am truly happy. I am content. I love my husband more than ever. Our child is the light of our lives. My friends and family are my rock and my joy. I love my job. I love who I am. I love my community.
I share my story to say don't give up. You're not alone. It gets better. When they try to bury you, just remember that you're a seed.