When you Can’t fill your Own Bucket

By: Petra Williams, Be You Coaching Services

I’m currently in recovery from a difficult surgery. I had my tired-ole ankle, filled with arthritis, damaged from injury, and riddled with scars finally fixed. After a significant high school injury from a 100-meter hurdle race, a 14- year stint as a gymnast, a softball player, always being active, and 2 previous surgeries, my right ankle said out loud to me — Enough! I actually heard it! Please do something about my constant pain! So I did. I contacted the same doctor who fixed my left ankle 9 years earlier (I know, my ankles are awful) and we came up with a plan.

On December 1, 2023, my right ankle went through a 2-hour surgery that cleaned out all of the arthritis, fixed my joints with two plates placed in different spots, and a 3-inch screw through my heel to hold it all together. I have to say it creeps me out a little bit to think about it, especially the screw. I’ve had a few nightmares about that screw working its way out, but have been assured it’s very unlikely to happen, so I am going with that. Anyway, I had the surgery, and then spent the next 7 1/2 weeks in a splint, a cast to my knee, and then another cast a little shorter. All non-weight bearing and requiring crutches.

I am very comfortable being by myself and have no problem finding something to do, and can admit to watching a lot of television during my time on the couch — getting great joy from watching all 7 seasons of Jane the Virgin (highly recommended if you haven’t watched). Having taken on a lot of challenges in my life, I knew this process would be difficult, but can admit to not really anticipating the number of rough days that I would have. When you have so much uninterrupted time to think, your brain can have a heyday. I am pretty good at managing my thinking, but realized pretty quickly that the reason why I am good at it, is I do a lot to fill my bucket to manage day to day stress.

How do I typically fill my bucket? Well, with exercise. I do pilates, I walk, I go to the gym, lift weights, and I couldn’t do any of that when I was immobile and I struggled. I think it’s a testament, first to why doing things like exercise are important in having a well-rounded and productive life and second without them, my toolbox for stress and uncertainty was very low. Because of that, the “stuff” I relied on for getting me through difficulties was unavailable and I knew it. When my mind began to spiral with my inability to move, do anything for myself, and realizing my vulnerability was at an all time high, there were a few times I couldn’t catch up to it — I could actually see it coming. High stress, uneasy, uncertainty came on like a freight train.

It’s hard to predict how we will manage tough times in our life. Sometimes we can plan for them, like I knew about my surgery date for a couple of months, other times things happen to us in real time. The thing you really need to think about is are you ready for them? Do you have bucket fillers like exercise, good diet, meditation, quiet time, journaling, good friendships, a pet, do you read, or maybe you need a life coach? When you are complaining about being stressed or over emotional, do you ever ask yourself why? Things happen, life happens, good and bad things happen — these are all about your own life journey. It’s up to you to equip yourself with the bucket fillers that you need to weather every sunshiny day and storm that comes your way. Stop believing that being stressed out every day is the way you should live your life and start embracing everything that comes your way. Enjoy the process, it’s through all of your experiences that you can start to really be the person you are meant to be.

I just went to see my doctor for my 3-month checkup and am firmly on the path to a strong recovery. Since I followed the protocols for my surgery, he informed me that my ankle after 3 months, is what most of his patient’s ankles look like after 5 months. That was really encouraging. I am walking without a boot, but very slowly, trying to do a little more every day. I’ve started physical therapy and look forward to the annual bike trip I take with my good friends — Amy, Lori, Kathy, and Jen — in July. My foot is quite stiff, but much sturdier than I can even remember. It’s been a strange thing to adapt to an ankle that I can count on. Fixing things in your life takes a consistent daily commitment. Making sure you are doing it right takes incredible patience. Fill your bucket, fix or change what’s holding you back, you can do it! Stop being afraid of the process and make the decision you know you need to make to remove what might be limiting your own happiness.

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