What Getting Stitches Taught Me About Goals and Deadlines

Photo by  Alexander Lam  on  Unsplash .

Photo by Alexander Lam on Unsplash.

This summer I had to get 10 stitches in my left hand. For those who want the gory details, click here and I’m happy to tell you everything. If you get queasy about stuff like this, click here and you won’t have to see any of it ;-)

All things considered, I was lucky and the situation (stitch-uation??) was not serious. But, of course, there was pain – both in getting the stitches and in the healing that came after.

As you know (especially those of you who follow me on Instagram), I had grand plans this summer – my whole #SummerGoals thing. Like many people, I tend to procrastinate. That was partly why I wanted to set these public goals for myself – so that I’d have that external, social pressure to actually do many of these things by the end of summer.

But, sometimes unexpected shit happens. Like injuring myself, which jeopardized my ability to achieve some of my goals.

In any event, my kickass doctor at urgent care, Dr. Pehr, told me the stitches would have to come out after 10 to 14 days. I thought, “Great! That’s not too long. I’ll be back to my normal self, able to fully use both hands, in no time!”

But, of course, Day 10 rolls around and the stitches don’t look ready to come out yet – at least about half of them. Day 13 rolls around and it’s clear the stitches need to come out, but one of my wounds wasn’t really healed back together yet.

On Day 14, the stitches were removed (so that other complications wouldn’t arise), but one of the cuts needed to be held together, still. Luckily, on Day 13, I was having brunch with not one, but THREE doctors, who all looked at it and told me that it was fine, the stitches should come out, but I could use crazy glue or liquid bandage to hold it together after that.

Long story short, I’m now on my third method of trying to hold the cut together (liquid bandage, then off-brand butterfly bandages, now off-brand Steristrips) and it’s clear that this thing isn’t going to heal on my timeline.

So what can I do? Nothing, but let my body continue to heal itself and try not to make things worse, while still doing what I’m able to do. I can’t rush this. I can’t order my hand to be back to normal simply because there are things I want to do by a certain date. Life doesn’t work that way.

And this happens a lot with the goals we set in our career and in our lives. We have an idea, a dream. We set a goal to make it a reality. Maybe we even make a SMART goal and create systems to support getting to that goal by our deadline. Go us!

And sometimes things work out perfectly!

But other times, wrenches get thrown, unanticipated delays happen, and our timeline is set back. We need clear goals in order to drive us forward, to keep us growing and reaching. But we can’t have a death grip on them either.

Life demands that we allow for room to breathe, a little leeway and flexibility in the dance between pushing forward and going with the flow. 

I mean, we can still try to fight it.

But, at least in my current situation, what’s going to happen if I resist? More pain, a longer healing time, a bigger scar, and possibly even more stitches.



If you want the gory details…



Summer Goal #6 was to make another cork bulletin board. I had made one a few years ago and enjoyed the process and it looks great! It’s hanging in my living room with lots of happy mementoes pinned to it.

When I made the first one, friends and family who knew about it started giving me their used corks. It was great! And even after I finished the first one, people still gave me corks. As a result, I had a TON of leftover corks and I figured I would simply make a second cork board and give it to a friend!

So that was one of my goals for the summer.

Now, in making a cork board like this, the corks have to be cut length-wise so that the flat side can be glued to the back of the frame. So most of the process of making one of these things is the cutting of the corks.

I normally cut corks in small batches because it’s tiring and can be kind of boring. But my deadline for finishing the cork board was looming, as my friend was coming over for dinner that next week. So I wanted to push through and do the last batch so I could start doing the design and gluing them down.

Unfortunately, I got to one very tough cork, I was a little tired, and my attention was waning. And my very sharp knife slipped from the cork and went right into my left hand, cutting it in 3 places (one was super shallow and didn’t even need stitches).

The finished product.

The finished product.

Luckily, as the amazing Dr. Pehr later said, I only “filleted” myself and didn’t cut myself deep in either place (no tendons, muscles, nerves hit – only fat). But there was a good amount of blood initially.

As soon as I realized what I had done, I jumped up put pressure on the cut on my palm (the bigger one) and ran to the bathroom. It took maybe 10 minutes to stop the bleeding. Then, with a bunch of gauze taped to my hand and while still applying pressure, my spouse got me to the urgent care.

And Dr. Pehr took it from there! There was a lot of pain until the anesthetic really starting doing its job. But I knew I was in good hands (ha!). And I had just listened to an episode of Radiolab that talked about working through massive amounts of pain, so I had new techniques to put into practice!

So that’s basically it. I got 6 stitches in my palm and 4 in my thumb. I got really grateful for being able-bodied and having the use of both hands normally.

And I feel fine knowing I might never cut a cork again! At least not lengthwise and not with a super sharp knife :)