Friday, September 23, 2016

Learning to Walk Again

An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.
                                                  --Henry David Thoreau

I don't remember learning to walk as a toddler. It is just one of those predictable stages of development we all learn to do. But I can remember each of my children's first steps, and the excitement for them to have a vertical perspective on the world. Walking is an ordinary, common thing we do every day... until you can't take any steps anymore.

This summer on a a carefree, blissful day of fly fishing (on my husband's birthday, no less), I slipped on a gravel incline. I was not paying attention, you know multi-tasking--talking to my daughter on the phone about her upcoming wedding. The thoughtless fall turned into an injury that reverted me back to seeing the world in a horizontal position. Yep, sitting in a chair, with an elevated leg for a month. I broke my ankle, had a steel plate and nine screws put into my leg, and saw the summer pass, looking out the window. I kept telling my impatient self to take the long view: read some books that had been on my list for awhile, write, work on my parent's life histories, play the guitar and serenade anyone roaming around "my chair." I lovingly welcomed any visitors who wanted to come to me (because I was going nowhere to see anyone). I also begin to knit again.

Lots of sitting this summer in the "throne chair." It was more bearable with loved ones coming to knit, play games, laugh, and sing with me.
One of my friends said that "Mending bones=knitting them together again." I took her insight literally, and sat there in my chair, imagining my bones healing. Clicking the knitting needles together made me literally take my predicament in my own hands. If I could knit a long scarf, lengthening the latticed stitches, then maybe the fractured bones would simultaneously link together too. From my courtly chair, I even taught some of my nieces and nephews to knit. We all all sat in the room, clicking the needles, talking, laughing. The audible sounds of the needles coming together gave me hope that my bones would heal--that they would not stay indefinitely unravelled.

As I sat there with occasional throbbing pain, I promised God I would be a better person if I could just walk again. I would walk the walk, not just talk the talk. I would climb higher peaks, and view more expansive views. I would walk forward, step by step, on better, more productive paths. Suddenly, my range of motion and mobility meant everything to me--something I had always just taken for granted since I was a toddler. But no more.

Signing the cast was fun--a walking around souvenir of my injury.
Walking takes us places to where we need to go physically, but also in our heads. As Thoreau said, "I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees." I have been reminded, sitting in the horizontal position for so long, that not only my body craves a walk, but my mind needs those steps too. I feel like a person who has been blind for two months, and then can see the light and colors again. 

I vow to walk in terrains and paths that I previously thought were inconvenient or didn't think I had the time to go. Maybe even some roads I was fearful to tread. I will try to even step up the pace or gait of where I know I need to walk--turn the corners more willfully. I will notice the seasons,  the trees and sky more, not just pay attention to my watch. As Soren Kierkegaard said, " I have walked myself into my best thoughts." So this right foot (and ankle) will go to more and better places. No more delays on route. 

And yes, two months later, I did dance the night away at my daughter's wedding with a very stylish big black boot from my orthopedic doctor. Believe me, I was so grateful to be on the dance floor!

Enjoying (on my boot) watching my daughter and husband dance at her wedding.

Lessons from learning how to walk again:

1) One of the best parts of being on the injured list is that people come to you. I almost felt like I was in a Jane Austen book because people would often come to visit or "call." Every visit cheered me up a little more, encouraged me. It reminded me how the simple tradition of visiting can lift someone when they are ill or injured. I vowed to visit more in the future and have more compassion--when friends and family are home bound. 

Kayleen, my friend who came to visit, who I had not seen in several decades.

Visiting my friend on my scooter who has been sick. I could not get there fast enough to see her, knowing that she had been very ill this summer. We both laughed because I had to literally crawl up her front porch steps to see her, and then pushed the knee scooter up. Ha! But again, I will do everything I can to go see people who are sick now.
2) Don't spiral into discouragement. Receive the service you are kindly given. It is definitely humbling to be helpless and dependent, but take the time to let your body heal.

3) Get your body strong again. Be grateful for every person who wants to help you--advise not easily followed! Exercise those muscles that have been languishing, while letting the bones heal. Listen to your physical therapist, and do your exercises!

4) Bones and stitches can heal on their own if we are patient; our bodies are miraculous. But a broken heart requires others to succor so it can heal. Grief and sadness requires a real friend to mend a broken heart. I want to be more aware of the invisible "broken," struggling souls around me who need care and encouragement, despite no outward appearance of injury. I used a wheel chair, a knee scooter, and crutches, and was even able to use a handicap parking space. But my broken ankle reminded me there are people who have injuries that are not obvious to anyone else. I could only hope to be a little more perceptive and aware of the hidden needs of those around me.