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There were two ways to walk with my walker down the hallway to my condo. The first way kind of went like this.
“Man, I am tired. It has been such a long day.”
I hate having to concentrate on every step. I can’t stand making sure I’m taking my time, lifting my foot, placing it securely in front of me, and regaining my balance each time while I fiercely grip the handles of my walker. My stressful thoughts are jumping in between each next step.
In my mind, I imagine people looking, wondering what is wrong with me and thinking about how grateful they are that they are not me.
These thoughts keep jamming their way into my head. I want to be the woman that walks. I want you to feel comfortable when you meet me, to see ME and not the walker. I want to be a powerful mother, the vibrant, outgoing friend you knew, and the free-spirited woman my husband married.
I want everything to change. My body, this disease, my stress, my relationships, other people.
The second way to walk with my walker down the hallway to my condo kinda goes like this.
I notice my body, how it feels. I’m so grateful for all that it did today, and I will sit down when I get home so it can rest. This walker is terrific. It supports my movement forward, helps me balance, carries my purse, and rolls along so easily on the carpet.
Mmmm. I smell Italian. Somebody must be cookin’ up a storm behind one of these numbered doors. The crystal wall sconces cast the gentlest light, leading me home. I notice the warmth from my winter coat. What a great coat.
My thoughts are flowing in and out. How marvelous to be this woman walking, supported down the hallway, warm and happy.
And then it happens.
My toe catches the rug, creating enough resistance for me to lose my balance and fall forward, my upper body hovering over the top of the walker and my hands desperately holding on, sandwiched between the handles of the walker and the weight of my body pressing down on them.
I don’t have the strength to straighten myself up. Here I thought I would walk down the hallway and enter my condo like I usually do, but instead, this. Who knew? What an adventure.
There were two ways to walk down the hallway, but now, there is a third! This third way was to walk only partway.
Right now, I’m this. A woman bent over, hugging a walker in a hallway with no one around.
I make a fruitless attempt to straighten. That’s not happening. I consider my options as I glance ahead at my condo door five feet away. Even if I shimmy over there, I won’t be able to release the grip on the walker to turn the doorknob. That won’t work.
I could fall to the ground and try to open the door that way, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to reach it. I can’t believe this is happening to me. This is so embarrassing.
I hear the faint dinging of my neighbor’s dog tag. Maybe, if I can get close enough, I can knock the top of my head on his door and see if he can help me straighten up.
I don’t want this. I want to be the woman who walks, the woman I was, the woman you knew, the woman you hoped I’d be. Anything but the woman bent over, hugging a walker in a hallway with no one around.
I’ve now managed to get close enough to my neighbor’s unit, and I rock slightly so that the top of my head gently taps his door. Their dog barks, and I’m relieved he heard me.
But no one comes.
I suddenly realize that they probably did come, but looked out the peephole and didn’t see anyone because I was bent over out of view. I can’t help but chuckle. Is this really happening?
I gently tap my head against the door again. The dog barks.
This time my neighbor answers. As the door opens, slippered feet come into view, and I imagine his shocked and confused expression as he takes in what’s before him. A woman bent over, hugging a walker in the hallway.
“Can you help me straighten up?” I ask. And he does.
That’s it. I’m done. This is not working for me. I need to do something different. I’m getting a wheelchair.
I don’t care that you think I should keep walking, that I don’t meet your projections of who you think I am or what I should be doing. I don’t care that my brain is yelling at me not to do it. What will people think? Your life will be over…
I am going to let go of the woman who walks, the woman I was, the woman you knew, the woman you hoped I’d be, the woman I hoped I’d be, and embrace and love this woman, just as she is, right here, right now.
I’m going to love her all over, all of her, just as she is, and choose to do whatever it takes to nurture and support her.
I got a wheelchair. OMG. My whole world opened up. I could do what I wanted to do, go where I wanted to go. I no longer had to worry about falling, tripping, or getting tired.
All this mental space opened up. Instead of processing all these thoughts up in my head, I could now tune into what was happening out there, around me, and in me. I became intimately engaged with life.
What I had projected to be the worst possible thing that could happen, being bent over a walker, banging the top of my head on my neighbor’s door, turned out to be the best possible thing that could happen. Because, just like my neighbor looking out the peephole at a narrow view of all that was outside his door, I too had a narrow view of what was possible for me if I couldn’t walk like everyone else.
It made me realize I had a choice. I could move through life, holding on for dear life, fearful of every step, bracing for impact, or I could consider how what was happening should be happening. That what was happening was FOR me. It’s an opportunity for me to grow and expand so I can be the powerful, vibrant, outgoing, free-spirited woman I am meant to be.
I recalibrated my future of what was possible by opening up to alternate possibilities of how to take my next step. I considered that my life was going to be so amazing, so magnificent, so out of this world, beyond anything I could ever dream possible, that, for me take it all in and get ready for it, the Universe was saying, “Girlfriend, you better sit down for this.”