Realistically, I traded my ability to run or walk well for another daughter.
Totally worth it, I would do it again in a heartbeat (read more on that in my previous blog post here).
That being said, I have pretty much said goodbye to: Walking fast, running, jogging. Fast walking across the street. Hunkering down and scurrying when it starts to rain. Playing tag with kids. Running up or down hills. Stepping high over logs or bleachers. Oh heck, easily or speedily going up or down stairs without a handrail, even.
How delightfully for granted the vast majority of people take their functional legs.
I mean, technically, I’ve never been a sports girl so it’s not that crushing of a loss for me –
“Oh no! I cannot run or even walk well anymore! My amazing athletic career is-“
Pfft. As if that has ever been me.
Who I am is who I am still, except possibly with more self-confidence (yeah, I know. That doesn’t make sense to me, either. My guess is it was turning 40 that did that).
As I’ve said throughout this blog, I like to look at my life, mostly this inconvenient disease thing I have going on, as an experiment. Cut the emotional reaction part out and just observe.
Usually I’m observing myself and my body’s symptoms. Sometimes I’m observing other people and their reactions to me and my body’s unpredictable tendency to make symptoms visible to others. It’s when others have to possibly modify what they would do (so, make accommodations for me) that it gets really interesting.
Yes. I observe you observing me.
Fascinating, gotta say.
*All right, disclaimer: just to be clear here I am not looking down on or judging anybody. I’m just observing and drawing (jumping to reasonable) conclusions. And also, if ANYBODY should first assume that people simply aren’t thinking about anybody else and don’t actually mean to be insensitive that would be ME. Heaven knows I do stupid, unthinking shit alllll the time. I call things my experiments and theories and hypotheses but they are really my subjective observations, the opposite of scientific. Therefore my conclusions, although possibly logical, are inherently flawed. So. Come, draw some conclusions with me. 😆*
When you’re walking with someone who walks at a slower pace than you, do you slow down and walk with them? Or do you walk a couple steps ahead, maybe talking over your shoulder, kind of indicating without using words that you’re hoping they pick up the pace and catch up?
I absolutely remember being a fast walker: I’m sure I did a lot of talking over my shoulder. Oh heck, I probably did a lot of “see you there” and left my friends in my dust.
Hahahahahahahahahahahaha, how the tables have turned..
So now, observing others from my point of view as a former fast walker and now a slow walker, I have a (completely untracked, undocumented) ongoing side study entitled Walking Slow With People™. To pass the simple test (that you don’t know you’re taking) you have to stay walking slowly with me, to fail you walk ahead.
Results have been varied and frequently unexpected:
- It doesn’t seem to matter how long or well I’ve known someone that decides whether they pass or not.
- Relatives (and church people/family) either pass or fail spectacularly, there is no in-between.
- A surprising number of healthcare professionals fail.
- I’d say more men than women pass.
- Some friends do not pass, but most do.
A few pass with flying colors – they don’t actually say anything; there’s nothing to indicate this isn’t their normal. I’ll smile to myself as I wrack my brain, trying to remember if I’ve ever seen how fast they normally walk. They act for all the world like ‘sloooww stroll’ is and always has been their speed, as well –
“This is the best speed in the world, I love taking forever to walk half a block! There is nothing in the world I’d rather be doing right now – let’s saunter slowly (even though we’re possibly already late for whatever thing).”
And sometimes, Walking Slow With People™ involves larger accommodations than just walking –
One winter day I met a friend at a coffee shop for lunch – I had to park about 6 parking spots up the street and she scored a parking spot right in front.
When we were leaving, just as I’m thinking, “ooh, greaaaatt…” she cheerily said, “hop in, I’ll give you a ride to your car.”
Literally. She drove me maybe 6 angle-parked (not even parallel-parked) cars up the street.
She knows that my ability to walk is severely messed up by the cold, that it’s also worse on hills, and that snow and ice is obviously not going to be helpful, either. Walking a whopping 30(ish) yards uphill in winter would have been torturously slow and embarrassing for me.
And so she read my mind before I could even think to make such a ridiculous request.
Another friend walked snail’s pace with me waaay out to a preschool party our kids were attending, a distance (I realized when we finally got there) that I was probably not going to have the remaining energy to walk back (it was hot as heck outside which is my other guaranteed nemesis).
When it was time to leave, my friend took our kids and sent a location staff member back to give me a ride back to our vehicles on a golf cart.
My friend rescued my butt in a BIG way.
I went to a women’s retreat with the women from church and my brother’s wife, Corinne. She is the most outdoorsy, hiking girl you’ve ever met. On the Saturday afternoon there were fantastically fun hiking & climbing excursions being offered and instead she came out for second lunch with me at a local hotel and then a sightseeing drive.
Fine. Corinne is required to be my friend. I still completely lucked out with her. If her only obvious flaw is intentionally marrying my brother then I’m good with it. 😉
That is what passing Walking Slow With People™ with flying colors looks like.
That is what empathy looks like.
Those are the ones who get it.
*To be clear: you can’t just do stuff like that for any person who has walking problems; many would potentially be insulted. It has to be somebody you really know well, or is clearly in need.*
Frankly I don’t always understand what the heck I will need or want at any given moment, either; I’m caught off guard by situations sometimes, too. Am I disabled or independent? Do I want help or do I want to fight it out myself? Will it depend entirely on each specific moment? Do I make my own head hurt with how ridiculous my overanalyzing can be?
It’s the people who take alll of this in and are still like, “You know what? You’re important enough that I’m good with whatever. I like your weird and I want to be around you.”
It’s when your life and attitude get kind of complicated with no end in sight that you see who your people are. That’s often the kicker – many friends have an expiry date – they can’t deal with the long haul of a not-really-improving illness.
WHICH IS FINE.
They just make you all the more aware and grateful for the precious few that CAN handle it.
Some are old friends and family, some are fairly recent; my precious few are the ones who I know see me as a complete, valuable, interesting, good-at-lots-of-things person who happens to have this sometimes-obnoxious-but-realistically-not-that-important disease. I know this is how they see me because my sometimes messy, awkward, irritatingly vulnerable life has *conveniently* offered them opportunities every now and then to prove it, and yet they somehow haven’t lost my phone number.
They say hardships bring the best out in people. I say that it also brings your precious few around you – those who get it – even closer.
I hope you each have a friend or two like these.