Like most babies, I learned how to walk the first time by the age of 11 months. I crawled successfully at 8 months (seems a little late, but I’ve always been on my own timing), pulled up to standing at 8 ½ months, then the world was my oyster before one year old.
I say that I learned to walk the first time by 11 months because I am learning to walk a second time at the age of 44 years. Yep, you read right; after 44 years on this earth, this girl is learning how to walk again.
Due to a violent and (pretty gross) compound fracture and severe dislocation of my right ankle in February, I experienced surgery, metal plates and screws, and 8 weeks of weightlessness; for me, a new meaning to the word “stillness”, and the sudden and complete absence of forward motion in my life.
Well, not entirely; the movement that I have been experiencing since my injury has been on the inside, and lots of it. What I’m noticing is that the movement on the outer world can sometimes be a distraction from the movement in the inner world. I discovered that I sometimes used physical movement to help me run from feelings that I didn’t want to feel. Feeling powerless or afraid? Go for a run or a bike ride. Feeling angry? Go clean something. Feeling anything uncomfortable? Go MOVE, do anything, but don’t sit still or else it might catch up with me.
I’m exaggerating a bit here; for the last 10 years, I have been working consciously on myself to wake up, and much of that has been about getting more still and paying attention to my feelings. In my house, I am the one who is most vocal about her feelings, and the one who is most actively reflecting on what I am feeling. But I live with three guys (one husband and two sons) and a cat. Well, okay….maybe the cat wins the most vocal about how she feels award…
But all the work I’ve done had taken me only so far; then my ankle met with a series of metal stairs on a rainy day in California, and my knowing of being still so I could feel my feelings got a whole lot deeper. That’s how it works in process, doesn’t it? We go so far with something, then find stasis and equilibrium, then a new expansion experience is introduced and we get to grow again (oh goody!)
I am happy to say that I chose to go for it with this experience; I know that when things happen, there is the opportunity to relate to it as a victim or as a choice maker. I wanted to harvest all of the AHAs and lessons and insights that I could from this experience. I sure never want it to happen again! And I haven’t been disappointed; the amazing healing and awarenesses have been profound and bountiful during my weeks of convalescence. I can look back on it with just a little perspective now, and it feels like a precious gift to be allowed to be so vulnerable.
I was given the okay to bear weight on April 27, “letting pain be my guide”. I took off my “Darth Boot” (my affectionate name for my big, black, kick-ass removable cast) and started learning to walk with the aid of my crutches. Within a couple of days, I noticed that I started to forget where I left them; that’s a good sign! By the end of that week, I was hobbling around without any help from my rickety metal friends.
But the hobbling is a little troublesome; I look like Frankenstein, arms flailing out in my attempt to keep balance. All that’s missing is the metal bolts in my neck and the mantra, “FIRE BAD!” The scars are not pretty, my ankle gets swollen quickly when I am up on it, and it does hurt a bit when I come down on it. But it’s a good pain, or so I think. It is the pain of learning to use something in a new way.
Amongst my reflections and ruminations during this time of forced stillness, I have wondered if I was walking in a way that was not good for me. Maybe not the physical way I walked, but from a symbolic standpoint, where was I leading myself? How was I getting there? Was I being forceful or was I being discerning? Was I afraid of moving forward, or was I walking in balance and ease?
And now that I have the opportunity to walk again, I also have the opportunity to learn to walk in a different way, perhaps a way that serves me and the world community better. How do I want to walk in this world? Confidently, in balance, knowing that I am supported…at ease in my own power, looking forward to my future, knowing I am part of this world and that I have something to offer…with grace, strength, discernment, wisdom, and love.
I can’t help but reflect on what it must have been like to learn to walk the first time; I can’t remember, although I wish I could. What would it feel like to feel the inner impulse to move, to get up on one’s feet and take a first step forward? What kind of innate trust is there in all children as they fly through their developmental stages? What kind of crazy motor drives the impulse to get off your knees and start walking?! How amazing is it that we go from being born helpless to moving around at light speed in under a year’s time? I seriously doubt that we could handle that kind of rapid growth as adults…if I picture me trying to assimilate so many changes in one year as a new baby does, I think I would explode!
I say this because I am a grown woman, in her mid forties, and I have learned to be afraid. Life has taught me about people and things and events that hurt, and that I must be protective and watchful and wary, lest something bad happen to me. Even when I am all of those things, sometimes bad things still happen. That innate trust we are born with can slowly erode over time, to the point that it seems quite unbelievable we ever possessed this gift.
However, I am hopeful. When I put my injured foot to the floor, I am in essence saying, “I trust that this leg will hold me up”. When I choose to engage my body with the earth by walking, I am saying I WANT to trust again. I WANT to be part of the earth walk again, I WANT to move and run and dance and play.
As I learn to put my foot down and do the careful dance of rolling my heel and pushing off with my toes, I wonder what kind of a little girl I was when I took that first step. Was it a joyful and exciting adventure? Was it a feeling of complete trust and knowing that I was supported? Can I harness that level of trust again as I learn to walk this time? I pray that I can.
The story starts here: Ode to My Ankle