Isn’t it interesting how we never realize how miraculous something is until we no longer have it?
Take walking for instance. Walking is something most of us do every day without even thinking about it. We stand up to walk ourselves to the bathroom in the morning. We’re on our feet, walking to our closets to get dressed. We walk to prepare our breakfast. We walk to our cars. To work. At work. We even sometimes walk for the sake of walking. All the while, we never really think about the miracle that is walking, we just walk.
Until you can’t. Walk that is.
(cue: the movie in your mind) Picture Kimberly. Kimberly is frustrated. Her teenager seemingly took her computer charger to school with him. Her computer is dying and she’s on the brink of something that seemed so-very-important that it had to be finished that instant. Panicked, unable to find her charger for her new-ish laptop, and worried that she will forget what she was writing, Kimberly storms up the steep stairs to her bedroom, where her old beaten-up laptop rests unloved by her bedside. She grabs it and hastily runs back to her nook on the deck to finish her oh-so-important thing. Except Kimberly doesn’t make it to her nook to finish what she was writing. Kimberly, filled with frustration and urgency, somehow thought she didn’t need to step on every step of her steep steps to return to her nook. She somehow thought she was special and could fly. Except she’s not special and she cannot fly.
At least without consequences.
(cue: tense, dramatic music; picture in slow-motion) Sailing through the air, profanity fills her mind and transforms her out-loud voice as she crumples to the cold tiled floor, her feet folding beneath her as she lands. She lay defeated at the foot of the staircase.
Having totally forgotten whatever it was that she wanted to write.
That was the last time I’ll be able to walk for 6 weeks. Two sprained ankles, one broken foot, one surgery, and a complete loss of dignity later, I sit here thinking about the miracle that is walking and wonder how I could have ever taken it for granted the way that I once did.
One thing I know to be true is that the most important lessons I’ve learned in life, haven’t come from the easy, fun, carefree times. Our better selves are forged in the fire of our struggles, like it or not.
So, I get to learn all the things that I’ve been avoiding learning! Yay me! I get to relinquish control and learn to ask for help. I get to strengthen my empathy muscles and remember how it feels to be vulnerable. I get to learn patience and resilience. I get to practice being grateful in the face of adversity and positive in the face of pain.
I get to.
I remind myself that brave doesn’t live in our experience of ourselves, that brave lives in our actions. (Which is a good thing because I don’t feel very brave right now.) Even in the throes of this crazy situation, I find myself in, who do I want to be at this moment in time? What impact do I want to have? What action can I take?
One. Action. At. A. Time.
(Normally I focus on baby steps, but the whole “step” analogy isn’t working for me right now. 😊)
But you don’t have to be like Kimberly. You don’t have to find your lessons in a heap at the bottom of a staircase. What does your life have to teach you? Take inventory of all that is going right. Of the little things that seem automatic and inconsequential. Your heart that is beating. Your breath. Your mind. Your feet. Your computer charger!
Who do you want to be at this moment in time? What impact do you want to have? What action can you take?
Let your struggles be your teacher. Get clarity on who you want to be in the face of all that is hard.
That, my friend, is where you find your brave.
Yes indeed, our struggles will ultimately define us. They will make or break us if we allow them to. So sorry to hear of your sprained ankles, kindest of prayers as you recover and reflect on this simple act we take for granted… walking. It’s much like our electricity or water. We lose power, we feel powerless. We have no gadgets, no television, no utilities to help us read at night. We lose water, we suddenly realize how nice it is to have a hot shower, something to rinse our vegetables, something clean to quench our thirst. Sadly there are many societies on our planet that still don’t have such luxuries, yet we flip a switch and we are blessed with the tools and facets of modern technology. Beyond that, as you so eloquently expressed, is our health. We take our legs for granted, our bodies, our minds. Many of us are neglectful of what it truly takes to remain healthy, both physically, mentally and spiritually… until some landmark event shakes us from our comfort zone… some struggle that redefines the simplicity of what we have. I enjoy stories like this. They ground us in the reality of our most fragile moments. What we have today may not always be available tomorrow. Well done Kimberly, get well soon! 🙏
What a beautiful reflection, Aaron, thank you! Only 5 weeks left of no-walking… Isn’t it funny how you eschew exercise when you can do it and long for it when you can’t? We humans are weird creatures!
Thanks so much for publishing this piece, Dennis!
Always a pleasure, my friend!