I am one of those people that believes everything happens for a reason.
Sometimes, that reason is our own stupidity.
Other times, there’s a greater purpose at work.
It didn’t dawn on me, until this past week, that the pain in my legs and lower back might actually be serving a purpose. It might be here to teach me something. After all, many of the items that I listed in my Book of Hopes & Dreams for 2017 focused on becoming stronger; what better way to learn what strength is than to be temporarily without it?
One of the blessings—yes, I know, I just called this a blessing—of being in physical pain, is that I have been forced to take smaller steps. For those of you that know me outside of this blog, I usually keep a brisk pace. I tend to dart from Point A to Point B, without pausing to smell the proverbial roses. Now…with my back and legs in spasm…not so much. My steps are short, slow, and on bad days, there’s a bit of a limp.
This change in my stride has tried my patience. It’s tried my self-compassion. But it’s also opened my eyes to a world that I wasn’t seeing clearly.
As I mentioned in a previous post, my significant other and I were recently in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. We spent the morning celebrating my youngest godchild’s second birthday and then decided to while away the hours before our dinner reservations by exploring the city’s Old Port.
I had some difficulty appreciating my shorter step at the time (there was a cold, Canadian wind blowing), but later that evening I began to wonder, would I have seen as much as I did had I been able to walk at my normal pace?
Would I have noticed the photographer, in hat and gloves, trying to snap the perfect picture of one of the city’s many historic buildings?
Would I have noticed the suede mittens, embroidered with a bright, floral pattern, that another pedestrian was wearing?
Would we have made two pit stops—one at a café for some warm, caffeinated beverages and the other at an English-style pub for some glorious poutine—had I been able to walk for miles instead of just yards?
Perhaps this post is nothing more than me, just trying to find the silver lining in a difficult situation (I’m really, really trying to be more positive, guys!). Perhaps, if I had been able to keep my usual pace, I would have seen all of these minute details and had these experiences anyways. But, I sincerely doubt it.
Had my legs been able to carry me further, we probably wouldn’t have lingered on the steps of Notre Dame, basking in the glow of winter decorations, for as long as we did.
We probably wouldn’t have stopped at a nearby souvenir shop for warmth.
We probably wouldn’t have paused on the sidewalk, admiring the horse and carriage plodding down the city’s cobblestone streets.
Am I struggling with my current situation? Hell yeah. But, at the end of the day, I have this collection of small images—minute details—to process. They’ll probably find homes in blogposts and short stories. They’ll inevitably enrich my life in ways that I can’t predict. It’s already happening. It’s already changing me, prompting me to feel gratitude amidst the physical discomfort, forcing me to remember the words of the physical therapist that, after ICU in 2010, taught me how to walk again:
“Wide steps, Laura, like John Wayne. I’ll teach you how to do the catwalk later.”
So, for now, I will patiently be taking small, wide steps. I will saunter like John Wayne through this, observing the world around me and recording all of those minute, magnificent details that I would otherwise be oblivious to. And I will, eventually, get back to the catwalk—and when I do—I will be better, stronger, for having gone through this.