The Privilege of Walking.

It is a tough topic, walking. Seemingly simple, and mundane. Except it isn’t.

It feels as complex as a topic as it is as an act.  A complexity hidden in it’s mundanity. And most of us instinctively know that. We can’t explain easily to someone how to walk. We don’t teach our children to walk, because we couldn’t. We don’t even know how we walk except to say you put one foot in front of the other.  And while we can acknowledge that we take this cosmically orchestrated, somewhat mysterious act, largely for granted, we also know that we don’t want to give it up.

I guess it’s kind of like breathing, or being in good health.

It’s just something we do in our daily lives. Walking, breathing, being healthy.  Until something happens to disrupt it.  Then as we lose the feeling of it being a natural easy part of our daily life, suddenly we realize how centrally vital it is to our existence.

I’m writing about walking because of the central role it has played in my life for the past 2 1/2 years  – and damn it is a hard interest and explanation nut to crack.  How can I talk to you about why and how this simple and seemingly mundane act of walking, has redefined my life?

On one hand you get it. I don’t even need to tell you about it.  After I fell down the stairs I couldn’t walk anymore. That sucked. Duh.

I have gone through a long and painstaking process to be able to walk again.  As I write that, I realize this is part of the story. This is the interesting part.

We didn’t know if I would ever walk again. What was that like?  What has it taken for me to be able to walk they way I do today?

I’d like to tell you about those feelings and that process, and I guess I will. But it isn’t easy.  Since the mechanics of walking are somewhat of a mystery, my process has been a slow unveiling of that mystery on different levels, both sub-conscious and consciously and it is hella hard to get at, seemingly impossible to explain.  Not just to write about it, to actually reflect and comprehend what it was I have gone through to get from there: being paralyzed – to here – walking to and from almost anywhere I want to go.

And this my friends is why memoir writing can be amazing. Because I will learn about my own experience in trying to find the words to share it.  As I write about it in this public draft format, I realize that there are indeed ways for me to explain aspects of the experience. It’ll just take time and effort – just like the process of becoming ambulatory again.

Ambulatory again. I’m two and a half years into this, and I walk really quite well now….and…this is where it gets tricky.  I am loathe to tell you or even admit to myself, on many days my walking experience sucks almost as badly or even worse than it did in the earliest. Just for different reasons.

The biggest reason it still feels like it still sucks is that it doesn’t seem to get any easier. It continues to require painstaking focus and effort. In the beginning it was painstaking effort to take a single step, then to put two steps together – now I am obsessed with the muscle firing patterns that can lead to a smooth gait.  With each level of improvement, I just construct new goals to reach.

The privilege of walking. Like most privilege, we take it for granted.  And I am ashamed that I take my current walking ability, which many with a spinal cord injury can only dream of, for granted.  No, that is not quite right,

I don’t take walking for granted. I can’t. Because it still feels like a feat. What I take for granted is the privilege of walking well enough to be able to improve it.

As I write this I realize that nearly every step I have taken for almost 30 months has been a carefully analyzed step.  Now I kind of wish I had gotten one of this fitbit contraptions. Wouldn’t it be fun to be able to say just how many steps I’ve taken during my recovery-discovery period?

Ok that is it for today. It’s time to choose an image, and publish this drafted piece of writing. It’s not done, it is not perfect, but it is something and of that I am proud. Thank you so much for being here with me on this journey – it means the world to me.

Here’s a video of me walking in the early days of rehabilitation.


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