I have not had a good relationship with my body’s abilities for most of my life. I played soccer when I was five, but who knows if I was really any good at it? I don’t even remember winning or losing, and then we moved away. When I was eleven, I broke my left wrist pretty badly, and no matter my weight, I’m physically incapable of doing a pull-up. I actually prefer to do push-ups on my knuckles. I used to be decent at basketball, but I was a poor kid at a rich school where other students had most of the say in who made the team, so tryouts measured popularity instead of skill. I’d given up on basketball by the time I transferred to a school where I would have made the team.
Then, of course, my insides are all fucked up. When I was 21, my kidneys discovered how much they loved producing stones a few times a year. I’m sure I have gout to look forward to one day; my stones are uric acid based, the same as my grandmother’s, and my mother has gout now. Then my lovely polycystic ovaries made themselves known. I even had a nice bout of diverticulitis.
So I never appreciated my physical capabilities, since it seemed that every time I had a chance to explore or exploit them I was consequently denied the opportunity. But you know what? I can do a lot of things. I can juggle, slowly. I can twirl a baton, briefly. I can wield a knife in the kitchen. And I can walk.
I had a major shift in the way I look at my feet a couple weeks ago. I work at one end of the mall, and the deposit gets dropped at the other end, so every night I close up, I hoof it to the back. Obviously, not a long haul by any sense of the word, just a couple minute stroll, but this night in particular I got the feeling that I was actually going somewhere with every step I took. An interesting sensation, not just in my feet and my head, but all over my body. Yes, the surreality of an epiphany while walking the mall, but also a sense of optimistic pride.
I know you know the feeling of starting out and saying to yourself ugh, what a long way to go. For example, when it’s been a long day at work and you’re halfway home and realize that you have to pick up whatever it is from the store, but it also happens to be the eve of some holiday or other that necessitates a gift. I’m thinking of the night before Valentine’s Day one year when I got off an eleven hour shift of pizza-making and had to go to Wally World for toilet paper. There’s no parking, it’s not my regular store so I went in the wrong entrance, the toilet paper’s not where it would make sense to put it, and then there are thirty people on the verge of panic ahead of me in line with their last-minute heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and giant teddy bears. This really happened. All I could think about was how tired I was, how annoying this was, what a long way it would be back to my car, and couldn’t I find a handful of napkins or something to wipe my butt with instead of making this trip?
I objectively remember this feeling, focusing only on my exhaustion and poor, put-upon feet, worn out from sliding around on cornmeal all night. But I don’t think about it anymore, because it’s eclipsed by this amazing feeling of going places. I’m going places! Actual, physical places, not that line of crap promising students hear until it turns into gibberish in their ears.
I can walk with joy. By necessity, it’s certainly still a means to an end, but it’s also become an end in itself. When we’re hiking, even when I’m simply taking my trip to the drop box, I’m doing something. Walking isn’t just an interim period, a commercial break, if you will. It’s an activity with purpose, of which I am consciously partaking.
Walking is no longer something I take for granted. It probably should never have been, as I watched my aunt Morna lose the ability to MS over my teens, but it always has been. It’s almost a dance now. Consider the ground, place the feet, shift the weight, swing the arms, dodge the obstacles. Something so simple, and yet so complex. So normal, and yet so beautiful.
It does feel a little silly to say that I’m proud of myself for walking. In a way, that is what I’m proud of, but mostly I’m proud of myself for noticing. For being present, even when I’m ‘just walking.’ It may have come out of the blue, but I snatched the moment up and continue to hold it close. It feels like more than pride. It feels like healing.