Saturday, January 24, 2009
Walking in Winter
I'll admit that before the accident I didn't really worry about snow and ice. When I was in high school Mark Hatfield and I would go backpacking in Michigan every spring break. Inevitably, after several days of hiking, we would wake up to discover that our campsite had been covered in snow during the night! We would then turn back towards the cabin that had been our starting point. The forest is extremely beautiful when covered by a blanket of snow, but it can also be treacherous.
We rarely used existing trails, preferring to blaze our own paths through the wilderness. This, of course, meant that when that snow covered morning finally arrived we would have to deal with all sorts of obstacles. Snow drifts, fallen trees that we used for bridges were now ice covered, and hidden ponds, creeks, or other obstacles under the snow and ice. There were numerous slips, trips, and falls as we trudged our way back to the welcoming warmth of the cabin. (Of course, in those days, it was just another adventure for us, and one of the funniest things was to watch your friend fall face first into a snow bank with a 60 pound backpack on his back!)
Now the snow and ice is almost like an invisible prison to me. I don't like using my wheelchair in public. I prefer to walk whenever possible, and when the weather turns bad it deters me from leaving the house. Aside from the fact that I don't like using the wheelchair, there are complications to using it in the winter weather. The snow gets caked onto the wheels and, once I'm inside, it can create a rather large puddle which is especially embarrassing in a restaurant or other public place. Also, the wheelchair can easily get stuck in the snow, or on a patch of ice, which is very frustrating.
Walking certainly eliminates those issues, but if there's snow or ice in the mix it also increases the chance that I'll fall and potentially injure myself. The answer is that I have to be very careful. I take baby steps and I tend to keep my left leg straight the entire time, as opposed to using the knee on that leg and walking with a normal gait. This gives me a greater degree of stability. It also takes a lot longer for me to get where I'm going, but that's better than falling.
The other issues, of course, is managing the crutches. My balance has improved tremendously over the past six months, but I still need the crutches when I walk for both balance, and weight transfer. I have to be very careful with them on snow and ice. If one crutch starts to slide I have to transfer my weight off that crutch quickly, or else I'll go with it. Of course, I run the risk of the other crutch sliding as well, so I generally try to transfer more of my weight to my legs and only a little to the opposite crutch. It's a lot to think about while trying to move at the same time.
Once I've gotten inside I also have to worry about the floor. If it's tile, or some other hard surface, I have to be sure that the ends of my crutches are dry. There have been many times when, after a stressful walk from the car to a building, I've relaxed and almost bit it because my crutch was wet and slipped on the floor. (That's also an issue any time it rains.) I haven't fallen because I try not to take many risks and I'm extremely careful when I have to walk in an uncertain situation.
I have to admit that this time of year is difficult for me. Last week we had a fair amount of snow on the ground. On one hand I allowed it to deter me from leaving the house, which was aggravating. On the other hand, it made me nostalgic for those days hiking through the snow in Michigan, which became fairly depressing. Oh how I miss being able to go wherever I want, whenever I want, and not having to worry about the conditions I'm walking in!
There are so many reminders during this time of year of the things I can't do that it can get overwhelming. This is a part of my new reality. Accepting that there are things that I could do in the past that I simply cannot do as easily (or at all) anymore. Accepting those things doesn't really make it any easier, but it allows me to get through the disappointment faster. Once I've let go of those things I'm able to focus on more positive or productive things, and leave the moment of disappointment/depression behind me.
I can understand your concerns with the weather .....rain, snow, and ice. You have mastered so many tasks these past three plus years but there is always a need for you to know the forecast. The scout motto , Be Prepared, is a fitting way of life for you. Perhaps you have already started preparing a "to do list" of projects that can be accompished inside at home during inclement weather times. This might give you freedom from the feeling of imprisonment when the weather turns bad.
I think it's good that you have recognized what triggers your depression and anger and have learned how to work with them. I know that it won't prevent you from having those feelings frequently, but it will help you to work through them more quickly when they come. I can only liken it to the emotions that Ron and I have to face in having Anna with delays so severe. It's often frustrating, emotionally and physically exhausting, depressing, difficult to deal with, etc., and it has changed our lives, but we have had to find ways to cope because we know it won't change. She will always be severely delayed. It stinks, but we have to trust that God will get us through each day and each challenge, just as He has for the past 9 years. We are able to enjoy the good days and celebrate the milestones that parents of typical children take for grantid.
Don't forget the amazing progress you have made. You are a double, above-the-knee amputee who can WALK!! Amazing!!!! :)
Read Psalm 119: 65-80 :)
You are an amazing inspiration to so many, and this reminds me of my sister (who lives in our home state of Michigan which we miss). She had polio as a toddler and never regained the use of one leg. She has always had to wear a full length brace or use crutches. Her strength and determination continue to inspire everyone around her.
When she was a teenager, Bill asked how she planned to get up on a horse because he planned to offer help. Her reply was a firm "just like normal people!" and got right up on that horse.
She needed help now and then, still does, but is determined to live her life as best she can, as normal as possible ... whatever normal is for her. God knows what she needs and continues to bless her and her family.
May God continue to bless and provide for you.
Love and prayers,