Walking 101


  I love my physical therapist, Beth. There’s something about her that allows me to be vulnerable. I’m not proud of this but in the past, when I couldn’t do something that someone suggested I try the first time, I would declare in my mind – “I’ll never be able to do this, so I quit.” Never would I ask for assistance or tell the person I was working with I needed help.  

But it’s not the same with Beth. No matter how elementary the exercise is, I feel free to go over it with her until I feel confident.

So it wasn’t that difficult to tell her: “I’ve been having trouble walking.” Alarmed at first, she asked a few clarifying questions until my meaning became clear. I’ve been having difficulty keeping up with Wendell and my stride and rhythm hasn’t felt comfortable.

So we left her small windowless office for the giant all-purpose room where other PT’s were busy with their clients. After rustling up a pair of poles, Beth asked me to use them and walk across the room. Dodging other patients and PT’s, I headed straight down the middle of the room. “No problem,” I thought, “I know how to walk with poles!”    

My self-assuredness fell to the floor when Beth started making suggestions. “Don’t put the poles so far behind you,” she advised. “When the right foot steps forward, bring the left pole forward.”

I tried again and noticed that my left foot and my left pole were moving forward at the same time. Have I always been doing this wrong? I tried again. And again. When her next client arrived, she said I could keep practicing on my own. However hard I tried to step with my left foot while putting the right pole forward, mysteriously my left foot and my left pole would creep forward at the same time, as if they were best buddies. A familiar voice in my head started: “I can’t do this. I quit.”

Beth interrupted her session to introduce me to the cutest young man, asking if I would allow him to coach me a bit more. Over and over, he patiently said “Right foot, left pole. Left foot, right pole.” He cheered when I got it right and chuckled with me when I didn’t. Working with him lessened my stubborn refusal to try, but still the words, “I can’t do this,” kept sneaking in.

Ordeal over, I sat in my car. Part of me insisted, “You will never be able to do this.” I recognized this voice and knew it was trying to bully me. I opened the car window to get some air. I breathed through my nose (a Beth recommendation) and it was then I began hearing a different voice. A new voice. This voice said, “I am determined to do this or will die trying.”

Sitting in this ordinary parking lot, I was witnessing a fierce battle. Would I root for the interior bully whose words were so familiar or would I listen to the determined voice?

  Which voice do you listen to when you are trying something new? 

IMAGE: Wendell’s recently completed puzzle gives us an indication of which voice I will be rooting for!

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