One of the first things I learned in Physical Therapy is that you never assume your wheelchair is behind you. You feel it on the back of your legs and then you sit. This is one of the habits that has stuck with me, except I’ve added visual confirmation to the pre-sitting routine. At first I was like, Seriously, Mommy is following me around with my wheelchair. I’m PRETTY SURE it’s going to be there when I sit down.
Except I kept that commentary internal.
But it’s a good practice to verify the position of anything on wheels before you sit on it or use it in any other way for stability. The time has come, though, for me to build confidence in things that don’t move.
Last week Trainer D introduced me to his friend the kettlebell. (Me: Have I mentioned that I’m disabled? MMiyagi: No.) I was deadlifting it (there was unintentional swinging but nothing untoward happened, PS lifting kettlebells etc. is aimed at functional activity – he likes to explain the mechanics of movement and how doing a certain exercise exemplifies how I should lift things in real life) and at the end of the set I was supposed to sit down. “Don’t look!” Trainer D told me. The first couple of times I couldn’t help it. I looked to make sure the bench was still there. The third time I resisted the urge for visual confirmation and just sat.
You have to trust it’s still there, he explained. It’s an inanimate object. It didn’t get up and walk a few inches to the side. It’s also important to remember I sat down (almost) a few moments before while holding a kettlebell – I could do it again unweighted without incident.
Fair points, I thought. I was also instructed to have more confidence in my left leg at Therapy last week. I did some side-stepping over some cones in the parallel bars (picture above) and I’ve never had such a good view of how my legs (especially on the left) don’t want to do what I’m telling them to do. Normally people just make a strong fluid motion and plant their foot where they want to without thinking about it. But I saw my left leg wandering hither and yon before I managed to get it on the side of the cone.
This is the same reason why I have to wear shoes when I climb stairs. I can’t put my feet where I want to so I feel the step in front of me with my toe or the back of my heel. Unless I’m wearing proper footwear it hurts. I was frustrated during the parallel bar-cone exercise, but my PT told me my leg looked pretty good. The main things for me to concentrate on are weight-bearing on the left and building confidence in general.
It was M (37) who first called me out on the leaning to the right-thing and explained how my brain mistrusts my left side so it favors the right. It’s gotten a better since I was at Planet Rehab with her but recent polls indicate that I’m still leaning a little.
I’m thankful to have progressed to the point where we can get pickier about form and aim higher in terms of my gait. For a long time no one told me I was leaning to the right. Mommy explained she was just glad I was walking. But now we’ve got our sights set on the higher end of my self-devised walking scale.
In addition to attention to the finer points of the 10 tips this is going to take some confidence. I used to have a LOT of confidence since I didn’t know any better – I didn’t believe anything had happened to me so of course I could do XYZ. Now I do know better but I often forget that my body is different now, or a new deficit will surface that I haven’t accounted for, and I’ll try XYZ when I should really be more cautious. That’s why I need professionals to decide on appropriate activities for me and to ensure their safe execution.
What I’m talking about now, though, is not misbegotten confidence like I’ve had in the past. This is about using my head and remembering that, like the bench at The Gym, some stuff doesn’t change. But even when the pathway is uncertain and there are changes ahead you’d never expect I love the language of the Psalms about “hinds feet.” It’s not the path but the feet and even the steps of the Psalmist that get Divine attention. PS. In case the language of this psalm is a little too martial for your taste look at verse 35, “Your gentleness makes me great.” How’s that for counter-intuitive? At least it’s counter-intuitive for me. I’d expect something about God’s omnipotence here, not a reference to His gentleness. But that’s what makes Him so approachable – I can approach the throne of grace with confidence since I’m sure of a favorable reception there…and I’ll thank Him that I can walk. Now I’ll ask Him to please help me walk better.
33 He makes my feet like hinds’ feet,
And sets me upon my high places.
34 He trains my hands for battle,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You have also given me the shield of Your salvation,
And Your right hand upholds me;
And Your gentleness makes me great.
36 You enlarge my steps under me,
And my feet have not slipped.