Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
— Philippians 3:12
“Stand up straight! Use your eyes to see what is around you.”
I bristled at the words of Ruth, my mobility instructor. Every few steps she would comment on my posture and I would adjust myself to fit her expectations.
“Let your cane do the seeing. That’s why you have it,” she continued.
I plastered a smile on my face, and looked around me. I tried to let my cane find the sidewalk and my obstacles, freeing me up to observe other cues in my environment.
“You’re doing it again. Why are you looking at the ground?”
“Mmmm,” I sighed, correcting my posture once more. It felt so awkward and unnatural.
I guess I’ve walked bent over for years without being aware of it. Before I ever picked up a red-and-white cane, I had to see where I was going. My eyes unconsciously wandered to the ground so I wouldn’t fall in a hole, or splash through a mud puddle.
As a language teacher moving from building to building on a sprawled-out wing of our training base in San Antonio, I moved in a brisk, determined manner. Students and teachers laughed, misinterpreting my movement, and called out to me.
“You are so busy! Slow down!”
“Never you look up, teacher!”
“Go, get ‘em!”
Some have even said, “Life is not so bad. Don’t be depressed.”
Without knowing it, I’d settled in a posture and moved in such a way that misled people. They’d ascribed all these kinds of motives to me, just by watching me move?
Thinking back, I kind of laugh at myself. I did walk fast and furious. It seemed like I had gotten used to braving the wind even when I had no wind!
As Ruth continued to draw my attention to the posture that I used with my cane, the more hopeless I felt. Of course, I didn’t show this outwardly, but I thought, “This feels so weird.”
I recalled years earlier when my bowling coach tried to change the way I approached the bowling pins. She tried to get me to coordinate movement of my bowling arm and the foot I led with. Before that day, I used to enjoy bowling but when I tried to focus on moving in a synchronized way, drawing my arm back and aiming for the center pin, going bowling lost that spirit of fun for me. But that’s because I had fossilized in doing it wrong.
And just like foreign speakers sometimes fossilize in using wrong grammar patterns or pronunciation, if they want to become a better communicator, they have to break those habits and form new ones.
It’s the same with me. If I want better and safer mobility, I am going to have to break old habits. That was survival walking. Now I have my cane–a smoother, more efficient way of getting around. I reminded myself of the teaching process and being open to instruction. If I wanted to learn, I had to allow myself to be taught.
I motivated myself by imagining a change of environment. I was not walking down an uneven sidewalk on a cold, rainy day. Instead, I found myself gliding down a smooth runway in a beauty pageant. I decided to give my brightest smile to all my well-wishers. It worked.
“Much better! That’s right. What do you see now?” my instructor called out.
“Houses. There’s a car coming up beside me on the road.” Oh yeah, looking into the sky, I feel the rain, too. That made me laugh.
I must have fallen back into my old habits because Ruth stopped me again. She paused and said slowly as if trying to word her idea in a non-offensive way, “Maybe the agency can spring for a physical therapist. Would you go to one if we scheduled someone to help you?”
A physical therapist? Me? Aghast, I didn’t have an answer at first. But, I focused on the positive. “I would if you thought it was necessary.”
Ruth blew her nose and sluiced the rain away from her face. “Well, let’s see how it goes. You know, posture affects your heart and all kinds of internal organs. We don’t want to risk that.”
We continued on our way. Straighten up, Amy! I consciously replayed the beauty pageant theme as we made our way down a busier street a few blocks from my house. This isn’t all that bad!
“What do you think?” I asked. “Should we go back?” I smiled brightly, still in beauty-queen mode.
“You’re doing much better,” Ruth commented.
Finally, we headed back home.
The lesson I learned today—it seems to matter where I look. I’m going to begin to let my cane do the seeing for my feet, and find the obstacles in my path. Meanwhile, I am going to feel the wind, embrace the rain, and see the world around me.
God just flashed a smile at me.
I gave him a perfect, queenly wave in return. I’m gonna be a serious contender for this pageant I’ve entered into here on earth.
Already I feel my spirits lifting.