Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Making way for something new often demands moving (I used the term intentionally) outside the familiar or comfortable. I live on the second floor of a two-story apartment building, up (and down) 16 very steep steps. I have arthritic knees and I spent the summer drawing, coloring, staring, drooling, reading and not going out much. I did not practice my stair walking. I am having to come up with a whole new plan.

Approach tried and rejected: wake up, shower, dink around with e-mail or the newspaper or phone calls, then suit up for The Stairs, by which time I am tired and unfocused, sometimes totally intimidated by how far down the courtyard looks, and how high the second-floor walkway will seem from the courtyard.

New approach: a baseball cap to hide hair that could frighten the neighbors, getting suited up and ready to march as soon as the leaving-for-work traffic has thinned out. In more disciplined times, I learned to avoid the stairs during the high school lunch period; I am slow, a truly generous description, and hungry teenagers have not a minute to waste or wait. Always polite, I knew they felt that anything under the speed limit should be off the road. A carefully selected window of time, after rush hour, before midday heat. I am wobbly and wish I were more brave, strong, young, fit and never, ever procrastinated. But in this moment, I am and I do those things.

The Clean-Your-Plate connection. For me it requires becoming very clear about what matters most. If I had one wish and that wish would be greater strength, endurance and agility, there is my answer. First things first. If I find that I am tired after doing other tasks of dubious virtue before I exercise, I am not putting the top item at the top of the day. For me this assignment is plain, hard work and a baseball cap with simple, comfortable clothes makes it somewhat easier. Shower after the exercise? What a notion. There was a recent day when we had an earthquake, luckily far enough away to do no damage in our town but the thought of having to scramble down those stairs in an seemed that rolling me down them like a log would be easier and hurt less.

This may seem like a foolish, completely self-induced problem to the young, the fit and the never-put-off-until-tomorrow crowd. We all have our demons and the holes into which our good sense falls from time to time. Over the years I have had numerous well-meaning friends who, on a vast list of my obvious shortcomings have started sentences with, "...but couldn't you just..." If I could, I would. I can't imagine any of us choosing to feel so insufficient intentionally. I really believe we each do the best we can. When that best becomes better, we do it that way.

I have to own neglecting something vital. By staying occupied creating art and stories, I tried to embezzle myself a little slack, ascribing virtues to what I had done and shrugging my shoulders at the things I had not. And now important dates are looming for which I want to reach my car, drive off to see people and do things. I missed one significant event because I had not prepared and felt heartbroken for it. I hope to take inspiration from your stories and carry your determination with me as I make those downward steps, asking mercy from whatever protectors look out for imperfect joints. And imperfection in general.

Thursday morning P.S. I took my words to heart and did 12 of the 16 steps, the top, last one with a neighbor's assistance. Yesterday I barely managed 3. When I posted my entry yesterday I felt terribly exposed. Today I feel encouraged.


michelle ward said...

narylinn, thank you for sharing your journey with us. it's a reminder that everyone's to-do can vary vastly. i applaud you for the determined attitude to tackle this, knowing it is just as important as the exercise of the mind. and bravo for the productive time you spent recently, creating a new stamp collection. it's all good.

michelle ward said...

yeah, that was supposed to by addressed to MARYLINN not narylinn ;)

Patti Edmon Artist said...

I so appreciate your honesty... feeling really old before time is no fun; I know I told you that last week was Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week - their site has some tools and resources that I'm finding a bit helpful. I wish you the very best and keep talking!!

Chris said...

9 more steps! Very cool.
Thanks for sharing this. I give up too easily. Time for determination.

Anonymous said...

What a great transcends across to everyone and everything!

Janine Davies said...

Another wonderfully written inspirational post! Thank you for sharing.

carlene federer said...

Wow...I think you are very brave to expose a perceived flaw so openly! You GO girl and OWN those stairs!

ginny said...

I applaud your determination. I have a plated ankle that somedays is just fine and other days makes the stairs a mountain of a challenge. It makes me feel old, ugly and well, old. I know exercise helps and drinking lots of water, but somedays I just don't care and rationalize like you and just spend the day in my art room.
You go girl. I am inspired by you.