My girls needed some new clothes and wanted me to join them for a typical shopping trip with their Mom. Our friends offered to take the girls without me...or with me if I felt up to it. This would mean using my cane for as long as I could manage and my wheelchair in public for the first time (aside from doctor's appointments, pt and our trip to the art museum far from home the day Rosie had her pill-cam endoscopy). I had a choice. I could stay home and miss this outing with my girls and friends; temporarily turning away from the fear of what it would be like to be ''seen by others" as disabled (and more to the point seeing myself as disabled). Or I could begin the next part of this healing journey and accept that at least for now, I can't walk very far without the assistance of my cane and when I really run out of steam (which doesn't take long), my wheelchair.
I admitted to Belin (my nearly 16 year old daughter) that I was feeling anxious and perhaps a bit agoraphobic...and she wisely counseled: "Mom, when I'm feeling that way, your advice to me is always 'face your fears...and I (meaning ME) will be with you'. Mom, Rosie and I will be with you. It will be ok. We want you to come."
My daughters needed me. They needed a normal activity with me, their mother...and for now, Mom cruising around the mall in a wheelchair is our normal. If my pre-teen and teen aged daughters were not ashamed to be seen with me this way....why was I feeling embarrassed about my current physical condition? I would certainly never judge another human being unkindly because they moved, sounded, behaved or otherwise apeared "differently-abled" from the "norm". What about all that compassion toward my body I'd been practicing in meditation? This was my opportunity to truly take it off my meditation cushion and into real life.
The photo above is a self-portrait I took before we left. You can see the uncertainty in my eyes, and perhaps a hint of determination.
Well....we did it. I started with the cane at the first store. We found a bench when my voice started to shift and my legs cramped up and my balance was getting less than stable. I hung in there. We went out for lunch, something I haven't done in 7 weeks. We drove on to the mall and took the wheelchair out of the car. when we arrived. And there I was...at the mall, with my girls, my friends and lots and lots of people, maneurvering my way between crowds and clothes racks. And yes, I was exhausted by the end, but I had FUN! I was ME...I am still ME.
Perhaps my strength, coordination, balance, energy level and voice will return to the way they were before this latest exacerbation struck 7 weeks ago. My vision is certainly close to what it was before. Maybe just some of those physical symptoms will go away. Or perhaps, this is how it's going to be. I've said it before on this blog, and anyone living with MS knows, this is a mysterious disease. As changeable and unpredictable as the weather in New Hampshire.
Like the variable winds and temperature, I must begin to shift my attitude from what I have understood normal to be for my body in the past and love my body as it is, moment to moment. This is a process we all must face as we age...but for me the transitions are more abrupt and coming earlier than expected. If I can learn to accept each change as it occurs, I will find peace in knowing that no matter how I sound, look, move...I'm still going to be ME on the inside...and as long as I can do that, everyone else will see me too.
I feel content in knowing that revisioning what it means to live in my altered body with courage, compassion and dignity is actualizing the original intention of this blog "Creativity as a Spiritual Practice", in a way I never imagined! Imperfection is truly an opening to worlds of possibility. It is surely a doorway to creativity that unfolds as a spiritual practice.