Sunday, July 7, 2013

Walking; Illuvatar; metaphors

I gotta get this outta my system.

I hate walking.


I f#@#$#$ing hate walking.

Wall-walking on a best day, I never really get close to what "walking" used to be. Not even in the context of "up hills" or "up stairs" or anything like that. Walking from the kitchen where I make my tea, to the chair I'm siting in while I type this. 15 feet as an absolute outside guess, maybe even 12 or so. Three corners, kitchen to hall to studio. That's it.

I hate it. I f#@#$#$ing hate it.

Why? It feels soul-shreddingly weird, even on a good day. I have a horrible time trying to explain how this stuff skewers my soul to my physical therapists. "Does it hurt?" they ask. Well not exactly, but put it this way: Your child tells you they hate you. The person you were going to ask to marry you dumps you. Do those "hurt"? Yes, eventually you tell them. So then, tell me specifically how it "feels bad." Easy to describe, isn't it? Finding that quick description suggest a quick and instant cure, doesn't it? Wanna try a DMD, to make everything better? Which they always do, right? How about a Pilates exercise?

When I do "walk" in whatever way I do it, I can barely do it. I'm frequently on the edge of feeling-like-I'm-about-to-collapse-straight-down. Carrying something, such as the tea I went to the kitchen to make, makes me feel even closer to disaster; whether it is actually putting me closer, I don't know, but it sure feels like it is.

Alternatives? A wheelchair (assume for the moment it'll work in this house, which it probably would given a little cleaning of the house and rearranging the furniture). I'm not reaching for that because I think that if I sit in it, I'll never get out of it... at least wall-walking gives me (huge air quotes) "exercise." Of a sort. After a fashion. I think.

A walker? Well, this forestalls the "falling over," we still need to straighten up the house/move furniture/etc. simply to make room. But I f#@#$#$ing hate walking, even with a walker. I've tried walker-ing in the back yard; yeah, I can cross a greater distance with it than without it, but the whole "walking" experience is so incredibly unpleasant that it's just no fun. The antithesis of fun.

The interesting question is, of course, exactly how is it so horrible? It "gets to" me; it cuts very deep, but how? At the bottom line, is it attachment, not to the ego (first) but to this fleshy vehicle I'm inhabiting, to all the things that used to be so very easy, but that no longer are?

Happens to everyone, I presume... the whole "aging" thing, reams of "I used to be able to X but now I can't" that are in big and small ways heaped upon all of us simply by time. And from what my mother tells me, it doesn't get any "better," simply by waiting for time to inflict it upon you. But my 80-year-old mother has a whole different "arsenal" of ... whatever... that 80 years have blessed her with, to soften the blow, the loss, of things we've held so close to us for so long.

Well, I'm a little over 50, and I didn't get a smooth multi-decade decline to ease the transition. I got The Diagnosis in 2007, and here we are in mid-2013. My walking is vanishing rapidly, and over the course of only months--weeks--it is degrading, withering, like a plant that got mistransplanted in the desert and never gets any water. It fades, and fades rapidly.

So, gentle reader, I can hear you asking... Where's the "gift"? THIS, you call a GIFT?

Well, here's the thing. We all get to (massive air quotes around "get to") deal with this eventually. When we want to deal with it, is never an option for discussion or choice. We all "get to," have to, deal with it anyway, when it comes upon us.

Tolkein, in the appendix to Lord of the Rings, depicts Arwen and Aragorn's farewell; Arwen says as they contemplate the end of their century-plus years together, "For if this is indeed, as the Eldar say, the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive." ("The One" here is Eru Illuvatar, the supreme being, not "the one ring.") Tolkien's characters didn't have an easy time of it, either... of course, Aragorn's final words are "We are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory." I don't think I'm at that threshold yet... but I definitely am at a threshold, binding myself to the circles of this world, to the way I used to be able to walk, and to the way I'm air-quotes "walking" now. And beyond these circles is... a mystery. Right now, at least.

But even fictional characters can come to peace with it. And therefore, I guess, should I; except I have to write it myself.

And that, my friends, is the gift. The hands must be open if a gift is to be given or received... time to stop clinging, then, and open my hands.

I don't mean that like the times when I'm talking about holding on for safety while I'm "wall walking." It's a metaphor.

But wall-walking too, is a metaphor.

Great. Multiple Sclerosis, Disease of Many Metaphors.

And as I've often said... the jokes write themselves, don't they?


Judy said...

May I respectfully suggest it is not walking you hate but rather the inability to walk?

Robert Parker said...

Actually, no; it was the experience, the struggle, like the "oh great, what's THAT smell?" unpleasantness that comes about sometimes when you're cleaning something that should have been cleaned long, long ago... there's some gunk there that has never been touched, and when you find out it's there, it is No. Fun. At. All. "Needs to be seen to" does not ameliorate the unpleasantness.

An interesting parallel; when I was living in Connecticut, I hated the cold. HATED it. One winter, I was struggling through the sludge, and I stepped on what I thought was "firm" footing, but my foot sank past ankle-deep into a puddle of very interesting "water," it was colder than the freezing temperature but it was still liquid. Very cold, very wet, and because of both of those, VERY cold.

And I looked at my foot in the puddle and I said, "Wow, that's cold."

And from that moment on... cold didn't bother me. It was cold, boy was it ever! But it didn't bother me any more. I no longer hated the cold. It was very much an "And he was enlightened" moment (the sort you read about in Zen stories), there's a SNAP! and then everything's different. Better, even!

And when I can come to that point with what I feel in my legs when I large-air-quotes "walk"... I won't hate it any more.