By Lisa Sugarman
It’s amazing the kind of perspective you get from immobility.
We’re all so used to moving at 100 m.p.h. that we never really give much consideration to how we’d manage the day to day if we suddenly couldn’t get around. And when you factor a couple of kids into the mix, you’ve got yourself one, giant pickle.
Most of us are out there flying from drop off to pick up with a hundred stops in between, so we don’t have time to think about how we’d get things done if we were suddenly strapped into a boot cast, thrown onto a pair of crutches, and told not to even think about climbing stairs without hopping.
Trust me, spend a little time not being able to get around the way you’re used to and all of a sudden everything changes. And whoa, does it change.
We go from 60 to zero with nothing in between and that’s a real awakening. And not the good kind. Which is exactly what I did two weeks ago.
I ended up in a boot cast, on crutches, and with a disproportionately large “good” quad. An experience that you really can’t appreciate unless you’ve spent any real time in a Reebok-Pump-style cast with crutches on the side.
So in the interest of giving you a really good sense of what this really implies, let’s play a little visualization game…
Get into your imaginary boot cast and grab your make-believe crutches and let’s try something simple since you’re new at this. (At this point I’m considered a professional now that I’m in my second full week of crutching.)
Let’s drive to the market to buy some flowers. And remember, always keep your fractured ankle off the ground whenever you’re standing or your kids will rat on you like Judas giving up Jesus.
First, take off your cast to get in your car, then stow your crutches, now slip into your other shoe (oops, forgot the shoe, have to go back in the house). Ok, shoe’s on. Drive to the market, put your cast back on, hop to the trunk to get your crutches, throw on your backpack and get to the flower case. Now put the bouquet between your teeth, back out of the freezer and get in line. Pay, then beg someone to carry your now-crushed-flowers out to your car, and repeat the whole cast on/off process. And this is only errand number one. This paired-down version of my day is only about a half of the stops I usually make. But the length of my day is still the same. It takes me the same amount of time to get half as much done. And this is all without my leg ever touching the ground (at least in theory).
Forget about doing a full food shop. Not happening. Already tried and it was laughable. No dog-walking. No umbrella holding. Definitely no getting the milk out of the fridge and over to the counter. (Calcium is grossly over-rated anyway). And I’m not even going to broach the whole stair subject. Let’s just say this, if you can only use one leg and you have to hold your crutches, then climbing stairs becomes a conundrum. It’s just impossible to figure it out.
I’m exhausted even writing about it. How are you doing?
I’ve only been at this for two weeks and I’ve acquired such a deep respect for anyone who does this on a regular basis.
Growing up, two of my cousins used walkers or crutches and I never fully got it until now. And this was every day for life. So my teeny, tiny, little glimpse into a world with real limitations is pretty damn sobering.
Being immobile for awhile helped me see how much we take the everyday, simple things for granted. I just wish it didn’t take traumatic events to change our perspectives so much. Which is why I’m almost inclined to tell everyone to go out and put themselves in a boot cast for a week just for the helluvit. For clarity’s sake.
I wish there was a way we could all maintain a sense of appreciation on the off days, when things aren’t upside down and difficult. But I guess that’s human nature. We get comfortable and take things for granted without even realizing we’re doing it. As soon as a crisis is over we’re back to business as usual and we forget how good we’ve got it.
I’m sure your average day looks an awful lot like mine, getting into and out of the car at least 25 times. School drop off, home, work, Crosby’s, Starbucks, the ATM, the cleaner, Crosby’s (forgot bread), Chet’s (forgot, again, to return our DVD), the gas station, CVS, school pick up, back home, soccer practice #1, home again (forgot shin guards), soccer practice #2, Fen Yang for take-out, home. Sounding familiar?
Ok, it’s really not that bad. I’m just exaggerating for the dramatic effect because it reads better.
But for most of us this is our way of life and we don’t think twice about it. Generally. Yeah, sure, there are the days when it gets a little ridiculous and you realize that you’ve been in the car more than you’ve been in your house. To most of us, though, our schedules are a force of habit and we completely take for granted that we can get to and from all these places. Until one day when something happens and we can’t.
But since I’m a big believer in mixing things up every once in awhile for perspective’s sake, I’m trying to look at this in a positive way.
There’s a negative side here, for sure. First, you really do need a cabana boy when you can’t get around. Mine’s name is Dave. And lucky for me he took me for better, worse, and even slightly broken because I’d be lost without him. Because you really can’t do it all alone. Second, for every five minutes it normally takes me to do something, I need to add an extra five on the front and the back. So, now, it basically takes me 48 hours to do a full day’s worth of stuff. That means lots of planning ahead. Everything gets mapped out in the most logical possible sequence to avoid backtracking. Backtracking on crutches is bad. It’s also become very clear that you absolutely cannot food shop on crutches. Except for gum (just not the jumbo packs because they mess with the grip on the crutches). Unless you have a Dave you use Peapod or it just doesn’t happen. I’ve also learned that a new physics laws needs to be invented as soon as possible that would allow someone to stand on crutches with one leg bent and bring a pot of boiling water from the stove across the kitchen to the sink. (Newton’s physics law really needs to be tweaked.)
But there’s also a yin to all that yang. The positive side is that you get a real, true appreciation for how easy most of us have it. And you look at anyone who doesn’t have it as easy in a completely different way. And we need that. We all need that. Because most people have limitations. Some are visible, some aren’t.
Once you stop everything changes. Once you’re forced to give up the things you take for granted you start seeing things differently. And the more time I spend in this wretched plastic cast, the more I realize that even the most inconvenient things serve a purpose. Anything that compels us to change our vantage point is worthwhile because it changes our point of view.
So when you see me hopping around town on one leg, I’m not just throwing myself into my work and doing all this in the name of journalistic integrity. This is the real deal. And let me tell you, immobility is a humbling experience, for sure. You think it’s tough walking in someone else’s shoes, try a cast and see how that goes.
Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItisWhatitisColumn OR read her blog at https://itiswhatitiscolumn.wordpress.com.