Lift that lazy foot. Watch that uneven sidewalk crack. Keep that steady pace. Go around those stairs to the ramp, if there is a ramp. These inner commands play as I walk around each day across campus, along the edge of the parking lot at the grocery store, down my neighborhood sidewalk with my dog. In reality, the irregularity of most sidewalks is imperceptible, and I often have more trouble going downstairs than up. But there is something about that lazy foot that warrants a stern talking to, my inner drill sergeant giving me her best bravado when the rest of me feels like shuffling my feet.
The truth is, the foot itself is not lazy. I have a form of relapse and remitting multiple sclerosis that has affected my gait. My foot is just fine. The trouble is buried somewhere in my spine. In fact, the lesion that impacts my gait is right in the middle of my neck. My neurologist describes its width using the circumference of her pinky, saying that my spinal column isn't much wider in that area. Sometimes I call that lesion "Big Bertha." Sometimes I call it more colorful names that I shouldn't say in front of my children. Regardless of what I call it, it's the reason why my gait is off. It's the reason why my brain can't always communicate with the rest of me, why I sometimes clip the edge of a sidewalk crack and go sprawling, why my fingers don't always communicate with my keyboard when I type, why going downstairs can sometimes be more difficult than going up .
Interesting aside: I remember reading a funny book once called The Neurotics' Handbook. It said that neurotic people cannot think about walking while they walk or they might trip. While this is funny and maybe even true, to a certain extent it's actually the opposite for me. Cue the drill sergeant.
There are times, however, when I do get to move around on autopilot, when I'm not so consciously paying attention to each footfall. This usually happens when I run. Running gives me a certain freedom that I don't have with other activities. With the exception of trail running, when anyone is prone to falling, running affords me the opportunity to go out and just be normal. I think this is why I appreciate it when I am not singled out for "having MS and being a runner." Yes, I did do the fundraising thing in the beginning, and I was quite proud of my efforts then, but it's different for me now. Now, I'm just grateful for each day or each time I get to go out and move around without the hyperawareness of sidewalk cracks.
Don't misunderstand me; I do fall when running. In fact, I had a fall in December when I was on a run with Stephanie (I've mentioned her before). I always feel terrible when it happens, a sort of yucky feeling that goes beyond any pain that comes with the fall. I mean, I don't like watching people fall, so who wants to see that happen to me? What a helpless feeling to see someone take a spill! Sometimes it's embarrassing for them, or even painful. It's always embarrassing when I fall, painful or not. When I fell that day with Steph, she was so gracious about it. She asked if I was okay and I was. I told her I needed to keep running, and I did. That's always the best way for me to shake it off, both physically and emotionally. By the time we had finished our run, it was a non-event, save for the scape on my palm. But I never brought out the drill sergeant. She's not allowed.
Where my running is concerned, that inner voice can get me to the finish line or get me off the couch. Usually, though, I don't like to caution myself when I'm out there just moving along like a person who has no non-apparent disability. Maybe it's because I don't feel like shuffling my feet when I run, though the wear on my left running shoe is always evidence to the contrary. Or maybe I'm just "in the groove" when I run. Maybe that's what the Zen masters call 'satori' and in this grace I am really seeing my true nature, moving along freely. Hmm. Who knows. All I know is, I'll take the occasional tip over if it means that I can have a few miles of gliding freedom, with the voice shut off and the feet, even the lazy one--maybe especially the lazy one--turned on.
Photo from team 684 Hood To Coast, 2017 (no our van)