I fell on black ice today because I forgot to notice the subtle shades of dark and light grey on the macadam trail. Thankfully my knee with the titanium screw in it took the brunt of my fall.
I stepped carefully onto my leg as I muttered, “Way to check out the old ACL reconstruction. I guess the warranty is still valid!”
Dusty and I continued on, rounding the bend on the trail and came upon an elderly gentleman walking towards us.
“Be careful of the black ice up ahead,” I warned.
I thought that he needed some guidance if he planned to follow the pathway. Surprisingly he leaned over to me, and paused to emphasize his instructions on navigating paved paths with melted snow and hidden ice.
“You must remember to take short steps, like this,” he said, as he marched in place to illustrate. “Then you can be ready to move into the snow or walk around the shaded areas. If you are taking short steps, you will see where to walk.”
He emphasized this with an encouraging tap on my shoulder and a nodding look that silently said, “This is what you most need to hear right now!”
“I appreciate your suggestion,” I said, as I turned to follow Dusty’s tugs on his leash. He had discovered a dog he needed to visit at the corner of the next yard.
“Okay, short steps is,” I thought.
The gentleman was right; when I walked with purposeful short steps I looked carefully around, beside and before me, to avoid any possible areas of black ice. When Dusty and I came up a short hill the glare of the sun prevented me from seeing what covered the path until I began to slide on it. However, my “short steps” took me quickly to the side and onto the safety of the snow.
“Short steps like this,” he had said. He hadn’t called them little steps, and he hadn’t shown me them as timid or testing steps. They had been short, powerful, precise steps pushed forward with energy and momentum.
Throughout this past year I’ve been forced to learn how to overcome my fear of taking any steps due to my invisible friend, vertigo appearing when I least expect. At first I feared to make any move in any direction: upwards, downwards, sideways, forwards, backwards. The spinning sensations reminded me of how I felt during my ACL repair recovery for my right knee, because I was afraid to rely on the strength of my leg muscles to keep me from collapsing. I needed to believe that I wouldn’t look like a drunkard when I moved, or that I wouldn’t stumble from unsteadiness.
Even today I am aware that any step I take could cause a crumbling of circles crashing around me, just like when my knee would give out unexpectedly when I stepped on uneven surfaces or turned too quickly.
It’s a new year; I’m moving with my vertigo, I look forward to improvements everyday. I’ve learned to take a side step before I actually turn, as that slows my movement just slightly, but enough to prevent the swirling from starting. I’ve learned to close my eyes when someone quickly swooshes by me, and to inwardly give myself a pressure pause, checking to see if I am still firmly connected to the ground. If I feel myself swaying I press harder, literally pushing my palms toward the floor. I suppose these “short steps” have come to be my reliable ones and will hopefully lead me to discovering other ways around this obstacle.
I’m so very thankful I fell today. I’m marveling that it led to my impromptu conversation with a wise and caring elder who reminded me to keep moving, but to be mindful of how I step.
“You must remember to take short steps like this… then you can be ready to move.”
Maybe I’ll have vertigo with me for a fair bit of time, but I refuse to carry fear any farther. I trust that it is there for a reason and with faith I will learn how to step carefully around it.
“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”
Isaiah 48:17 (NIV)