Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
“If you were in the hospital, they’d list you as a risk for falling.” My nurse friend’s words lay like cold oatmeal in my stomach. In my imagination she said, “You’re becoming old and decrepit and need watching.” No!
I had fallen more than once in a couple of months (as I’ve mentioned here)—stupid, avoidable falls. My most recent one happened days before I was about to spend a week trudging miles each day in Disney parks. My accident happened as I was walking my dog that was tugging at the leash. Was my eyesight changing or was the horizon supposed to be fuzzy? I glanced down at the bottom rim of my glasses to see if I had mistakenly worn my readers instead of my trifocals. As I lowered my line of sight, I tripped on a protruding rock and splat! My right palm and left knee absorbed most of the fall. And they hurt.
I rehabilitated my wounds by myself quite successfully before the advent of our trip, but once we arrived in Orlando, the miles of walking and standing and going up and down staircases did me in. My husband had to buy a copper reinforced knee brace for me to be able to finish my vacation week on my own two feet. (I don’t do scooters.) I set off the metal detectors in each park. The security personnel were understanding, but I felt old, clumsy, and embarrassed.
You know how people are quick to tell you the WORST about any ailment you have? “Oh, my friend Martha had the same thing, and she lost her eye and her equilibrium and could never stand again.” I had a great aunt who could top any story of unfortunate circumstances you could tell. These days the Internet stands in for doomsayers. When I researched frequent falls, I read about brain tumors and other dire maladies that can act as cause. I was not amused.
And then one day as my husband and I were exercising the dogs, he found a long-deceased horny toad on our path and I had an epiphany. I’m not old and decrepit. I’ve simply developed the habit of looking down!
Long ago I read that as people age (and you DON’T have to be decrepit!) they tend to start looking down as they walk to be certain of their footing. Looking down throws their center of balance forward, so any disturbance in the flow of their progress (such as my protruding rock) sends them sprawling forward into injury. But do I fret over the security of my route? Not really. So what was my problem?
Our property is the home of many horny toads—that are so ugly they’re cute. Over the course of a single season, we see all sizes from big Daddy-sized toads to tiny baby toads that look like toys, but they’re all well camouflaged. Only a sharp eye can spot them. To step on one would feel like an unforgivable sin to me. And so I started watching my path and my feet as I walk, proud that I have never yet squished one with anything but the car. (You don’t have a prayer of spotting one on a dirt and gravel driveway from a car.)
Countering a habit is always a challenge, and I worry that I’m trading my knee health for the lives of innocent horny toads as I school myself to raise my line of sight, but choices must be made. I’m hoping very hard I can avoid artificial knees as I’ve avoided dentures. I try to think of my situation as a moral lesson: You have to look forward to the horizon, the hope of the future, because if you constantly look down out of fear and self-doubt, you go down. Think about it!