Over the weekend I was pushed around in a wheelchair. In a very busy store full of not-so-jolly holiday shoppers. By Zoey. That’s right, my six year-old pushed me around in a wheelchair. The kid can corner like nobody’s business. Yes, we might have taken out an entire rack of bras, a cardboard cutout of Princess Elsa, and a bin of fleece blankets that were, frankly, piled way too high. But no one was hurt, not even Elsa. It’s possible we also dented the back of a metal shelf, but it’s the back, who cares. Zoey abandoned me only once, thoughtfully parking me in front of a Ghirardelli chocolate display and saying, “Here, you look at your dreams — I have to go look at those princess watches.”
The reason I was in a wheelchair is this: 15 months ago I got plantar fasciitis in both feet after I spent a weekend walking around in flip flops. Except, of course, it wasn’t normal plantar fasciitis. “Normal” being the kind that responds to physical therapy and/or cortisone shots. In fact, those things made it worse. Way worse. Like I-had-to-crawl-around-the-house-on-my-hands-and-knees worse. So then doctors started saying maybe it wasn’t really plantar fasciitis. It was more plantar fasciitis-y and maybe it was fibromyalgia presenting in a new way. (This is what doctors generally say to me when they don’t know what’s going on or how to help. Sometimes it is fibro and sometimes it’s something else — like strep or a torn lateral meniscus.) They doctors started saying things like I would “just have to live with it” — live with this foot pain that prevented me from walking more than a short block.
This pissed me off. Fortunately this anger propelled me head first into finding a cure. “I’ll show those know-it-all doctors,” I thought. “I will find a way to get better and then I WILL RUB IT IN THEIR SMUG DOCTOR FACES!!” So I made my way to an acupuncturist who did make me better. For a while. For a blissful 4 weeks. Now my left foot is worse than before. It’s a throbbing painful mess. And I’m worried that maybe I will just have to live with it because acupuncture isn’t working this time. I’m scared I will have to live with a limited ability to walk.
Clearly people have figured out to live with way worse situations. I get that. But I have always loved my feet. Not the way they look (although if I’m being honest, my feet have been described as “long and beautiful”), but I love my feet for what they do. I love walking. Walking in my neighborhood. Walking along the Charles river. Walking to get tea with a friend. I am over the moon about running. I L-O-V-E to run. I have always loved to run. I remember sprinting across the bright green of a soccer field in third grade and thinking about what a joy it was — the sun on my face, my lungs bursting, my feet pushing off the grass and then flying through the air. I felt the same in high school and college. And even a few years ago when I very slowly ran a half marathon, I ran with the deep thrill of loving each step. Through some miracle, I never took running for granted. I still dream about running, my feet moving slowing up and down while I sleep.
Now I can’t run. Or even walk very far. It’s painful just to walk the short distances through my house. It hurts to stand. But, wow, do I have a new appreciation for standing. We stand when we cook, when we shower, when we wait to pick up our kids from school. We stand when we talk to other people, when we put away groceries, when we move the laundry from the washer to the dryer. We stand all the freaking time. I am able to stand, but only for a short time, and always with pain.
Hence the wheelchair. I can stand. I can walk. And I’m sure I could run if it meant saving Zoey from an oncoming semi-truck. But I’m not like I was. I’m world has become even smaller because of this new physical limitation and I’m a smidgen angry about it. Once in a while, late at night, my heart feels broken open and raw because of the things I can’t do. Not to be overly dramatic or anything.
But here’s what I can do that I couldn’t do before: I can race around the gleaming floors of a store, my daughter pushing me too fast and taking the corners too hard. She is giggling, high and sweet, her head at the same level as my ear. I can hear her breathing fast and deep. I can imagine the feel of her fluttering heartbeat in in the palm of my hand. This is a new adventure. For both of us. And there’s nothing to do but laugh when an entire rack of triple-D bras come cascading down on our heads. There’s nothing to do but laugh, take the next corner even faster, and aim to take down the entire display of Disney princesses.