My physical therapist is too young to have grown up with Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but I feel like I am auditioning for the Ministry of Silly Walks as I move across the floor of the fitness area where I am learning to walk again after last June’s leg injury. So, I gleefully respond to her requests to walk, slide, march, and stretch in all manners of odd motions. I know that I am rebuilding my calf muscles, strengthening and developing my range of motion for my ankle, and gradually, slowly, stretching my Achilles tendon back to a place where I can walk with a normal gait. But I also secretly feel like I am channeling John Cleese and his antics. I feel great joy at leaving behind my crutches and casts and have progressed in my healing enough to wear two shoes again. And while I look pretty much back to normal, it is still obvious that I’m not quite walking as I used to. I’ve shortened my stride. I still tend to limp at times. I walk slowly and lag behind others. I find myself tiring easily and after an hour or two on my feet my heel begins to throb. All of these are reminders for me that the healing process is not complete yet.
I am soaking up the encouragement and prayers of many who have watched me make this progress. There is something magical about having a public healing process – people remind me how I was doing the last time they saw me, or comment on the changes they notice, or just stop to ask me how I’m doing. It’s actually a bit challenging for me to soak this up, to accept the outpouring of goodwill and generosity. And then, I’m reminded, that this is really nothing more than what I’ve been trying to model myself over these past 8 years as a neighborhood café owner for everyone who has entered my shop.
And so, it was a true joy to be out on Nicollet Avenue celebrating Open Streets with the thousands of people who were just out to enjoy the day and share their well wishes for all of us located along Nicollet Avenue. It seemed a cure for any and all urban ills. Could Minneapolis put one of these on every week somewhere in the city? I can trust that the happiness generated that day will have lasting effect on our neighborhoods.
With all of this positive energy and signs of healing, I find myself drifting quickly into the old patterns of “put me to work” and “what else can I do” and “add that to my list” even though I’m well aware of the strain that working so much put on me in the first place. Fortunately, my heel-timer goes off soon enough and I’m gently reminded that I have other ways to be helpful, other staff to call upon, and that I have other interests and connections in my life to nurture beyond my café.
In some ways my stride may change forever. While I was a middle school teacher, the kids would comment on how fast I’d walk. It seemed like I was everywhere at all times, standing right next to them as they were considering misbehaving, or at their side before their hand went up to ask a question. Quick on my feet, quick to notice, always anticipating, or more likely, in their minds, “always in their business.” How could I be so quick?
I would tell them the story of my grandmother, Arlene, who worked as our church’s secretary until she was in her 70’s. Growing up, on many Sundays, my sister and I would walk to church with her and - never fail – my grandmother would always outpace us. We nearly had to run to keep up with her. I think that part of the challenge for me was that I didn’t really want to get there that quickly, there were so many other interesting things along the way. For her, everything started when she arrived at the church building. My grandmother was a tenacious soul, living in her own house into her 90’s and only fading after a couple falls damaged her hips and kept her from walking with the speed and strength she had developed a reputation for. She scoffed at using a walker, and when confined to a wheelchair in her last year or so, she truly wasn’t herself anymore.
Those walks with my grandmother stick with me because I learned to keep pace with her: racing to follow her as a young boy, finding a stride that matched hers as she aged, and in the last few years being willing to just sit with her and listen to her stories.
I’ve had a busy summer, really. Lots of healing to do; which is quite hard work when I think about it. I’ve had to make changes to how I interact with my staff, my customers, my family, and indeed, myself. I’m moving again, but I hope it’s noticeable that my stride has indeed changed. I am still walking that old green path, but developing a different pace and a willingness to rest along that path. This may have opened up a new direction in creating a sustainable business model, one that recognizes the need to restore myself, so that I am better able to bring restoration to the earth.