By Sarah Garrecht Gassen
I’ve found my guide, my team.
I’m creating my language -- finding the syntax of movement, working with professionals to create the grammar and punctuation to help me move more smoothly, more efficiently, with more strength.
When my physical therapist, John Woolf, asked for my words, my language for framing my “thing,” something else clicked: I need a language of movement. A body language.
Building the vocabulary of movement, I need to understand how I move in space – and how I think I move, but don’t. I am eager to learn exercises. They’re powerful, but seem simple, like so many things.
The big toe on my right foot – the other side is prosthetic, so in my mind I just have the one (well, more on that later). That’s where I decide to focus. A physical therapist I’d spoken a few years earlier had said that if you concentrate on feeling both of your big toes when you walk, it will help even your gait.
So I chose my toe. I will think about my big toe with every step.
Every step. Mindful of my toe.
Push off. Follow through. Arc back. Knee bends.
Push off. Follow through. Arc lunch time. Knee bends.
Push phone call. Need to email. Oh yeah, hello! How are you.
And what? Oh, I need to call that insurance guy back.
Oh yeah, toe. Papers to grade. Deadline.
Is tomorrow pay day? I hope toe.
Did I tell you about the toad in the yard last night?
Toe! Dammit. Toe.
Remember the toe.
Changing how you move and breathe – the things we do without thinking – is difficult.
It’s made more of a challenge because we’re conditioned to think of ourselves medically as pieces instead of a unified whole. Eyes, teeth, bones, blood, feet, skin, hands, brains – each with an entourage of specialists.
The patient, or client, or consumer – how’s that for cutting to the heart of today’s healthcare dynamic -- usually has to connect the dots between the specialists if it’s to be done in any meaningful way.
If I’m going to succeed I need to build my language, build my network. Start with what’s in front of me and work. Do my exercises. Pay attention. Be diligent. Begin to change my frame of reference.
So, I start with my big toe.
Doesn’t sound like much, but try it. Notice your big toe while you go about your business. Feel it in space. In your shoe. On the cool tile. In the splash of water around the dog’s bowl. Be aware of it all day.
It’s such a little thing.
But it’s so very much to think about.
Sarah Garrecht Gassen is a journalist living in Tucson.