I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Doing hard things

Crossing Heliotrope Creek
It may not look as scary in this picture as it felt, but without that rope in my left hand, I would not have attempted to cross this roaring stream. The water was glacier melt and not only very cold, but also rushing by at a terrifying clip. My friend Chris took this picture and sent it to me, with a note reminding me that I can do hard things. This year, Frank brought that rope along with him that made it possible for people like me to attempt the crossing. The feeling of accomplishment was tremendous.

And I was also thrilled to be able to join my companions for a hike, after having missed so many because of injury. Without the help of acupuncture, and the exercises assigned to me by Warren (the acupuncturist), I don't think I would be as good as I am today. Yesterday I went walking with the ladies and was grateful to learn that my knee is coming along quite well. I'm beginning to think that the discomfort I'm still having is related to arthritis and might not ever go away completely. That's okay, if I can still do hard things.

It might seem to be a curious saying for someone to appreciate who has already jumped out of airplanes more than 4,000 times, but that was then. This is now, and I am a little incredulous that I did that. The memories of my skydiving years have now faded completely into the past, feeling like another lifetime ago. Although I was active for a quarter century, my last skydive was more than four years ago. Now, crossing a raging stream like this one is plenty of thrills and chills for me.
It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things. —Elinor Smith
 Probably one of the hardest things I have ever done has been to find a way through soul-crushing grief, the loss of my children. The first loss was much harder than the second, because I was so young, just in my early twenties, and during those days there were not the wonderful support groups that exist today. It took a long time, but even such tragedy can be overcome and placed in the vaults of one's memory. In earlier times, it was rather common to lose a young child to illness. Not everyone gets over it, and it took a long time, but I was able to feel love and joy again. Just going through life has given me the perspective that nothing lasts forever: the good, the bad, the difficult, or even the joyous emotions of the heart.

Yesterday on our walk, someone slipped on the gravel and took a spill, scraping up her knees. I was reminded that it is usually me who takes a fall. Betty was helped up by her friends and finished the walk. It reminded me that when you are out and about, it's easy to go from a brisk walk to a plummet, and there's nothing you can do about it but get up and keep going. The fall I took on my tailbone six weeks ago is recent enough that I can remember how hard it was to get up, assess the damage, and keep going. That was doing a "hard thing" but I really didn't have any choice. Nobody was going to carry me down the trail.

I wonder if I really do fall more often than other people, and if so, why that might be so. It always seems to happen on the return trip, so maybe it's that I stop paying close attention or maybe I'm just anxious to finish and don't watch my steps as closely as I should. On that last spill, it was the slippery boardwalk that exacerbated it, because I was striding along ahead when I should have been more careful. And just like that, I was down, without any warning.

When I visit my doctor, I fill out a questionnaire about my yearly activities and am always asked if I have taken a fall recently. Well, yes, I have, now that you mention it. And then I am reminded that I never have the opportunity to say no, not recently. And I have the scars to prove it.

However, yesterday it was not me who fell. I think it's partly that I am being more careful not to slip on loose gravel, and also that I'm still paying the price from my last spill. I hope I have learned my lesson, but you know I will probably fall again while striding on ahead, thinking of other things than where I'm placing my feet. I wish I could say I won't do that again, but it would not be realistic. I'm not willing to stop, not yet anyway. I want to continue to do hard things for as long as possible.

Sitting here in my bed, with my dear partner still sleeping next to me, the sun not yet risen, I am content. The day beckons, with my coffee shop friends, a movie with my friend Judy, and my most recent novel is calling me to finish it soon. One day, just getting out of bed and making my way through the day will be a hard thing, but that's not now, not today, not yet.

I always need to stop and say thank you to the Powers That Be for all that I am blessed with at this moment. I love my friends and family, and the ability to write and create this post, for the mental acuity to enjoy your responses, and taking the time to stop and smell the roses. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things, dear friends.


Linda Reeder said...

The weather radar doesn't show it, but it is raining lightly this Sunday morning. Last evening we had a big thunder boomer of a storm and almost three quarters of an inch of rain in a downpour. When I go out for my walk later, I will be fearful of wet sidewalks that are mossy, because of the memory of that fall five years ago that left me with a huge goose egg on my forehead and black eyes for weeks. I was in full stride when I hit that slippery spot and went down. That memory is so ingrained in me that I can actually feel myself slipping now when a surface just looks slippery, even when it's not. Needless to say, I look where I put my feet, and yet, on a sunny, dry day I love the feeling of just striding out, that is, when everything is working properly. Falling is becoming more common for me now, and I don't like it, but I am trying to be cautious.
My doing hard things in life has been more about overcoming introversion than physical challenges. I still marvel that that shy little girl became a teacher and eventually a leader in my profession. Yes, pushing yourself to do hard things is important.
But I would not have/could not have crossed that stream!

Rian said...

That picture is fantastic, DJan. And you were very brave to cross that stream - especially since you are not as sure footed since your injury. But you did it! Yes, I would be proud of that. So far I have been able to say "no" to the fall question on my wellness check. But I did have a bad fall a few years back due to a just mopped floor in a hotel. It shocked me as it happened so fast - but luckily no broken bones, just bruises and soreness that lasted weeks. That incident made me very cautious whenever I see wet ground. So I do think that continuing your hikes as long as you can is a good idea - just be extra cautious. I think your hikes are good for not only your physical health, but your mental health as well. (And I love the pics!)

gigi-hawaii said...

I think the worst kind of fall is falling backwards and hitting your head. That could lead to death. Take care, DJan.

Mona McGinnis said...

You found your way through soul-crushing grief. You pick yourself up and keep going. You are an inspiration to me. Isn't that what life is about - moving forward? I have a friend who is paraplegic, living his life in a wheelchair after a sporting accident decades ago. He was limbing trees that had been cut down on his property. When I asked him, "Isn't that hard?!" he replied, "Fencing is hard." I guess it's all relative and a matter of perspective.

Arkansas Patti said...

Trust me that picture looks like it was a tough crossing and the rope was a blessing. Frank should be commended. I think you are right about inattention being the main culprit in falls. But they do have a plus side, our attention gets sharpened by each splat. The nose dive I took by not picking up my feet has me mentally lifting the trail foot higher every single time I pass that spot. Kind of a tough way to learn but effective. Let us both keep being mindful--- we no longer bounce like we use to.

justme_alive said...

I love this photo & the note she sent with the photo, you “can” do hard things❤️. At times we all need to be reminded of this.

Gigi said...

I would not have wanted to cross that creek even with the rope! I'd say your crossing was quite the accomplishment.

Elephant's Child said...

That crossing looks like a very hard thing to me. I am so glad that you did it - and unsurprised.
You have done so many 'hard things' and recovered/adjusted/moved on.
Thank you for the inspiration - and have a great week.

William Kendall said...

Very wise!

Marie Smith said...

That is a great photo, Jan.

You’ve been holding on your entire adult life and you’ve kept going through the worst a woman can endure. That won't change any time soon, Jan.

Red said...

We are slowly growing more fragile. We have to be cautious . We also have to learn when enough is enough like your skydiving.However, let's not look for the rocking chair right now . I believe that we have to challenge ourselves within reason. Have a great week.

crnelius said...

"Still willing to do the hard things"... I hear that loud and clear. You're Awesome. Great lesson, Great Post. I enjoyed that very much.

Tabor said...

The fact that as we age we see joy and tragedy and nothing stays the same. That is the hardest walk for me. Anyway, my husband used to have frequent trips and falls years ago in his late 50s and it later was found it tied to stenosis of the spine. He had surgery on the neck vertebrae about 2 decades ago and no longer fell!

Trish MacGregor said...

Love your Sunday posts! You're amazing.

Rita said...

She's Back!! :) :)

Far Side of Fifty said...

I always watch the placement of my feet when I am in the yard or walking on uneven ground...old habit:) It is hard this Fall with the rolling acorns...we need more squirrels or deer to eat them...soon when they have all fallen I will rake them into piles:)

I hope you will be a careful walker until you are all healed up:) Slow but sure!!!

Linda Myers said...

I haven't fallen in several years - since I started watching my feet - but I'm not taking that many risks these days. We adjust to these things, I guess.

Dee said...

DJan, I know that each Sunday morning, you don't say to yourself, "well, DJan, write something inspiring today." Yet always you do. I think it's because you are a true philosopher. The longer you live, the more years and happenings you have to look back on and somehow you have the ability to learn their lesson, to squeeze the juice of wisdom from them. That you share that with us each week is a gift I always look forward to when I start reading blogs each week. Thank you. Peace.

Galen Pearl said...

It always touches my heart when you mention your sons. It is a loss like no other, but somehow you have risen back into life and lived it abundantly. And now you handle the losses associated with aging with the same deep soul grace, always grateful for what you have been blessed with. You inspire me every week. Ditto on Dee's comment!

Glenda Beall said...

Falling is the fear I keep foremost in my mind. Living alone I have become very conscious of my balance and staying upright.
I recently saw a chiropractor/neurologist who has helped me greatly with balance. When I feel that I am getting clumsy or a little off kilter, I go to see her and she gets me straightened out and I have exercises to do at home. I thought my balance problem had to do with my hip pain, but our balance is controlled by certain part of our brain. I did not know this before I saw Dr. J.
You are amazing, DJan, with your hiking and taking risks, but I suppose if one has gone through the worst already, the risks don't seem so bad. Keep doing the hard things and keep inspiring us with your words. Have a great week.

janinsanfran said...

Oh yes, the falls. Reading that you have them was just what I needed right now. I still (I'm 72) run on trails, but 3 times this year I've gone down hard. No real damage; some ribs perhaps cracked, but doctors can't do anything about them, so I don't bother.

But is this just something that will increase til I get really hurt or give up on roaming the trails? Scary prospect.

BTW, I am hopeless and terrified by hiking across streams as you've done. Poles help. But not enough for much reassurance.

Keeping on keeping on ...