Thursday, July 7, 2011
Learning in Times of Whitespace
As I’ve mentioned before, I threw my back out a couple of weeks ago while working in the garden. I’ve done it before – but this has really been taking a while to heal. It’s better (thank you for the prayers) but it’s still not 100 percent. I can tie my shoes by myself now, though.
When it’s difficult to move around, doing normal things like getting in and out of a car or rising from a chair (not to mention washing your feet in the shower – you should have seen that contortion, uh, no, maybe you shouldn’t), you become acutely aware of your body and movement. You learn to do things in different ways; yes, I’ve actually closed the car door from the inside of the car with the end of a cane.
Biking is out right now, but I can take walks. I’m doing physical therapy (that poem on Tuesday was not something I made up) and I’m doing exercises at home. I also read a book called Healing Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno that tells me I need to have arguments with my brain. He may well be right.
So things I normally do, things I don’t even think about, are beyond my capabilities. So it’s a kind of “whitespace time,” waiting for things to return to normal so I can get back to taking everything for granted.
I’ve learned something, though.
I don’t begrudge the accommodations made for disabled people. They need those wide parking spaces near the entrances of stores. They need sidewalks that slope to the street. They need ramps to get into buildings. The American Disabilities Act may drive a lot of businesses, governments and other organizations crazy in its implementation, but until you’re disabled yourself, you don’t realize how important access is. You don’t even think about it.
Yes, people survived and made do for centuries without the ADA, but those simple accommodations mean the difference between “close to normal” and “something less than close to normal.” Yes, laws like this can and will be taken to ridiculous extremes, but they’re still important and needed.
So for a few days I was allowed to park in the visitors’ parking lot at work, and it meant a short walk and – best of all – no stairs to get to my office. I didn’t even consider the stairs I had to climb from the regular parking lot to my office (some 55 steps distributed among four flights of stairs). I learned to appreciate a computer bag with wheels, even if it looked dorky – I could easily take my computer home (we’re required to do that) with having to inconvenience someone to carry it for me.
There was an unexpected benefit, too. I can’t sit for very long in a meeting, so I explain to people and then stand. Perhaps it was my imagination, but meetings became shorter. You should try it sometime, even without throwing your back out.
This week at Faith Barista, Bonnie Gray is talking about whitespace – and what you learn when you find yourself in life’s whitespace. To see more posts, please visit Faith Barista.