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.


The Wild Optimist said...

I enjoyed checking in with you- and the hidden benefit of your recuperation :) Hope you recovery fully, quickly!

Bill (cycleguy) said...

Glad to hear you are on the mend Glynn. Love the way you have allowed yourself to learn some simple lessons that we often don't see.

Lisa notes... said...

“…but until you’re disabled yourself, you don’t realize how important access is. You don’t even think about it.”

Glad you are making lemonade out of your lemons, Glynn. Nice lessons in a time of pain. Still praying you recover full health soon.

Nikole Hahn said...

I should suggest that for deacon meetings at the church...LOL. Hope your back pain goes away soon.

S. Etole said...

"you don’t realize how important access is. You don’t even think about it."

Thank you for this, Glynn ... I hope you are soon free of pain.

Louise Gallagher said...

Well said Glynn -- and hmmm....The "I can't sit so pardon me while I stand" method of keeping meetings short and to the point. Love it!

Maureen said...

Great lessons to learn while on the mend. Wishing you full recovery.

Anonymous said...

i like the standing up during meetings practice. i wonder if it would work for me at wine dinners where they can spend hours eating and talking about wine.

i suppose if you do that in church the rest might think that you've gone all pentecostal on 'em.

i have had back problems where i could not sit, stand or lie down for any amount of time. i spent one night in the car seat because it was comfortable.
muscle relaxants helped quite a bit... in the end i broke down and took them as i didn't want to take them at the time.

may all of your white space be holy ground.


Tracy Krauss said...

I had this experience when I went blind for several months. I learned to walk around with my white cane, cook some meals, and I even knit a sweater by 'feeling' the stitches. I did a lot of listening and praying, too. It enforced a slower pace and made me treasure unusual things.
(I recovered quite a bit of my sight after two experimental surgeries, in case you're wondering...)

A Joyful Noise said...

I am happy that you are recovering and getting better. Being unable to do certain simple tasks is mind and emotional boggling. The Lord is good to help us heal in body and spirit and return to a somewhat normal way of life. I think these times of injury cause us to reflect on how well made our bodies are and to be thankful that we can walk, bend and even raise our hands to praise the Lord!

Kathleen Overby said...

Hope you have very high raised beds in your garden? :)
I loved your point about being thankful for handicapped
accessible thoughtfulness.

Anonymous said...

We read a book at work that said to have meetings standing up and they were guaranteed to be shorter and to the point. One team leader is still doing this each morning with his team for 5 or 10 minutes, to get everyone started on the same page. It seems to be working.

Glad to hear that you are on the mend. And very interesting about how it heightened your awareness and appreciation for the disabled... It's funny how these things can change our perspective.

Kristine said...

I think God allows us times such as you're experiencing with disability or illness to stop us in our tracks and take a long look at Him, what's around us, and others.

Praying you continue to find deeper meaning in your "whitespace" and healing.

H. Gillham said...

Hope the back gets better...

Speaking of the ADA, your comment reminded me of something I read about Walt Whitman who worked for a newspaper in Washington DC, during the American Civil War. {he went to Washington to find his brother who had been injured and decided to stay and nurse the wounded} -- Apparently, one of the war offices for wounded Civil War veterans was on the top floor of his building. Whitman wrote about hearing their clomps and stomps [some of them amputees] as they made their way up the stairs. That story always stuck with me....

I love the term "whitespace."

Bonnie Gray said...

It was interesting to learn during my disability, how much I was able to not do and still "do" life. And I had to use those rolled carts to simply by milk because I could lift it from the shopping cart! :p I loved seeing you write about "whitespace" as you're going through it in real time. I know it is going to be a fruitful time for you, although it's not one we would ever want to choose. :) Keep leaning into your recovery! We're cheering you on!