Being the occasional reader of What Do You Do, Dear? I came across a poem by Shel Silverstein, not surprising since Mary Evelyn is an elementary school librarian, that made me laugh and shake my head in agreement. I don’t remember if I ever heard or read it during my early school days, but even if I did I think it takes on a different meaning for me now.
“Standing is stupid,
Crawling’s a curse,
Skipping is silly,
Walking is worse.
Hopping is hopeless,
Jumping’s a chore,
Sitting is senseless,
Leaning’s a bore.
Guess I’ll go upstairs and
Lie down again.”
― Shel Silverstein, A Light in the Attic
I don’t know why, or when it happened, but for some reason standing, and walking even more so, became “the line in the sand” for people with Cerebral Palsy but it is.
I regularly get emails asking if I can walk, or asking at what age I learned to walk, or if I think someone else (often whom I’ve never met) will ever walk.
I am not a doctor, although I’ve always thought it would be cool to play one on TV.
I need to also tell you that doctors, although smart, do not know everything; nor can they inconclusively predict the future. Plus, technology and medicine is growing so much more quickly than it did even just 5 years ago, even I have trouble accepting a conclusive prognosis of anything.
I’m not saying that if you’re told your child or yourself will never walk to accept that and move on. It takes a lot to learn to walk when you have a condition that makes nero-muscular coordination difficult, so not only does it take a lot of work it takes time and money and often it does take a village. I’m not saying it’s not worth the effort but it will come with some sacrifices with no real guarantees of the desired end result. So it’s worth weighing the pros and cons, and often more than once.
Walking isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.
In fact, able bodied people spend time trying to figure out ways how to walk less but when you have a disability that’s all anyone seems to want to focus on.
I used to say to people, “I use a wheelchair but I can walk,” even when no one asked; even I felt like I had to tell people that I can walk.
I no longer volunteer such information because a person’s ability to walk or not does not give their life value. Because a person can walk does not mean their life is more meaningful than the life of someone who cannot, or even makes the conscious decision not to for the good of one’s own health (in my opinion).
The fact that I can walk around the grocery store doesn’t mean much if I’m in too much pain to put away the groceries when I get home.
The ability to board an airplane without an aisle chair is fantastic but it doesn’t help me when I have 20 minutes to get from one gate to another if the terminal is the size of the small city.
The capability to walk down the sidewalk isn’t worth much if every time you do it you’re at risk for falling and hurting yourself, or getting blisters on your feet so large that you shouldn’t put on shoes for a few days afterwards.
Being able to enjoy a rare lunch out with friends loses something if you know you’re going to end the day early in part to the side effects of high powered pain killers and pure exhaustion.
The idea that you can do something doesn’t always mean you should, and yes that does apply here as well.
If the use of one’s legs was really so important to someone’s daily life, then wouldn’t they become lifeless the moment their legs couldn’t do anything? You need a brain, a heart, lungs, and a host of functional organs to live. If you really think about it, your legs don’t have to be able to allow you to stand up, walk, or run, in order to live.
Wheelchair users, or anyone else who uses assistance for mobility, can and do live full and productive lives, and they’re happy while they’re doing it too. A wheelchair doesn’t automatically confine a person or make them “less than.” In fact, for many people using a wheelchair, or crutches, a cane, or a walker, opens up a world of opportunities.
So next time you’re thinking about what makes a life more or less meaningful consider the words of Shel Silverstein and then try and learn something about someone who doesn’t walk as much as you might.