Sunday, November 1, 2015

Speak Softly…. And Carry A Big Stick!

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    I have a cane. Four in fact. But my favourite is a custom made Diamond Willow wood cane with a brass pommel and a removable tip that reveals a spike tip for winter. Or for hiking. Who am I kidding? What are the chances that I’m going hiking any time well, ever? I had it made because I am vain. I admit  it. I am very tall and the only canes that are fit me are the ugly metal ones. I do not want to look disabled. I want to look young. And cool. So when my balance became an issue, I found a guy online, and ordered a cane the right size for me that didn’t look institutional. I fed my vanity.
    It’s four years later now and I still love that cane. I use it a lot too. But I should use it more. And that’s the issue. Remember the above referenced vanity? The experts call it denial though. Why? Because I know my condition but don’t always want to admit it or cater to it. I want to stay in Neverland where my condition, like Peter Pan, stays in a state of never moving forward and where Tinker Bell flies around with magic fairy dust that eliminates pain rather than doing whatever it actually does. (Am I the only one who thinks she’s tossing around some sort of psychedelic?)
    But Neverland doesn’t actually exist. We want it to. But it doesn’t. So we who are chronically ill must face choices. And mine is to carry a Big Stick. And face stares and whispers. Like the people you have read about who accuse those who park in the handicapped spaces of not actually being handicapped. Because I look healthy, as do most chronically ill. But walking is slowly becoming my nemesis. And I am loathe to admit I need help.
    You see, I am that person who stumbles into a wall or who suddenly freezes mid step arms stretched out hoping to catch my balance. I am the person who, in short, always looks tipsy-no pun intended. In my defence, dust bunnies are much more aggressive than one might think! As a child, Mom put me in ballet due to my klutziness. But my klutziness never went away. I am just very, very graceful when I lose my balance now! And I have some darned good moves that have prevented me from falling. But I’m not as good as I was. So there is my cane. My Big Stick.
    I walk without my cane when I can, but I have to admit to myself that I need to carry it. My disease will take my balance. Or my strength. Or it will crunch a nerve unprovoked and my ability to walk unassisted will suddenly be gone. And I can’t depend upon family to always be there for me. Not that my family wouldn’t let me lean on them. My boys call themselves my ‘human canes’. It’s that I can’t guarantee my family will be there when this happens. And trust me, strangers are not too keen on that sort of thing.  Just ask the poor 14 year old I grabbed in Vegas earlier this year when I lost my balance getting off the new observation wheel.
    So I am back where we started. I own a cane. It’s a nice one but I don’t like using it, I have to use it. Just not all the time. But because my disease is unpredictable and in my opinion rather mean, I have to carry it all the time. I know people stare. And I know people probably judge me as carrying it as a prop for parking. Guess what? I don’t really care anymore. I know what I need and when I need it. I don’t need to explain myself to anyone. And I carry a darned Big Stick!

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