Autumn: If Wishes Were Horses, Then…
“I wish I could walk like her.”
A woman, about my age and hobbling with a cane, said this to her younger male companion, possibly her son or caretaker.
I had never seen this pair before this day, but I greeted them as I do everyone on my walk.
They nodded in my direction and moved on, to the yard sale down the street.
The comment was not meant for my ears, but I’m always hyper-aware around strangers, especially in a neighborhood teetering on the edge – one reason I don’t listen to music on my outside walks.
My hearing sharp, I could hear the woman’s plaintive wish, half a block away.
I felt a little shamed.
Here I was, bouncing around and walking fast, and…
Feeling sorry for myself.
I had just made the painful decision to go back on my CPAP – I could feel myself slipping into old habits: sleeping late, going to bed late, getting up late, eating as if were just coming out of a famine, and slacking off on my walks – for me, the last bastion of healthy body weight and overall health.
The slacking off had its roots in a pulled butt muscle from which I had just recovered, but, the truth is, I had been slacking off before that.
In all ways.
I could feel my body becoming sluggish, bloated, and tired again, my face puffy and red.
The weight gain was only 17 pounds, but I understand all too well the story arc of the future: In another six months, that gain would double to 34 pounds.
A year and a half later, a 50-pound weight gain, back to where I started.
I felt helpless to stop it.
Of course, a healthy person is never helpless – just unmotivated.
I see myself in that lady with the cane.
In January 2016, shortly before I started on my journey toward better health and much-needed weight loss, I was using a cane for a short time; I had tripped over a box and cracked a bone in my shin.
Fortunately, within a week, I had healed enough to hobble around without the cane, but my injury was a reminder of what could be in my near future.
I still have that cane.
It stands as a reminder to an old woman that good health is conditional and, yes, temporary.
We don’t leave this life alive.
But we can help write the narrative of our life journey and take steps to head off those ailments that plague the elderly – keeping in mind that there are never guarantees.
We can try to take hold of what we have in the here and now, thank our lucky stars for what we have today.
I was allowing that all to slip away.
Here was this woman, whose story I didn’t know, who was hobbling on a cane and sad that she couldn’t have what I had: the ability to jaunt like a 20-year-old girl.
Shame on me.
I suspect that her leg or hip problems were permanent: she didn’t say, “I can’t wait until I can walk like her.”
It was clearly an unattainable wish, expressed in a moment of yearning, a raw honesty that can’t be retracted or qualified in a more analytical moment.
What was her story? When she was younger, did she worry about her health and take steps to improve it, or was she like me and spent most of her middle years slacking off? Did she smoke? Eat fast food? Eat too much? She was overweight, but not extremely so.
The truth is, most adults in the United States are overweight to varying degrees, to the point where it has become normalized – another story.
Did the lady exercise or at least move around more? Did she get enough sleep? I don’t know the answers to these questions. For all I know, her condition could be congenital – in any case, not my place to judge.
In the present and for whatever reason, she was hobbling to the yard sale I had just left.
My heart broke for her…
And in her I saw my future.
I was rewriting my story in a manner leading me in a direction I didn’t want to go.
Her words were a wake-up call.
I’m still teetering, but less so than I was a week ago.
Back on the hated CPAP, walking again, eating better – not perfect – but in a more positive direction.
The lady with the cane and plaintive wish will never know, but I will remember her.