In past blog posts, I have talked about community. Communities come in many different forms and elicit a variety of feelings. I’d like to share with you one of my favourite communities: those who have mobility challenges.
I may have also mentioned that I have a movement disorder (dystonia). I use either a walker, a cane, a leg brace or walking poles when I walk around (it’s nice to have options), ostensibly to keep me from falling down (although that is not always a foolproof plan). My movement disorder is a result of the stroke I had as a 15-year-old girl. For about 18 years, I was told by many medical professionals that I was just dealing with the spasticity that is a common result of paralysis. “Just”.
When I finally found a doctor who diagnosed me (after watching me walk for 10 seconds), it was the greatest relief. Knowing what I’m dealing with has allowed me to take steps to improve my gait and stability. Being empowered to take concrete steps towards improving my mobility seeped into other areas of my life. I began to be more present when walking. I realized that I have an actual condition – it’s not just that I walk funny or that I am not doing enough physio.
And I began to shed the shame that I had been carrying. When I wear a leg brace, many people ask about it. I used to hate that, because I felt it highlighted for me that there was something wrong with me – which I felt on a very personal level. Knowing I have a movement disorder allowed me to put that in perspective – there is something wrong in my brain and that affects my muscles. Full stop. That doesn’t reflect poorly on who I am as a person.
This is a long way to get to my actual topic but this experience is what allowed me to be open to The Nod. The Nod is when you are out in the world using a cane, walking poles, walker, scooter, or some other assistive device. When you cross paths with someone who is also using a cane, walking poles, walker, scooter, or some other assistive device, you nod at each other. It is a beautiful acknowledgement of a shared struggle that brings us closer together as humans. I can connect with this stranger in the space of a few seconds, and we each know the other’s world in that moment. Sometimes the nod is from someone who appears to walk with ease, but they are acknowledging that they know struggle. And we all have one (or two, or three…).
You see, I was never open to The Nod before I had my diagnosis because of the shame I felt. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and it made me wonder what other beautiful experiences open up when we shed our shame (we all have some). Shame keeps us closed. We think it protects us but it isolates us (I recommend reading all of Brene Brown’s books if you wish to learn more about this). In order to truly experience beauty, we have to let go and be present with and kind to ourselves. Only then do we notice and experience the gift of The Nod.
Who are you nodding at?