I have been blessed to be staying in Long Beach, LI, during most of this pandemic, popping back into Manhattan for couple of days here and there. We have a beautiful boardwalk and I walk on it most mornings, usually 3 miles, but occasionally I can do the whole thing back and forth for 4.4 miles. I love my time on the boardwalk but this summer I’ve spent a bit too much time face down on the boardwalk.
As I’ve said often, it’s the safest place to walk. That is, until it isn’t. Couple of weeks ago, I took a bad fall during my walk, when the wind blew something which should not have been there, in my way. I tripped and went down, hard. Okay, stuff happens, right? I was relieved I did not land on the arm where I had surgery back in December (The cast! The brace!). Then just five days later, again enjoying my walk and reveling in my continued healing after the fall, I was hit by a bicycle from behind. Splat. This was a bad one. And I landed hard on the boo boo arm.
So now let me fast forward… EMT called, nothing broken, horrific bruising and contusions, and then the “PTSD”. Waking up with a start thinking I was hit again, overwhelming anxiety about going out, especially on the beloved “safest place to walk” boardwalk. The fear hung over me like a great blob, a beast, immobilizing me. Fear of being mowed down again…Fear that I have now lost the ability to take my walks. Please don’t take this away, I prayed.
What I know from other life lessons over my many years of being knocked down (physically and other ways), is that I can pray all I want but the bottom line is the prayer needs to morph from “please make this okay” to “please give me what I need to fix this”. It’s on me to take a step towards recovery.
I knew I needed to poke the beast that is my fear, and so shakily and grasping the handrail (with the good arm) I made my way up the ramp to the boardwalk. This first venture out was short and not pretty. I still wasn’t walking great and I panicked whenever a bicyclist passed from behind me. But one step leads to another, and another. And none of this would be happening without that first faltering step.
I’d love to say that’s all it took and I “got over it” in that first walk. But no, this is 2020 after all and nothing is easy! I’m now several walks later, and doing just a bit over a mile most mornings, and feeling less scared most of the time, then suddenly more scared. It will get better. But not without that first tentative step, that first poke of the beast, whatever our beast – fear, pain, anger, anxiety - are there others….?
At some point, different for each of us, we will be indoors with many people again, we will be on public transportation again, we will be challenged in new ways. One step, my friends, just one step.
Stay strong, stay safe, stay wrapped in the loving embrace of God’s Most Holy Spirit.
Note: No actual living beasts were harmed in the writing of this reflection.