Category Archives: Life in general

The ugly habit of toe-walking

A bad habit cannot be thrown out the window, it must be coaxed down the stairs a step at a time”

-Mark Twain

As I touched on in a recent post, lately I’ve been focused on trying to permanently correct my walking and unsteady gait. I’m at that point in life where it’s exhausting to constantly worry about tripping over my feet, struggling to carry things when I walk, not being able to walk in a straight line, etc.  After 20 years of dealing with an unsteady gait along with other walking-related issues, I’m determined to fix these issues once and for all. 

 

In order to achieve my goal, there are several bad habits I’ve developed overtime that need to be broken. One in particularly, which is probably the hardest to break, is that I have a tendency to walk on my toes. Years ago, when I first re-learned to walk, I used to fall all the time mostly because weakness in my legs and poor foot placement. As a last resort measure to keep myself from hitting the ground, I started to walk on my toes.  Overtime, toe-walking became the norm and how my body would compensate for not always being able to control my foot placement.  Toe-walking became a learned behavior and how I taught myself to adapt to my situation.

Although toe-walking at first seemed helpful, I’ve come to realize it actually increases my risk of falling. It has also caused my ankles to become weak and has made it very difficult for me to walk in a consistent heel-toe motion. So basically now I have to break a 20 year-old habit, learn to not walk on my toes, and instead walk heel-toe. (not confusing at all)

bad habits

  

 

As I consciously try to walk heel-toe and avoid walking on my toes, I can’t help not get frustrated at myself for wasting all those years creating this bad habit. Toe-walking has negatively affected my walking in many ways! But the thing is I have to let it go, be patient with myself, and remain committed to breaking this habit. It is often through our mistakes that we learn the most about ourselves and are able to change for the better.  

There are some days where everything seems perfect and my heel-toe motion is on point. But there are also days when I struggle to stay off my toes and feel extremely discouraged. Days like that I can hear my therapist shouting in my head “Get off you toes! Get on your heels!” As annoyed as I feel at times, like I’ll never walk normally, it’s important to push forward; remain dedicated and determined. Even as I write this, my heels are on the floor while my toes are in the air, as if I’m about to take a step. Not sure how much that will help with walking but at least it helps my bran become familiar with that feeling.

So maybe I developed a bad habit overtime, that’s in the past, I can only focus on improving myself now. Once you hit rock bottom, the only place you can go is up. But the only way to do that is through discipline and constantly being aware of the issue. It’s like trying to lose weight or eat healthier, you have to make a conscientious decision. After awhile, it just becomes second nature and turns into a good habit.  What are some of your bad habits?

“We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit”
-Aristotle

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Quantity vs Quality

 

“Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles”

-Steve Jobs

Quantity vs. Quality? This has always been a lingering debate in my head. Which is more important in our daily lives, quantity or quality.
My dad used to always bring this argument up, questioning which mattered most. In his case, having ALS, quality far outweighed quantity. Because of the disease, his life was cut shorter than most. He would’ve liked to live longer with the disease but at what cost? Most likely, he would have needed machines to assist him with breathing, eating, and almost all of his daily functions. Choosing to live longer, he might have sacrificed the quality of his day-to-day life for quantity of years and that was something he didn’t want to do. Ultimately, he chose quality over quantity. He chose to try to live in the present moment and not think about the future or how much longer he had to live. He wanted to maintain the little bit of independence he still had instead of depending on assistive devices and maintain quality relationships.

I was reading an article the other day about the difference between quality vs quantity. It described quality as a characteristic, a feature or state of being. Whereas, quantity is the extent or sum of a value. It goes on to say how quantity cannot change or be argued, what is 2 will always remain 2. Quality however, is subjective and has the ability to change over time.

I think it’s safe to say that our society tends to value quantity over quality. How much money we make, how many gadgets we have, how many tasks we can juggle at once, etc.  Although I’m pretty sure most people would agree with making lots of money, this thought process can be dangerous, especially when it comes to relationships. By focusing on quantity, we often sacrifice quality.

What do you want in life, quality or quantity?

“It’s better to have fewer things of quality than too much expendable junk”

-Rachel Zoe

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Just take the next step

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

Muhammad Ali

In my last post, I wrote about how important it is to me lately to once and for all correct my unsteady gait. Perfecting my walking has been something I’ve struggled with for a long time and it’s now one of my top priorities to fix this. I read a book by Matthew Kelly which talks about becoming the best version of yourself. He described how often we worry so much about where we will be in five years and how are we going to get there, that we often overlook the present moment. Just taking the next right step.

So after doing a little thinking, I decided my next right step to becoming the best version of myself was to focus on correcting my unsteady gait and my walking. My ultimate goal is to be able to run again. Not quite sure what my next step will be after correcting my walking or where life will lead me in five years but for now I’m heading in the right direction.

I recently joined a boxing class which is definitely not your standard practice therapy but it’s an incredible workout and really helps with balance. The organization was originally founded to help those with Parkinson’s battle the effects of the disease but they are open to helping anyone with a movement disorder. As I mentioned in my last post, my approach to physical therapy this time around is “outside of the box”, I don’t want to  focus on only one option of treatment and ignore the rest. A key to recovery is being open. 

Most people think of me as very quiet and nice but don’t know I have a hidden “aggressive streak” (how a friend kindly refers to it) When I was in high school, we had a punching bag and speed bag in our basement that my brothers would use and wanting to be like them, so did I. Boxing is actually a great workout for your core and upper body.  It also helped my balance, in terms of standing still and not getting knocked by a swinging bag or focusing on tiny but quick foot movements. My brother actually brought me a pair of boxing gloves. Perhaps because he was tired of me using his or maybe he thought I needed to learn more self-defense. Either way, I have pretty, royal blue boxing gloves. So upon learning about this class, I was very interested and ready to pick up my boxing gloves again.

boxing

To me, my boxing gloves are a symbol of empowerment and help me to feel confident in myself.   They embody strength, determination, hard work, and perseverance. They may appear to be simple boxing gloves but to me, they are a sign of a fighter. They are a sign of what this next step is life means to me. It is not only about gaining muscle strength and improving my walking but also gaining confidence in myself and self-esteem. They are a sign of why this next step in my life is important to me. Because once I achieve my goal then I will be able to build off of it and start working on the next step in my life. As Matthew Kelly says “Just take the next right step”. And  something I’ve come to realize is the next step that’s right for you, is not necessarily the next right step for your friend, your family members, or your neighbor. It’s what is right for you and will help you become who you are meant to be. For me, I always compare myself to my peers and ask myself “they are doing this, why am I not doing the same?” But the thought of taking the next right step reminds me of why I am not following their path and instead following my own. Boxing and spending hours working out will help me to take the next in life.

But maybe boxing isn’t your thing but what is the one thing that will help you become closer to a better version of yourself? Something that gives you confidence and fulfillment. What’s your next right step?

“Show me the way I should walk”

Psalm 143:8

 

P.S. A little shameless self-promotion but please check out my newly updated version of my autobiography, In my own words

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For the love of animals

 
Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened
-Anatole France
 
 
The other day someone asked me what my favorite animal is.
 
Since a young age I’ve been obsessed with elephants, mostly because elephant starts with an E and so does my name, Elizabeth. I spent hours learning about elephants, memorizing fun facts about them. For example, the easiest way to tell an elephant is African or Asian is by their ears. It is said that African elephants have bigger ears compared to Asian elephants.  Elephants also have extremely developed brains, the saying “you have a memory of an elephant” actually is a pretty accurate statement. When talking about our love of elephants, my friend referred to them as “gentle giants”. Elephants are the largest land animal on earth but despite their massive size, they have gentle, caring hearts. Herds of elephants are centered around females and elephants in general express maternal instincts. They are able to show empathy, grief, compassion, and are very playful.
 

Although being asked what my favorite animal seemed like a silly question, it made me think how animals play such a big role in our lives as humans. They provide us with basic necessities like food, drink, transportation, and companionship just to name a few. Animals teach us how to use our instincts, how to adapt, to love unconditionally, and to never take life too seriously.

Growing up, my family always had cats as household pets, each a stray cat except one which we bought from a vet. My dad wasn’t a huge fan of dogs. Between him dying of ALS and me dealing with cancer, we just didn’t have time to commit to a dog. But cats were an easy solution because they’re independent and self-sufficient but still provide companionship and love. It’s amazing how pets become part of the family. I loved each one of them, even the one that was a little crazy.  It is often said that having household pets can teach children lessons such as responsibility, compassion, respect, etc. I agree with that completely.

Shortly after my mom remarried, my stepdad convinced her into getting a dog. Having never grown up with dogs, I actually really didn’t care for them. So whenever my mom mentioned getting a dog, my response was “if you get a dog, I’m not coming home”, usually a couple other words were included in this.
One of the reasons for this was after my dad died, I had gotten an adorable white kitten and wasn’t sure if she would get along with a dog. For the last year of my dad’s life, I begged him for a white kitten with either blue eyes or green eyes and a cute little pink nose. However, mostly because of breathing issues, he didn’t want another cat in the house. So when he died, one of the first things out of my mouth was “can I get a kitten now?” (loving daughter that I am) Snowball was born a week after my dad’s death and was everything I wanted. She was perfectly white and had one blue eye and one green eye. She loved to cuddle and was so sweet.

Flash forward years later, one night in college after returning from Christmas break, my brother called saying he, his wife, and their dog were driving home to meet the new dog mom rescued and were planning to pick me up on the way. As we drove home, I had many thoughts going through my head but mostly was convinced I would not love this new dog. Well, that quickly changed the second he sat near me, looked at me with his big brown eyes, and smiled. Snowball and Riley did not get along at all and after several months, I gave Snowball away to a good family. She was terrified of dogs and would hide all the time. It was a difficult decision but she deserved a better life and there was no way I would give away Riley instead.

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 I still have a love for cats but cannot imagine how I lived so long without having a dog. Everyday Riley teaches me something, whether it is to love unconditionally, to find pleasure in the simple things, or to be kind towards others. (especially when you want something)
Being part german shepherd, part husky, Riley is very intuitive and picks up on my disabilities very easily. He knows to sit and be patient when I struggle to put on his collar or to walk slower with me because I can’t keep up. For not being a trained service dog, I see now how much service dogs or service animals can be helpful.
All animals whether it be cats, dogs, other family pets or even wild animals teach us about life and help us to see the beauty in the world. 

“How it is that animals understand things I do not know, but it is certain that they do understand. Perhaps there is a language which is not made of words and everything in the world understands it. Perhaps there is a soul hidden in everything and it can always speak, without even making a sound, to another soul.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Don’t let life beat you down

“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.”

-Aldous Huxley

 

Have you ever had a dream where you’re fighting against someone in an intense battle? 

After only minutes of battling, you are drained, fatigued, tired, ready to surrender. 

While the other fighter seems so well-trained, agile, energetic, never giving up or showing sign of quitting. And you can’t help but wonder, who is this?! They’re making me look like a fool.

Then you see your opponent, it’s a younger version of yourself!? 
 
Lately at work, I’ve found myself rushing through everyday, going through the same routine, counting down the hours til I can go home and then repeat it all over again tomorrow. Everyday seems monotonous, dull, same old thing day after day. I’m starting to understand the phrase working for the weekend. Instead of being excited for each new day and having a chipper, positive attitude, it’s a struggle to get out of bed most days. My enthusiasm towards life seemed to become non-existent.
 
Life has a way of beating us down over time. Whether through personal experiences, relationships, societal expectations, or growth. It’s easy to lose ourselves in the mix, to suppress our personality as a way to fit in, and curb our enthusiasm towards life.  But why is that? Why do we allow life to do this?
 
Each day is a new adventure, a new possibility for something great. Yes, some experiences in life cause us to be more apprehensive or more cautious towards certain situations. Building up barriers around ourselves and taking away our enthusiasm towards life. But this doesn’t mean we have to completely shut down and quit being the person we are. We have a choice whether to let life destroy us and settle for what society expects of us. Or to rise above the negativity of others and keep being you. 

“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.”

-Henry David Thoreau

smiling

Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Please teach your kids

 

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”

-Maya Angelou

Kids say the darnest things. Kids can be so sweet, so innocent, and so accepting of others. But they can also be brutally honest, rude at times, and not have a filter on what they say.
Looking slightly different from most, I’ve had a few too many experiences with rude kids and tend to avoid small children. Not that I have anything against little kids, they can be adorable! But unless I know the parents aka how they’ve been raised, I’m not super comfortable with them.

Every year for Halloween, my work hands out candy to a day care center. Newborns, toddlers, moms, and other helpers parade around the building, showing off their costumes and collecting candy! It is so cute to watch all the little ones come through the hallways! 

As the kids paraded around this year, my co-workers and I handed out candy, commenting on each costume. As I was handing out candy, a girl around 4 years old looked at me and asked me “Why do you look like that? Why do you look weird? What’s wrong with your face?” She repeated this over and over. I would’ve understood if I had something on my face or was wearing a mask but I wasn’t. I was wearing my glasses and a headband, nothing too out of the ordinary.

Other kids were gathered around me waiting for candy and the parade was still going on so I figured she would just follow the group but instead she stayed near me, repeating her question. I did not mean to ignore her question, it just didn’t seem like the time to answer it. Plus, shouldn’t that be something a parent deals with?!

After giving her candy and commenting on her pretty costume, she left with the parade of kids. I heard her echoing down the hallway asking my co-workers “What’s wrong with that girl’s face?” There’s nothing quite like being made to feel insecure about myself by a 4-year-old!

A multitude of thoughts went through my mind that afternoon but one that kept popping into my head was how did this child not know any better? Did anyone ever take time to explain disabilities or special needs individuals to her?! I get being curious and kids wanting to learn but there is a fine between curiosity and being rude/ignorant. Please teach your kids that! 

don't stare

The next day, my co-worker and I were discussing what happened and how important it is to teach your kids. Teach them to be aware of the fact that some people may look or act differently from them. Teach them about individuals who are disabled, that we are people just like you. Teach them that it is okay to ask questions but sometimes  when you’re unsure of something, especially when it comes to dealing with people, just be kind and ask later. 

On Halloween night, I handed out candy at my house and there were kids who definitely stared at my face with puzzled looks. But despite their curiosity, they were kind and respectful.

I understand staring, that’s just something kids do but teach them how to react, educate them as much as possible. Kids are the future. 

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” 
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Ignorance is bliss…and annoying

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Traveling can be such a pain. I love seeing new places and meeting new people but traveling is exhausting. Once you get to your final destination, all the hustle and bustle of traveling seems worth it but when you’re in the moment, traveling can seem like anything but fun.

Having lived in Pittsburgh on my own for a semester, I used to fly home quite often and actually had it down to an art. The people who drove me to the airport would help me to get checked in on my flight and would request a wheelchair for me which is so much easier instead of struggling to walk through the airport with my less than perfect balance. Once a wheelchair arrived, an airport employee would take me through security and straight to my gate. Having that treatment made traveling seem like a piece of cake, it was so simple!

 

Although being pushed around in a wheelchair made everything less stressful, I’m not the biggest fan of the idea. Using a wheelchair or any device to help with my walking is something I avoid at all possible costs. It’s not that I have anything against wheelchairs, walkers, scooters, etc, I’m just too stubborn to use one on a regular basis. Even in college, using a scooter was a little shot to my pride but it made getting around campus so much easier and gave me independence.

 

Despite my hesitations, I have learned that it’s easier to use a wheelchair in an airport instead of dealing with my shaky legs, whether I’m traveling by myself or with somebody. So when flying to Michigan last week to visit family, I used a wheelchair to navigate through the airport. After we made our way through security, we stopped to grab something to eat before heading to the flight gate. However, a problem we ran into was trying to fit this massive wheelchair into the eating areas just to order something. The register was tucked back in a narrow corner with tables and chairs on one side and a counter on the other. Barely one person with a suitcase could fit through, let alone one of the airport’s wheelchairs. I understand restaurants at airports are limited in space to work with and probably have to follow certain regulations due to security but some of the places were impossible to squeeze a wheelchair into; it’s not the difficult to make an area wide enough for a wheelchair and at least another person to stand side by side. Sometimes I wish everyone was forced to experience what it is like to be physically disabled and then people might see firsthand how inaccessible the world is. Yes, there are ADA regulations and requirements but most able-bodied people don’t comply with these rules because it does not directly affect them or it costs too much money to make it more accessible.

 

After struggling to find a wide enough area to fit into the line, we finally made it back to the register. As i was waiting for my mom to order the food, a woman came up to the chair and in a slightly condescending voice (although she probably had kind intentions), she went on to tell me what a beautiful girl I was and how pretty my dress was.

This was all very nice to hear and personally I really liked my dress too but her tone of voice was not appreciated. It was very obvious that she saw the wheelchair, my slightly different facial expressions and assumed I must be mentally or developmentally disabled. Although I wanted to say something to her about making such an ignorant assumption, I smiled sweetly and replied “Thank you, that’s so kind of you to say”.

After placing our order and knowing exactly what was happening, my mom turned around, reiterating what I had said to the woman and backed the wheelchair out of the tight area.

What gives people the right to assume things like that?! I was just sitting in the wheelchair, minding my own business waiting for my mom to place the order because I could not reach the counter top and all of a sudden this women decides to come up to me, assuming I’m mentally disabled. Just because I was in a wheelchair and look somewhat different from you, does not mean I’m mentally disabled. A wheelchair should tell you I have trouble walking or am not able to walk, that’s it. Making any other assumption about me being mentally disabled insults my intelligence and what I’ve accomplished in life. The woman probably thought talking to me was a nice gesture or maybe she was making small talk but it came off rude and made me feel very self-conscious, depressed, and angry.

Nothing irritates me more than narrow-minded, uneducated people like that who make assumptions based on their limited knowledge. Not all people with disabilities are the same. So next time you see someone with a handicap or disability, please don’t make an assumption about their disability, don’t talk down to them or treat them like a two-year old, rather treat them with respect, like you would want to be treated.

 

“You are not entitled to your opinion. You’re entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant”

-Harlan Ellison

 

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