Living with Movement Disorders

Don’t Look at Me That Way

Yoga, one of my teacher training instructors often said, is about radical self-acceptance. Whatever the loss or limitation: self-acceptance.

A challenge when that limitation shows and strangers’ eyes register Not Normal as they stare. I’m reminded daily – at the grocery store, doing errands – that one leg doesn’t quite work right, isn’t within the standard. I might rise above it, describe it in a personal ad as “Gimpy but cute,” but my point is . . . no, my points are:

Point #1: It’s not polite to stare. That’s a Mom rule we’ve all heard, and I can attest that Moms are right on this one. That quick flick of the gaze to something – anything – else isn’t fooling anyone. Observe, then catch my eye and say, Hi, or nod, or otherwise acknowledge that I’m more than a leg that lags. Oh, and no need to shush the little ones if they ask why that lady is walking funny. Explain that everyone walks differently. Why not have fun and say, She must’ve hurt her ankle at the circus, those trapeze acts can be so dangerous. But, please don’t pretend that my walk isn’t a bit off. The kids know better.

Point #2: It’s okay to talk to me. I don’t bite. I’m quite the conversationalist. And, while every village has an idiot, I’m not ours. I may drag one leg behind me, but my brain’s not back there with it.

Point #3: We all have our issues. One of mine shows. Yes, there are others – minor ones – if I think hard on it. But I’m not about to display any of them on a sandwich sign.

Point #4: What happened? That’s my story. Okay, I’ll share it this once. Think not-so-current events: South Dakota Senator Johnson collapsed in his Washington office last year from an AVM – an arteriovenous malformation. A twisted mass of blood vessels that doesn’t follow standard biology rules. This knot skips the capillary connection between arteries and veins and can linger undetected anywhere in the body. Until it bursts. No need to be a pre-med genius to know that internal bleeding equals bad news. Really bad when it’s in your gray matter. Pop goes the AVM. I was in the eighth grade when it turned the left half my body to lead.

Point #5: Don’t treat me special. I’ll admit I like it when someone holds the door once in a while, but who doesn’t? But I can open doors and walk the dog and unload the dishwasher like anyone else. Years of physical therapy and plenty of yoga brought me this far.

Yoga. That’s my point. I practice the poses every day. But it’s been the practice of Satya – truth – and Ahisma – non-harming – that have turned me inward towards my Self. The truth is, I limp. Rather than haranguing that leg for not keeping up, I now speak to it in a gentle voice. In my honesty and kindness to me, I’m learning that radical self-acceptance. Truth is, people will stare. It’s okay.