How does what you’re capable of doing define who you are? Really Blog Manager Carla Foote shares her insights.
The Slow Walk
By Carla Foote
I paused on my walk, just a few blocks from my home, looked towards the vista of the mountains, and shed a few tears. I wondered and worried about whether or not I would ever enjoy walking again. In the previous decade, as an empty-nester, I had focused on my own fitness. I had increased my walking and added hiking to activities I not only enjoyed but which also defined me.
A setback in my recovery from a fall on the ice a few months prior to this moment made walking slow and difficult. I was getting regular physical therapy, and my therapist reminded me that progress wasn’t always linear. In frustration I thought, “I don’t want linear progress, I want exponential. I want to be done with rehabbing and fully healed!”
Then I turned and walked slowly toward home. A walk of less than half a mile where I used to post at least 3 miles a day or even more.
Fortunately, since that tough moment last spring, I have made real progress (not exponential, more like slow and mostly steady). But even into mid-summer as my walking increased, I had difficulty gardening and did minimal bending, not wanting to exacerbate any issues. I tried to look the other way while weeds grew tall among my perennial garden. Add gardening to walking as an activity that defined me and now was more frustrating than satisfying.
When I first went to the doctor about my knees, he used the phrase, “At your age …”
Yes—I’m 62 years old, and there is likely some underlying arthritis in my joints. I’m aging.
Even as I have added back most of the activities that were difficult in the past 11 months, I have had time to reflect on my reaction to my limitations. At my age, 62, I am on the young side of old. And all the various stretches and exercises the PT has added to my regime should serve me well in keeping mobility. But there will be a day in 5, 10, 20 … ? years when my mobility declines. And if I continue to define myself as a walker and a gardener, where will I be when those activities are no longer possible?
When I define my identity in terms of doing rather than being, I am always in danger of losing my identity if the activities I do are taken away. Right now, some of the activities I do that bring me joy are walking, gardening, writing and editing. However, my being, my identity, has to be broader or I am always at risk of losing it. If something happens to my physical or mental capabilities, I may not be able to do these activities.
Always, God graciously and gently leads me back to the truth about me. He created me. Yes, he gave me certain abilities, but more importantly, he created my inmost being. The essence of me. And it is a being designed to love him, glorify him, and rest in him. His love isn’t dependent on any doing, just on being.
While I hope and pray that I can continue to fully enjoy activities for years to come, and I keep up my exercises, I also want to keep growing my soul—the part of me that can’t be taken away by physical or mental decline.
Carla Foote is the Really blog manager, and works with other clients through Fine Print Editorial. She enjoys walking, hiking, gardening, and reading. She’s been following Jesus for many years and is grateful for God’s reminders of how much he loves her.