Here’s another installment from Geo of On Bright Street. Thanks Geo!
Late one evening my husband and I went for a ramble downtown. At each corner light we waited for a signal to tell us to cross. To sync our steps, one or both of us frequently did silly double-quicks till our feet matched and our clasped hands swung comfortably. When we stroll through the canyon along the river trail, or down the gravelly lake road which circles the airport our strides easily agree; there’s so little stop-start. In the city it’s a busier story. Pause for traffic—follow with a shuffle-step. Look in a shop window—then trip together to the next. Bump into a friend, give directions to a stranger, slow down to pick up a coin, get distracted by newspaper headlines—and perform the order dance again.
While we negotiated the streets and sidewalks I realized: I always lead with my right foot when I walk. I decided to begin with my left instead to see what effect it might have. It did away with our need for double-quicks; we were in step—problem solved! But it bothered me to feel uncomfortable starting on my left foot; I use both sides of my body equally as I go along—or thought I did—so why the lopsidedness? Even more surprising was the sense that I had unlocked some little room in my brain merely by changing my accustomed way of walking. Was that my imagination? Did I just . . . build a synapse? I wondered about the power of breaking habits that rule instinctive tasks. I stepped off again with my left. Could working for a deliberate balance help me walk more harmoniously with myself, as well as with Rob? I decided to experiment.
We live with a small dog who often requires a barrier to prevent trouble in certain parts of our home, so I have a plastic knee-high gate which travels from doorway to doorway. I step over it many times daily. I set a goal: to cross that dog trap with my left leg leading. I was shocked when the first time over was almost a failure; my muscles did not know how to perform a mirror-image of the movements I usually went through to clear the gate. I managed, but the second time I attempted the hurdle that day I got hung up, banged my shin, and nearly hit the floor. That’s embarrassing. I determined I was onto something big. I kept practicing until my body relaxed and my coordination grew, along with the conviction that I was building strength both physically and mentally.
I sought other opportunities for small and simple shake-ups, mini-masteries. I tried my hand at lefty penmanship, as I used to do in my childhood when I mimicked my ambidextrous father. I slung my bag across the opposite shoulder while I shopped. I held the telephone to my other ear. Stopping short of using a sharp knife without the necessary control, I shifted many parts of my routine from strength to strangeness and made side-swapping discoveries—that I have many hidden weaknesses, startlingly uneven muscles, and corresponding pains that emerge as I work to restructure myself. But my initial feeling about what happens when I put my worst foot forward was right on—my mind really does expand, as do my abilities. Being out of step with my husband motivated me to examine my walk and challenge myself to a simple change. That change made me uncomfortable and revealed my lack of balance. As I worked on balance, I recognized the value of strengthening other weak places as well, and so it goes on.
There are endless possibilities—within and without—to yield to the awkward and reach for grace. Being willing to try out new muscles and push through discomfort can help build strength and balance, expand thinking, and more easily keep in rambling step with dear ones. Have you had an experience, big or small, that bears this out?