49: Walking Backward to Go Forward

49: Walking Backward to Go Forward

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People

Walking Backward to Go Forward

There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.

~Franklin D. Roosevelt

My mother clutched the door handle and screamed as I veered towards the icy snowbank. We had made it successfully a few hundred yards from our driveway. My older brother, Jim, was home for Christmas so he took me to the parking lot behind the Triangle Movie Theater in Yorktown Heights, NY, and decided he would teach me how to drive in a way that was much less traumatic.

My recollections of Jim doing doughnuts in the dead-end street by Bedell Road in no way influenced my decision to put utter faith in his instruction. Jim was an excellent driver and had experience teaching me to navigate on wheels. His first lesson in riding a bike was so successful that he had to run down the backyard chasing after me so I wouldn’t hit the apple tree. Jim now turned to me calmly and said, “Okay put it in reverse.” I asked my obvious, “Don’t you think that maybe I should learn to drive forward first?”

“No,” was his reply. Tentatively and with frantic glances in my rear view mirror, I began to drive. I zigzagged, barely missing a lamppost at one point, and a few potholes at another. We did this for over an hour before I advanced to driving forward.

Despite the skills that Jim taught me, when I was twenty-four I was involved in a near-fatal car accident. Among my injuries was a cracked pelvis. My orthopedic doctor was optimistic that I would recover without any difficulty walking, but as I sat in the wheelchair looking out my window, I was not certain. I became an immediate overachiever. I tried to stand as soon as possible, if only to have someone wash my hair. I played motivational music such as “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina & The Waves and spent my mornings inching my way back and forth across my front walkway.

I tried to see the humor in the fact that I was twenty-four years old and had a walker. I promised myself I would use it as a clothes rack when I was fully healed (and I did!). The healing of the body is a miraculous thing, but something very odd happened while my bones were mending. The bones of my pelvis healed in such a way that at first I only regained movement to walk backwards in full complete steps. To go forward I could move about an inch at a time. If the doorbell rang or I had to walk a distance, I learned that I was much more efficient by turning around and reaching my destination by walking backward.

That healing process gave me time to reflect on my brief career, inexperienced relationships, and life in general. Everything thus far was backwards. I had spent my time working towards goals that I didn’t even want, developing skills I didn’t want to use. When the time came, I stopped, turned and took some daring leaps forward. It didn’t happen quickly, but I slowly made the necessary changes to point myself in the right direction.

Sometimes when our lives seem like we are driving in reverse or walking backwards, we are really learning the steps that will guide us into the greatest forward leaps of our lives. I just have to be patient and realize that sometimes putting one foot in front of the other doesn’t go exactly in the direction that I planned. Sometimes, like a global positioning system, we have to go in every other direction but the path we need most, and then suddenly when the time is right, a voice will tell us exactly which way to go and we will leap forward on newly healed limbs.

~Susan LaMaire

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