1/8/2019 10:43:00 AM Moving differently through the world
By Katy Yoder
I'm going to a doctor who's helping me overcome physical impediments. The main challenge has been feeling uncomfortable when I walk. Since I was young, I've felt awkward when I walked or ran. I didn't know why and didn't realize it wasn't normal to feel that way. Sometimes people were cruel about it.
Our farrier told me during my teenage years that I walked like a Swedish milker. I had no idea what he was talking about and had to ask him what he meant. "They're the women who carry two large pales of milk hung from a wooden yoke on their shoulders. It swings back and forth, making them walk funny."
I felt the sting of his words and realized people noticed how I walked. From then on, not only did I feel uncomfortable about the way I walked, I knew I looked weird too.
I felt the eyes of people behind me assessing my lumbering gait and judging me. I didn't like anyone walking behind me. I tried to walk better. My best friend Stephanie suggested that I swing my arms as I walked. That felt abnormal, too, but I tried it anyway.
Stephanie was a runner and she encouraged me to come with her. Running felt unnatural and counterproductive. I had to work twice as hard swinging my legs forward to keep up with her. I always ended up behind trying to catch up. She was understanding and supportive, but I finally told her I hated running and wouldn't join her anymore. I was much more comfortable getting around on my horse.
Topper glided over the ground totally comfortable in his chestnut skin. He was agile, rarely stumbled, and could jump into a gallop in an exciting instant. He was my way to feel graceful and normal. When I got off, once again I was an awkward teenager who looked weird when she walked.
There were countless times when I heard snarky remarks about the way I walked. I tried to ignore them, but the shame sliced deep. Most guys weren't interested in me. I assumed it was partially because of the way I moved through the world. I began hunching my shoulders forward, kept my head down and tried to minimize time hiking or walking with friends.
During a party my grandmother, in a painful attempt to help me, forced me to walk down our long hallway with books on my head. I was mortified. Everyone watched as I tried to balance the books and glide like she could. I'll never forget the embarrassment of that moment. I failed terribly. The books slammed loudly on the concrete floor. She shook her head, unable to understand why I couldn't, "walk like a lady."
Going to see a chiropractor back in the 1990s gave me my first insight into why I felt so uncomfortable. He took full X-rays and put them up for me to see.
"So, have people made fun of you for the way you walk?"
I was shocked. He'd barely seen me move when I entered the exam room. How did he know? He showed me where my right hip was larger than the left and was splayed out more than the other one.
"See that," he said pointing at the image. "You have to move your right leg out and around to move forward. That's why it feels so unnatural to walk."
His exam was part of a health clinic my sister and I were attending in Southern California, so he wouldn't be able to help me with my problem. But for the first time in my life, I didn't feel like a loser who walked funny. There was finally a reason... and it wasn't my fault.
When I got back to Oregon, I had to focus on other health challenges and didn't' see anyone about my awkward gait. Just recently, I addressed the issue again. I didn't go into her office because of how I walked. I was dealing with lower back pain from hours sitting while writing my book. But when she assessed my body, she quickly picked up on my structural challenges and offered a solution.
Just like my mental journey into the past to heal my present, she provided a deeper understanding of why I move through the world the way I do. She offered a solution that with time and commitment could change how I walked. It's working! Not without challenges, though. Once I began changing how I walked, other parts of my body began to wake up and shift position. I realized making big changes mentally or physically are never quick fixes. It takes time, fortitude, and a positive attitude.
Whether I'm feeling old anxiety from a painful memory or pinched nerves from a body that's used to doing things a certain way, I know if I keep moving forward and have faith in my ability to heal, eventually, my mind and body will catch up with the new me. It's exciting, frustrating and full of hope. 2019 is going to be a good year!