Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color


Sara tightened the strap that held my shoulders back. “How does that feel?”
I let my arms hang down, relaxed. “You can go a little tighter.”
The first time Sara strapped my shoulders back, I hated it, and asked to be released within the first minute. But after seeing the benefits, I tolerated it. I quickly learnt that being distracted helped immensely, to the point where I didn’t mind it at all.
Shoulders strapped, I roamed around the yoga studio, searching for distractions. Alas, everyone was focused on their set of exercises and had no interest in socializing. I wandered over to the bulletin board, but soon finished reading everything in sight, including the small print.
Searching my mind for another distraction, I remembered the last time I had my shoulders strapped back—I’d managed to walk two or three steps heel to toe. I hadn’t been able to repeat my performance since, but then I hadn’t had my shoulders strapped since either.
I wondered if… I looked down at my feet. Should I try? I hesitated.
Why was I hesitating? I searched to put labels to my emotion. Fear? Apprehension? Why would I be afraid? Last time I’d been so excited.
I wasn’t afraid that I wouldn’t succeed. Perhaps I was afraid that I would succeed, that my balance could be restored. But if that was indeed the cause for my hesitation, could it be that somewhere inside me, I wanted to remain an invalid? No, no, that wasn’t possible. That would make me a malingerer, an attention seeker.
Since one of the many neurologists I encountered after the brain bleeds accused me of faking my symptoms, I’d become hyper-aware of any possible signs of melodrama on my part. Whenever I lost my balance, I was concerned that I wasn’t trying hard enough, that if I’d really wanted to, I would have been able to take one more step. When fatigue struck, I tried not to succumb to it immediately. The end result was that I actually pushed myself too hard at times.
And now it seemed that perhaps, at some level, I did want to remain an invalid. Could I have been lying to my self all this time? I prided myself for being honest with myself—I couldn’t let this be. I had to examine my emotions, no matter where they led me.
Why would I want to remain an invalid? Was I afraid that ties born in the wake of the bloody brain would unravel? That Cindy would lose all respect towards me? That Joyce, believing I no longer needed her help, would move on?
But I had a hard time believing that I really wanted to keep my status as an invalid as a way of seeking attention. It felt wrong. Yes, I did occasionally feel the need to wallow and to seek sympathy. But that was normal, and the need never lasted long.
Why else would anyone want to malinger?
Perhaps the issue wasn’t about seeking attention, but about adapting to a new mindset. I had become comfortable with the notion that my balance would never improve, and now I had to transition out of that comfort zone. Perhaps I was merely anxious about having to adjust to yet another fundamental change in my state of being.

All the time my thoughts raced around, my eyes were cast downward, towards my feet. As I searched my mind for answers, I noticed the beautiful grain of the bamboo floor. Without thinking, I lined my right foot up with one of the floor boards. Then, my right ankle wobbling, I placed my left foot heel to toe with my right. Next, I picked up my right foot and placed it in front of the left. Then the left in front of the right.

Wait! How may steps was that? Four? Five? Could I manage one more?