The wheel clocked our distance as we tracked our way through the clinic’s hall. The readout told us just how far we had travelled. Positioned at the end of the orange stick, it gave proof to Evelyn’s advancements in walking. As her physical therapist pushed the contraption alongside Evelyn’s walker, I kept track of the time we spent snaking through the corridors. Simultaneously, I was tasked with encouraging her to keep walking when the pull of distractions was strong. I was her cheerleader, her mother, and her admirer.
The people sitting at the far end of the room, chatting around a table, was so intriguing to her that she wanted to stop and soak in their interactions. The basketball players flying around the court that sat below our balcony view was pulling her attention away from making a straight line with her gait. The water fountain hanging nonchalantly in the alcove of the hallway was a beacon during a six-minute jaunt that was meant to be a test of endurance. Her insistence on this quenching liquid was evidence that she worked hard, despite her physical challenges, weakened muscles, and inability to run like a toddler should. The number clocked on the wheeled device was proof that Evelyn’s endurance spread much further than our trek down a hallway. She had walked 330 yards–further than the length of a football field–and she kept going even when the clock stopped. When she could have sat down, pushed her walker aside, and chose an activity that required little of her petite legs, she instead walked back to the therapy room and scanned her invigorated eyes around for the next task that laid before her.
As an adult, it often feels too easy to give up. When the Universe says ‘no’ to requests, it feels natural to submissively bow down. Even when these requests are experiences so desired, to the point that all thoughts of how one’s future may look include this new opportunity, forces beyond what we understand knock us down to reality. It is not always true that we do not deserve what we had wanted, often we do. It is not that we desire less what we thought we wanted, because we often ingrain it into our souls as if it already is. Sometimes, we just do not get what we want. Always, there is another way.
When Evelyn was born with clubbed feet and diminished muscle strength in her legs, the near constant leg casting and foot bracing hindered her opportunity to learn to crawl and stand. This deprivation of what our baby yearned to do was denied by forces we have yet to understand. Not an ounce of our wishes for her to restore gross motor abilities was heard by the Universe. Yet, Evelyn worked through the pleas left unanswered. She found new ways to get what she wanted: army crawling with her braces on to get across the daycare floor, finding aide in walkers, furniture, and adult hands to find her security in becoming mobile. With little use of her legs, she ambulated anyway.
Her naïveté to the cruelty the world can dole out is inspiring. Never one to worry about what she does not have, she lives in each moment she is gifted. The smear of chocolate that reaches from her chin to her forehead divulges her enjoyment of dessert after dinner. Her infectious giggles, and repeated requests for tickles, reveals her zest for happiness. With each day she plays with her friends, feeds our dog, helps us dust and vacuum, and soaks up what experiences she can each minute she is awake. When bedtime rolls around, she resists sleep only because she cannot stop herself from enjoying her waking moments.
When the Universe recently told me ‘no’, I cried. If I had been walking my path of endurance, I would have crumbled to the floor into a heaping pile of tears and negativity. Thoughts of ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘this isn’t fair’, and ‘I’ll never be anything’ infiltrated my previously hopeful status. After weeks of waiting for news, I learned I was denied the opportunity to return to school. When I was told my sample portfolio was good enough to be in a writing program, the outcome felt more like punishment for not having whatever ellusive quality my competition had. All the fantasies I had allowed my mind to conjure burst with the robustness of a thousand balloons. The sound of rejection was deafening.
Watching Evelyn as she took her walk around the hallways, I saw her work through her challenges. As is her default, when one ‘no’ arises, she turns her back on it and finds a ‘yes’. She sees her friends at school play and run, and so she does too–in her own way.
As Evelyn and I travelled those halls, we made it to the end together. When she wanted to stop, kneeling down to the floor, my words buoyed her up. Her hands grasped the gray handlebars of her walker, and with her mighty arm strength, she got her feet firmly planted beneath her again. The next step we took side-by-side, and then the next, and the one after that.
As my pursuit for furthering my writing through education has been met with a resounding ‘no’, I will find my ‘yes’. My initial thoughts of ‘I’ll never write again’ are turning into ‘I should write more’. After all, if Evelyn can take that next step, build her muscle strength, and be the independent little girl that conventionally would seem impossible, then I, too, can take that next step, build my writing strength, and do what is denied by others.
Evelyn continues to find ways to make her world her own and to find her ‘yes’; I will do it too.