Forwards, Backwards, Who Cares?

How do you walk downstairs? I suspect you walk downstairs the way most people do: facing forwards. What about with a cup of tea in your hands? Do you still walk forwards?

This past summer, when I had an acute back problem, radiculopathy, I found it impossible to balance and walk downstairs to my office with my tea. Instead, I walked backwards down the stairs and moved the tea down the stairs every few stairs. Imagine this:

  • Walk to the top of the stairs.
  • Put the tea down.
  • Turn around.
  • Walk down two or three stairs.
  • Pick the tea up and move it down three stairs.
  • Walk down two or three more stairs.
  • Repeat until all stairs are gone.
  • Now, walk with the tea into the office.
  • Sit down, drink the tea. Say, “Ahhh.” Read email. Say other things.

I realized I didn’t have to walk down the stairs the “right” way. I can walk down the stairs the way that works for me. Just as I take out the garbage the way that works for me.

Sometimes, the most straightforward way to solve a problem is not the fastest way to solve a problem. For me, sometimes, the “backwards” way to solve a problem is the fastest way to solve a problem.

When I try to look down, as in going downstairs, I become more dizzy. Add in carrying a cup of hot liquid? Well, that’s even more challenging. Try to use my stomach muscles, carry the cup, see where I’m going and retain my balance? Ha!

But turn around, so I don’t have to see where I’m going? Piece of cake. I can use my stomach muscles so I keep my back strong. I can hold the cup. I can use one hand on the banister. Here’s what I do now:

  • Walk to the top of the stairs.
  • Put the tea down.
  • Turn around.
  • Pick the tea up with my right hand.
  • Walk down, holding the banister with my left hand.
  • Repeat until all stairs are gone. At the end, put the tea down to pick up my cane, and change the tea into my left hand.
  • Now, walk with the tea into the office.
  • Sit down, drink the tea. Say, “Ahhh.” Read email. Say other things.

I’m much faster. I walk down the stairs, alternating feet, just as I go up the stairs, because, ahem, I have two terrific knees. I’m not forcing my eyes to try to use a vestibular function they don’t have. (My ocular-vestibular reflex is gone. Kaput. I can look up all day. Look down? Get dizzy.)

When I solve problems, I no longer look for the most straightforward solution. Sometimes the “backwards” solution is the fastest solution. It might be for you, too.

6 thoughts on “Forwards, Backwards, Who Cares?

  1. Sherry

    I have a high sympathy level with “When I try to look down, as in going downstairs, I become more dizzy.” I have worn glasses since I was a teenager. A few years ago, I got progressive lenses. The bottom third is designed to magnify print. When you look down, everything is magnified and you become dizzy at the best of times. Stairs, escalators… I eventually learned to look out, not down and hold on to the rail. I don’t even want to imagine adding in any other difficulty.
    It continues to amaze me how creative we can be when we have to deal with issues that won’t go away:-)

    1. johanna Post author

      Sherry, I’ve had progressives for many years. When I first had the vertigo, my eye doctor was wondering whether to take away my progressives! I said, “No, I’m accustomed to these. I need new glasses, because I can’t see. I have become more near-sighted and more presbyopic. But, it’s not the fault of the progressives. I just can’t see!”

      Save me from doctors who want to save me from myself…

  2. Roger Hayes

    “Save me from doctors who want to save me from myself…”

    That. to me, sounds like the germ of another article.

    Thanks for this one, and for your writing in general.

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