On that Friday I was given my new ankle-foot brace, my occupational therapist gave me a task for the weekend. The task was to go shopping, buy two items not weighing more than 500 grams, and then to make my way back ‘home’ to the hospital. I had already done a supervised shop with my OT during the week, so I accepted the challenge with gusto, not stopping to clarify the details of my given mission. Being a GTD devotee, I decided that it would be more efficient if I doubled up tasks on the Sunday morning, going to church and doing the shop, and being back in my room in time for lunch.
Once more a friend picked me up on the Sunday morning. Again, much like the first week being back at church, being with my church family, meeting with them and successfully making a cup of tea without spilling it everywhere, was heartening because I was joining in on life with others, even if for a few hours. Hearing how friends are going, how families are coping with the beginning of holidays, how our ministry trainees are thriving, are all opportunities to connect relationally. Sharing life for just a moment was sweet indeed.
But rather than going straight back to the hospital, my challenge still awaited me. In my view, an excellent planning decision. The same kind friend who picked me up from the hospital dropped me off at the local Walkerville shops, which had still not opened for the day. I decided to have a coffee at Nest, the cafe at the front of the centre, while I was waiting. For the first time since all this happened, how much my life had changed hit me. I used to do work in cafes everyday, drinking coffee was part of who I was, how my days used to begin; now sitting drinking a coffee by myself seemed like the most alien thing to do. I ordered my coffee at the counter. The owner asked me to sit at a high communal table with stools. Before I would have been happy to do so, but now sitting at a high table is physically impossible. I apologised to the owner, lifted up my walking stick, and pointed out that perhaps the safest option might be sitting at a table. The owner, slightly embarrassed that he hadn’t taken notice of the walking stick, quickly acquiesced. So sitting at the table, waiting for my coffee, I took out my iPad to read a book. But being alone was really strange. I wasn’t used to being out in public by myself anymore. What wasn’t bothering me though were the stares. I wasn’t oblivious, I just no longer cared. I didn’t finish my coffee. It wasn’t because the coffee tasted awful, it was okay; I just didn’t care for the coffee either. Twenty minutes sitting was my limit, so I started walking to Woolies.
Two items. The one thing, other than Sweet Chili sauce, that I missed from the shops was seasonal winter fruit. The Winter food season is my favourite. So I decided my two items were going to be pears. The thought did cross my mind that perhaps the OT meant for me to get two different items, but I soon shrugged away the thought. I went to the check out. It took me a while to get my wallet out, pay, and to put my wallet back in my bag again, and all without knocking over my walking stick. The next lady in line asked me to get out the way. I realised then what my problem is going to be when I shop – my patience with other shoppers. While the lady could have been a bit more polite, I also need to work out a strategy to do smaller tasks a little faster. My natural reaction would have been to make a snarky comment back; clearly I could not move fast or efficiently for that matter, but impatience meeting impatience would not have helped anyone. I just made a mental note to ask my OT the next day.
Walking out the shops with my two pears, the next part of my task was to make my way home. I assumed walking was okay. I knew, however, that the shortest way was also slightly uphill. But I started walking anyway. The sun was out, the air was crisp, so trudging slowly along was just delightful. I tired pretty quickly. I realised that tripping over wouldn’t take much. I continued trudging slowly anyway up the hill. I did make it. I turned the corner to the hospital and was glad that for the rest of the day I could lie on my bed, read and rest. Doing such a mundane task like shopping for two pears and walking back was another step forward and another small victory. There is, however, a ‘but’. The inkling I had at the shops about buying two different items turned out to be right. My OT was trying to prove two points to me about efficiency vs effectiveness and the need to conserve energy. I was thinking all the time about the shortest solution, but what seems like the most efficient is not always the most efficient and neither is it the most effective. I wish I could say I learnt both lessons. I’m still learning.