Chloe on stairs in Leesburg, Florida
Not All Stairs Are Created Equal
Sunday, my kids were scheduled to help clean up after the service. In an effort to save time, Kyersten handed us her library books that she had planned to return through the book drop. C. Burr Artz Library is only about 1 block from where our church currently meets. Books are often returned on Sunday since we are in the right vicinity. As it was Father’s Day, I was anxious to “shave off minutes” where I could and so agreed to drop them off for her. We were in separate cars, and the plan was that Terry and I would drop off the books and then reserve a table at Outback. Outback normally opens at 4 PM, but on Father’s Day they were opening earlier – a fact Terry was very excited about since the choice was his given the special day. Terry and I left the kids cleaning up the foyer and coffee corner, and hurried to stop by the library before proceeding to Outback.
C. Burr Artz Library in downtown Frederick
It may be difficult to see from this aerial shot of the library, but the book drop is to the left as you face the main doors. There is a set of stairs you cannot see, and a handicap accessible ramp leading right up to the book drop. Terry pulled into the circular drive in front of the library and the plan was for me to hop out, drop the books in, and hop back into the van. Sounds deceptively simple, correct?
I hopped out after telling Chloe “quiet” and “stay”. She tends to have a cow when I leave the vehicle without her. It rarely happens and only when someone else is in the car. Even so, she behaves as if I’ve left her in a foreign country! In order to keep Terry from having to listen to her belly-ache, I had high hopes my “quiet” would keep her calm for the several minutes it would take to drop the books into the slot. After all, she would be able to see me the whole time, and I would be no more than ten feet away.
There were only 4 big books, and easy to carry under my left arm. I approached the stairs and considered my options. Funny how having a balance disorder forces you to look at something as simple as a short staircase in a new light. The day was sunny and I am less apt to be dizzy on clear days. I was momentarily distracted by the appearance of a young man I go to church with as it seems he walked to the book drop and beat us there! He made a comment about that fact, and I grinned and waved goodbye.
My world tends to rotate counterclockwise. This is actually a huge boon in my humble opinion, as most people walk to the right on sidewalks, stairwells, etc. This means my strongest side… my right side… is closest to the handrail and “checks” my skewed impression of things moving towards the left. I confidently stepped up to the staircase.
Decisions to Make on Step 2
Within one step I found myself sprawled out in the stairwell. I grimaced and pulled myself back up and took inventory of the various scrapes, abrasions and new bruises. I felt an immense relief that I fell on STEP 2! At least I fell “forward” instead of “backwards” and didn’t have very far to fall. If I had been on step 5, it may have been worse as the fall would have been farther. If you fall IN the staircase, your fall is cut short by the slant of the stairs. (Are you grinning? Hey these things matter, believe me!)
“OUCH”, I muttered.
Now as falling is as much a part of my day as breathing, I really do not tend to sit around contemplating the fact that I’ve just fallen… again. I could hear Chloe “losing it” in the idling van behind me. A dog’s bark comes in loud and clear with a cochlear implant. I gathered up the strewn books, made it up the final stairs and dropped them into the book drop. Every time I use the book drop, I’m reminded of the time my son told me that it “talked to you” when you fed it books. I believed this for a number of years until he overheard me talking about our book drop one day and figured he’d better set me straight that he had been pulling my leg. Ornery little booger… anyway, I digress:
I returned to the van, hopped in and buckled up. Before I could say anything, Terry said,
“Good night, Chloe was NOT quiet while you did that. She cried the whole time!”
I sat there contemplating that comment a moment, perhaps hoping he’d notice my bloody knuckles and disheveled appearance. I’m not a patient person and so blurted out,
“Well gee it could be because I dropped out of sight when I fell on the stairs!”
I can only imagine what poor Chloe saw from her perspective inside the van. Wisely, Terry cluck-clucked like a good little mother hen and was appropriately conciliatory about my new “fall down and go boom” scratches.
Stairs are not all the same. A new discovery for me has been the realization that the width of the stairwell, angle of the slope, width of the stair itself, and whether or not the stairwell is “open” or “closed” has an effect on perception when you have a balance disorder. You can learn the “feel” of a familiar stairwell; for example, I traverse the stairs at home at a pretty good pace and rarely fall even on a rainy day. (I might clarify that I rarely fall on the STAIRS at home… grin!). When I come to a “new” staircase, it is wise to take some time and check out the “lay of the land” so to speak!
We made it to Outback and reserved a table for four. Chloe went under the table and rested her head on my foot. She draped a heavy paw over my opposite foot… yeah I got the impression she wasn’t going to let me get very far without her again!
The Decision is Ours
Sometimes I wish life’s decisions were just made FOR me so that I could get on with living life. However, we all know that making decisions is part of a growing process. I don’t for a moment believe that God forces decisions on us. His word makes it pretty clear that we have a free will. We make the decisions even though He has the power and wisdom to make them for us. God is not a dictator, and much like a loving parent He allows us to make choices that may ultimately cause us pain. Even when it is clear we have made a “poor choice”, we still are able to learn from our mistakes.
I believe we can ask God for wisdom when we make decisions, and that it is wise to seek the counsel of others. In the end, we are left with a choice. Some decisions my family and friends have been faced with in recent days include:
“Do I take this job opportunity, or wait for something better?”
“Do I apply to this college, or another even if it is farther away?”
“What will I major in?”
“Do I buy this used car and clean out my savings account?”
“Do we remove my brother from life support?”
“The company is closing… should I work until the doors close or immediately start to seek a new position?”
“Do I go for a consultation for a bilateral cochlear implant?”
Granted, many of our decisions are not life-altering. I inwardly shake my head in exasperation when I hear people piously declare that they need to “think and pray about” whether or not to make a simple decision. I believe God gave us discernment to make decisions on whether or not to buy Kraft or the ingredients for homemade mac & cheese. Do we take the long way to Walmart or the short-cut and risk heavy traffic? I have heard people who have the time, means and talent try to determine if God wants them to serve in some capacity or another. For goodness sake… just serve! We can’t all be ushers, greeters, or nursery workers, but every individual can be “used” in some fashion. Don’t dare to call something God gives you to do “small” or “unimportant”.
I have made decisions about important things before only to discover rather quickly I have made a mistake. When I make a decision, I try to keep my head up and eyes focused for further direction and confirmation. By staying in a state of awareness, I can more quickly discern if I’m on the right path. If I’m not, I should come to that conclusion fairly quickly. Instead of being bummed about having wasted time, I make necessary adjustments and continue with a new plan of action. I feel an immense relief that I fell on STEP 2!
What is far more difficult is when you discover a mistake after a greater period of time has gone by… perhaps even years! You may feel incredibly “bummed” that you wasted so much time on the wrong path. Perhaps the wrong decision has you bearing new consequences even after adjusting and finding the right path. It’s hard to fall on STEP 5. Taking a fall late in the game, is still a fall “forward”. We can learn from our mistakes. Experience can be a great teacher.
As a parent of an 18 and 19-year-old, I offer advice WHEN ASKED but then allow my children to make decisions on their own. I think we should ask God for advice, for discernment, and for clarity. After I make a decision, my Heavenly Father sits back and watches far more attentively than a hound dog in an idling van. He may “bark” a warning, or alert others that care for me that I am in trouble. He may see me make adjustments and then fine tune my own decision so that I can continue on life’s path. May we all learn to make decisions with more confidence!
© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal