Muddied Mobility

Image courtesy Maria Morera Johnson and her mud.

Several weeks ago when I mentioned to the therapist about the discomfort I was experiencing in my arthritic back and legs when going for walks, he unsympathetically looked me straight in the eye and said “Independence is based on mobility.” He wasn’t being mean or disrespectful, but placed a truth squarely in front of me. It was my choice. It’s just that simple and not that easy.

His words still echo with more than physical reference.

When I think of what he said as it pertains to my aching body, it’s pretty straight forward. No matter the discomfort, I had to face the challenge to get up and out. I guess this is what adulthood is about—choosing to do what we would rather not and doing it with lightness in the heart regardless of the discomfort or an opposing desire.

Mobility is essential to work a garden. I find myself looking at gardens I have tended and trying to figure out how to get back to the soil, back to the source of my contemplative self. I’ve been asking other Master Gardeners what or who they know about horticultural therapy. I want to know what is known about remaining active in an activity I love. What can I do to adapt?

At times I feel the significance of loss when I see the retreat center volunteers or gardeners in their eighties pulling weeds, dragging small limbs and planting flowers. I draw some comfort when they assure me it is my brain and not my back that matters now. I sense an urgency to share with them what I know about pruning, planting, and care of perennials, shrubs and trees. I fear that unless I impart what I know I will become a shadowing annoyance of inability. I am delighted to be near all these friends and the gardens, though I miss being in the garden.

This thought about limitations and independence is resonating on a spiritual and psychological level, too. I wonder what I am doing that creates limited mobility mentally or spiritually.

Mobility means movement, to change a location, to traverse a space. Some people can cover intellectual ground in such a way that they make it look effortless. Others, like me, move at a slowed deliberate pace. As if barefoot in the mud and unsure of what lies beneath, I know I can slide into a mess at any moment. My pace is so slow that I wonder if any significant movement is occurring at all.

After the echoing words of my therapist, I question how truly mobile my thoughts and prayers are. Am I bogged down in the muck of anxieties? Am I progressing as a Benedictine Oblate, as a monk in the world, or have I clung too tightly to my cloistered existence?

Independence is based on mobility and apprehension and tension are usually present when I move out of a physical, mental or spiritual comfort zone. I must choose to follow a desire that just may be outside my self, a desire that God has instilled. Part of the decision making includes recognizing and being honest about what I can and cannot do. To push the limit is one thing; to ignore it completely is to act in a way that can cause self harm. The goal is to challenge not to abuse, to gain strength and courage, not to deplete what reserve exists.

I have the desire to progress and recognize my limitations. I pray for the perseverance to move with the discomfort to another space. I’m getting used to being uncomfortable.

Maybe I should go for a walk…

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