Travel as recovery progress

Posted by Jeanne Barrett on October 30, 2009 in Uncategorized

Negotiating travel while in long term recovery from a major injury (patella fracture, in my case) is a tricky business.  The question of how much I can do with good use of myself informs decisions about travel.  We all know that airline travel and being away from familiar circumstances imply challenges on many levels.  Traveling with physical limitations amplifies these challenges.

Happily, I was able to handle airports and outgoing flight with surprising ease.  And, while in my beloved city of New York, I walked an average of 9 miles (!!) daily with ease, speed and joy.  I could pay attention to my surroundings beyond the walking surfaces, and even step down from lower curbs with my non-injured leg leading.  This indicates that the injured knee has improved stability, strength and flexion for weight bearing.

While I was in NYC, I enjoyed lessons with John Nicholls, my primary Alexander teacher for the past 20 years.  These lessons improved my overall use, resulting in increased confidence in my elastic condition of Self.  Lessons with John enhanced respiratory support, improved connection with the ground, and decreased knee pain significantly, as my overall use shifted to a bigger picture.  My brain state eased, anxieties and fears softened, and I enjoyed the experience of being larger than my sensations.

However, I overestimated my strength once I proceeded toward departure from NYC.  Arrival involved going up stairs with luggage on public transport, which I could do easily as I can use both legs relatively equally in ascending stairs.  Descending stairs with the weight of luggage was not so easy, and did not involve good use as a possibility, as I still have to go down stairs in a very asymmetrical fashion.  Once I got to my flight gate, my lower back was in serious spasm.  Sitting for 6 hours in a less than ideal seat (your typical airline seat, which is nearly diabolical) only increased discomfort.  By the time I arrived in Seattle, I had to ask for assistance to get my carry-on bags off the plane.  I hobbled off the plane with stiffness and disconcerting pain.

The spasms calmed with the activity of teaching (this activity requires good use), rest, acupuncture and careful exploration of monkey (elastic relationship of head/back/legs).  The lesson in this is obvious:  be conscious of what is possible with good use, and refuse to challenge myself with activities that make good use impossible.  In other words, take a car to the airport if that involves better use of the Self!

Regardless of the back spasms resulting from over-challenging myself on the way home, I am thrilled to have managed travel mostly with ease, to have enjoyed increased mobility in my favorite city, and to have, until now, avoided back pain during my entire 8+ months of recovery from injury.

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