Day 19: Walking, Interrupted –

walk 001The first casualty of Dylan’s transition turns out to be my left foot which this week protested it did walk too much. I hadn’t an inkling of the injury, earlier this week, when I told colleagues I was taking the challenge of walking-to-work in my stride and had ‘gone through a barrier’. The only barrier I was aware of by Wednesday evening, alas, was pain.

Subsequent investigations revealed a stress injury and possible nerve damage. My foot is painful, flaring like fire in my shoes. The likely cause is the sudden physical demand on my feet, combined with less than ideal footwear for the job. So I am back in the car, driving my foolish self to and from work, feeling chastened. I claimed, too soon, that I could walk my life without Dylan. So I have been thinking about exodus; I only walked for two hours a day in the last few weeks (and not every day). Imagine walking, for refuge, through day and night? Or as pilgrimage?


This morning I was puzzled to find emails and tweets in my inbox when I switched on my PC. I had forgotten that one of my poems was due to be featured on a poetry site today and the situation took me a few moments to grasp. I clicked onto the site to check all was well with layout  (not meaning to do more than this) then stopped stock still (left foot burning): I had forgotten it was this poem.

The piece is one of the first I wrote after my daughter disappeared in 2010. I didn’t write it immediately –  it was a long time before I could write anything at all  – but when I did start writing again, this piece, recording the last time I saw my daughter, was one of the first I wrote (happily my daughter and I were reunited a couple of years later).

As I read through my poem this morning it came back to me; the terrible absence of my daughter and hollowness of those days without her. And all I could do then, I remembered this morning, was swim; the only way I could stop myself from thinking was to thrash my body up and down the pool, repeatedly, until I was exhausted. I would go almost every day, in my lunch hour or on my way to work after Dylan’s bus had picked him up. Quite often I would swim a mile before work. This was the only way, it seemed, that I could cope.

Six months later my back broke down catastrophically. One day, out of the blue, I could hardly stand. My back and shoulders and neck were knotted and inflamed with pain; the physical demand on my body of the months of fierce swimming had stopped me in my tracks. And so this morning I made a link between these things; the frantic swimming when my daughter left unexpectedly and my determined walking when Dylan left as planned. Perhaps, I thought, this is my way of dealing with loss: submerged, physical, dogged?

pull buoy 008Only now, after years of recovery, am I returning, cautiously, to the pool. This time, I have promised myself, I will not be so foolish. I have something called a pull buoy to slow me down and protect my back. I promised myself, this morning, that I will take care of my burning feet now too. I will rest. I will use ice. I will not be afraid to face loss sitting down.

6 thoughts on “Day 19: Walking, Interrupted –

  1. I’m grieved for your aching foot. But physical pain is easier than heart ache (usually). You say ‘I will take care of my burning feet now too’. Do that thing! Taking care of your own feet may be the hardest thing. Looking after you. You’ve probably been deferring this for years. Now here it is: maybe the biggest challenge of all . . .


    • Nell I think you might just be right about that. I have been thinking about it this morning. If it doesn’t come naturally to me then I will just have to write notes to myself to remind me. I think my foot is slightly easier today – Dylan will expect a walk this afternoon but I have a short and soft-underfoot route planned. I have been thinking this morning about a novel I read recently – The Unlikely Pilrimage of Harold Fry (by Rachel Joyce). Have you read it? It’s quite good but I don’t think I quite believed it when I read it – the walking seemed a strange thing to do to me. But now I get it I think – though I turned out to be nowhere near as tough or brave as Harold 🙂


      • Haven’t read Harold Fry but I like the sound of it . . . I love walking too, but often these days I get blisters on the bottoms of my feet if I walk too far. Never used to. Something to do with my feet not breathing properly or the wrong shoes or the wrong socks or the wrong something. But nothing I do seems to fix it. But I can walk perfectly happily so long as it’s not more than four or five miles, which is PERFECTLY REASONABLE. The Capital letters are me shouting at myself. And I don’t get blisters from swimming. I just have to get up and go to the pool.


  2. ….and I’ve just emailed you to suggest a walk with you and Dylan! Take it easy, Liz. To be honest, I sometimes wonder whether long walks make sense at all, if they can be avoided! My hip starts behaving as if there’s a brake block on it, if I walk too much, so I’m learning to move around more but cover less ground…. It’s all a complex balance, in my experience. Every time I give up, my hip seems to recover – interesting.


    • Oh have you! That sounds good – will check and reply. NOT walking with Dylan is not really an option – I am hoping my walking boots, soft ground and a short loop this afternoon make things possible. I’ll see how I go and let you know. I think you may be right about the long walks though – it could be that my days of through hiking and cross-city walks are over 🙂


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