Most of you know I’m in the middle of moving to a tiny house on wheels. This move is for a variety of reasons, the strongest of which is I just feel drawn to the movement. You know when you see something and think “that’s for me?” Well, this is for me.
My inner 8-year-old adores the idea of my adult dwelling being like my childhood hideouts, but raised to a Bat Cave level of coolness. My lifetime of fraught relationship with Stuff comes to a resolution as I reduce my possessions to what is necessary (fun being a necessary thing in my world—there will be no putting away of childish things). Another aspect has made itself known to me this last month—that of choosing a lifestyle of greater physical challenge.
I’ve lived in the same place for 12 years. The space came in handy when I was hit. There are no stairs, and the place is wheelchair-ready, with widened doorways and a center foyer that would be great for turning around in a wheelchair, but effectively eliminates about 80 square feet of usable space. Those wide doorways helped 8 years ago when I came home from the hospital with a case of “left neglect,” a symptom of brain injury in which the brain fails to process sensory information from the right hemisphere. I crashed into door jambs with my broken left shoulder, and even an orange tape strip on the left side of the door jamb in the hospital didn’t help. Once I fell off the left edge of the sidewalk in front of my condo.
I don’t need warning strips on my door frames anymore. I’ve taken up pioneer crafts like brewing my own laundry soap. That’s hard physical work but I love the artisanship of it. I’m ready to embrace life without a dishwasher (though not without a washing machine; there I draw the line). I’m ready to use challenging spaces like lofts. Moving to a tiny house means I’m better now, I don’t need my home to resemble a hospital room. I’ll still have my share of bad days, but my baseline is higher. That doesn’t mean it will be without challenge, it just means I’m up to it, and I need it in order to keep making progress.
There is a prevailing attitude in the US that promotes willing acquiescence to decline. Let’s say you discover that stairs are becoming a problem for you. The typical older American will move to a single-story dwelling on the ground level, or with an elevator, to avoid stairs. All this does is ensure that the person will never be able to do stairs again. Moving to a home without stairs may be a good choice to ensure they can keep to the routine on bad days, but then they should add a few flights of stairs to their normal walking route to do on days when they can, to maintain that ability and continue challenging their bodies to slow the overall aging process. (And if they don’t have a normal walking route, that’s a problem.)
This applies to disabilities as well. When my hand was reattached, it took months to rehabilitate it. That rehab takes constant maintenance. My left arm was rehabbed for general range of motion, but not fine motion. When I started a class in ASL (American Sign Language), I discovered that between my arm and hand, I had the sign-language equivalent of slurred speech. My arm throbbed like the bejeezus for days after every class, and my hand went numb. Rather than drop out, I practiced daily and built those muscles back up.
I want my daily routine to involve some physical challenge. It keeps me limber and strong. In the 14 months since my knee injury, I’ve lost a lot of ground. I’m ready to regain it and keep going. My home environment has to support that, not thwart it. I want take all the energy I used to drain into cleaning (or not) a too-big place, and channel it into tending plants, running errands on my bike, and creatively designing and building solutions for my small space.
This is a kicking off of the training wheels, a leap into the deep end of the pool. My friend Sasha once said to me, “When you step off a cliff, you can do one of two things—crash, or fly.” Cowabunga!
What risks have you taken that commit you to challenge or recovery? What risks would you like to take? What’s holding you back?