“No one has traveled the road of success without ever crossing the street of failures.” ~ Unknown
I have an embarrassing confession. I’m not good at crossing roads by myself. It’s a legacy of the neurological damage caused by chronic Lyme Disease and various co-infections. Like most things it’s worse when I’m tired or unwell. My reaction time slows down, and I can no longer judge safe margins.
It’s fine when I’m with my husband or a friend, but it can get me so daunted when I’m alone that I’ll go miles out of my way just to stay on the same side of the street or to use traffic lights and pedestrian crossings.
As we walked along a slightly dishevelled and grim grey-haired woman came towards us, muttering under her breath. Her body was rigid and she stared at the ground, barely swerving to pass us.
“Was she out of it or what?” said my friend after we walked by.
But she wasn’t. I had felt her agitation as she came up the street, and I could see how hard the journey was for her. She was severely agoraphobic and completely stressed about being outside. My heart went out to her as she bravely forced herself to keep walking, and I wondered how many other people had wrongly judged her.
Fast forward to yesterday. We were in Lismore, our closest large country town, and I needed could get a script filled. My husband walked me the two blocks from the car to the pharmacy, and I assured him he didn’t need to wait for me. After all I only had to cross one country-town road to meet him back at the ute, and he had things to do too.
I started out feeling quite well but by the time my prescription was ready and my lunch-time post-tablet nausea kicked in, two blocks suddenly seemed a long way. Clutching my little bag of meds I began the journey back to our vehicle. As I walked, slowly, with a hazy head, blurry vision and extreme nausea, I heard a muttered monotone voice behind me.
“Spotlight, Spotlight, Spotlight, Spotlight, Chandlers, Chandlers, Chandlers…”
It was the woman I’d seen a few weeks ago. She was chanting the name of each shop as she walked past them, sticking as close to the store fronts as she could. Her brow was beaded with perspiration although it was a cool day. She looked as bad as I felt.
She stayed behind me until we got to the corner of the block. The muttering stopped, and I looked around. The woman was still there, pressed against the edge of the last building. I could feel her turbulent emotions. She was overwhelmed by how wide the street was – for her it was like having to traverse a vast ocean.
“Are you crossing the street?” I said.
She took a moment to realise I was speaking to her, so intense was her state of anxiety, but she nodded.
I extended my hand towards her. “Can you help me?” I asked. “I’m not well and I don’t feel quite safe to cross the road on my own.”
She was beside me in an instant, and she clutched my hand tightly in hers, gripping my elbow with her other hand. Together we waited for the traffic to pass and when there was not a car in sight we walked across.
“Are you going far?” she whispered when we were safely on the other side.
“That white ute right at the end of the block,” I replied.
“I can take you nearly the whole way,” she said.
She didn’t let go of me until she was at her destination.
“You take care,” she said. “Sorry I can’t walk you the whole way. I hope you feel better soon.”
I thanked her for helping me.
“Oh, it’s no problem.” She finally smiled, quite transforming her face. Suddenly she was around my age – careworn but pretty. “There’s not much worse than having to do things alone when you’re sick.”
Sometimes we’re not okay, but still we cope the best we can. Sure we manage, but it really helps to have a friendly hand to hold. Today I wish a friend for you, or if you’re feeling up to it, that you can be that friend for someone else. It might help you too.
Bless ♥ xx
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