by Kristin Fontaine
Take heed to the path of your feet,
then all your ways will be sure.
There is a lot of good advice in the reading from Proverbs from the Daily Office, and while I am not certain that I followed the instructions in the Book of Common Prayer for finding Tuesday’s readings (these are from Year 2: Proper 2 Week of the Sunday closest to May 18) I am glad to have stumbled upon this passage.
I am definitely guilty of having not ‘taken heed to the path of my feet.’ When I was six years old, I tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and broke my left arm. I’m certain that nearly every person has a story from their life where their attention was distracted and they ran into, fell over, or fell off of something. Being rather clumsier than average, I have a long litany of inattention injuries.
As I have gotten older, and it has taken me longer and longer to recover from accidents I have become much more interested in prevention.
How do I keep from getting hurt in the first place?
My reflexive response to injury is to become passive. To stop doing anything for fear of re-injury. However, I have discovered, again through aging, that staying still for fear of injury can cause damage in and of itself. Muscle mass fades, joints freeze up and range of motion vanishes, leaving me in worse shape than before the accident.
Last year I went to a physical therapist for recurring back injuries. She checked various things and walked me through some basic exercises. My back was hurting the day I went in and I was very hesitant to try anything. She was patient and supportive and I was shocked to discover how well I could move after working (carefully) through the motions with her. Even better she gave me advice on how to prevent further injury which has been incredibly effective. Now I only wish I had talked to my doctor and gotten a physical therapy consultation years ago instead of just suffering through.
Keep hold of instruction, do not let go;
guard her, for she is your life.
I have received instruction and I guard it. I have learned that a little of the right movement is better than too much stillness. I have learned not to wait out my pain and suffer in silence. I have learned that too little action is as damaging as too much. Most of all I have learned to take heed and listen to my pain but not to wallow in it or let it become the center of my life.
All that is true of my physical body is true of my spiritual self. Stewing in injury and outrage or becoming passive in the face of pain do not lead to healing or revelation. Daily exercise of mind and spirit are just as important as that of the body and we are seeing more and more research that shows that physical exercise helps the mind and spirit and mental exercise helps the body. As my housemate recently said: ‘I don’t know if I am dancing more because I feel better, or if I feel better because I am dancing more.’
Find your sure path, take heed of your feet and see where they take you.
Kristin Fontaine is an itinerant Episcopalian, crafter, hobbyist, and unstoppable organizer of everything. Advent is her favorite season, but she thinks about the meaning of life and her relationship to God year-round. It all spills out in the essays she writes. She and her husband own Dailey Data Group, a statistical consulting company.
Image: William E Fontaine drawing 1974© drawn for the author by her grandfather on the occasion of breaking her arm