10 May 2011

the Stairway to...

THE stairway
I entered the bottom of the stairwell the same time as the man who limps. Our paths have crossed many times, and he always greets me, always seems happy.

the stairway to La Plata PeakI've never seen him not limping. One foot seems to turn in a bit. Yet still, he walks.

Greetings were exchanged, and he began his slow ascent immediately. I stayed behind to stretch. And contemplate whether I could do this.

I run up two flights at the train stop nearly every morning in an attempt to elevate my heartbeat. Just two days earlier, in a long dress, the little voice inside my head had warned, "Pull up your skirt." First softly, then a little louder. But still I did not listen.

I'd been up those concrete stairs a million times, and nothing had ever gone wrong. At the top of the steps, the dress got tangled, and down I went. It hurt, but the worst part was being seen by about 200 people, many of whom asked if I was okay. I didn't even check to see if I'd ripped my dress until I boarded the train and was out of view of all those who had seen me go down.

The dress survived, thankfully. My knee didn't fare as well. It looked like raw hamburger, and it was swelling and turning blue. Ugh.

911 memorial stairclimbNow I was at the foot of 60 flights, wondering if I should torture that still healing knee. I'd deliberately walked a mile the morning I bashed it to keep it from getting stiff. But I stayed off my bike, and I'd avoided stairs. Until now.

I heard the man on the metal, vibrating and popping stairs stop one flight above. I continued to stretch, still mentally trying to talk myself out of climbing. The man began ascending again, one flight, and then stopped again.

I realized he was going to do more than one or two flights. He could just as easily take the elevator, but he chose to work whatever was causing his discomfort. I looked down at my knee one more time.

behind the stairsThe man above began slowly climbing again, the metal platforms audibly snapping as weight distribution changed.

Blueberry knee or not, if he could do it, so could I.

The man climbed only five or six flights. But he climbed. He did not take the easy way up.

I went all the way to the top. My knee throbbed, and it bothered me off and on the rest of the day. Actually, a couple more days passed before it finally stopped screaming at me every time I bent it.

My mantra this year is, "Go further than you think you can."

But sometimes, the mantra is overpowered by inspirational people like the man on the stairs. Those who keep trying with even more to work through than me.

the stairway that needs to be replaced


  1. Hope your knee is better. I love your mantra. I plan to adopt that. Thank you for the inspiration. Just what I needed.

  2. Please take care of that knee. If it protests constantly, go and have it checked out by a specialist. Ten years ago I fell down a flight of stairs. Just kept going, and one day, 5 years later, ended up finally taking care of the torn meniscus. Today I am "T-minus 25 days and counting" to my knee replacement surgery. I am walking bone on bone. I kept thinking, it would all be okay. I can't ride a bike and I can barely walk. Please take care of that knee. Don't ignore it if it still gives you trouble. Don't be like me.

  3. Oh, Nana!!! I hope the surgery goes well and gives you back your mobility.

    Funny you should mention torn meniscus... You've just described my other knee! Got hit by a car riding my bike home from work prior to 9/11. So now when I ding up the good knee, I always think I have a matched set. :)

    Thanks for the sage wisdom. I indeed will get it checked if it begins bothering me again. Fortunately, it's back to normal now.

  4. Isn't it amazing how a bum knee can change things? I tweaked mine in high school and in my 20s it came back to get me. I had to give up running and focus on cycling (no complaints there). I still can't run more than a few hundred yards although walking and speedwalking are no problem. Take care of yours!

    Thanks for the encouraging words. They came just at the right time.

  5. Love your mantra. I have been far too big of a baby this spring, making up all sorts of excuses that tomorrow might be a better day to push myself. (I have perennial sore knees from a long career of beating myself up on the mountains.) You're a good inspiration, Snowcatcher. And, so is the gentlemen climbing the stairs in front of you...

  6. Thank you for the inspiration. Last year I lost 32 lbs for my 32nd birthday, and then had unplanned surgery to remove an ovary, which lead to a bit of weight gain back. I've been training for a 5k on my birthday this year, and I've had moments where I'm crying to my husband that why am I doing this to myself, why do I even think I can do this. And then I see someone in my neighborhood in a wheelchair or using a walker and scooting down the street and it reminds me to tell myself to suck it up and keep moving, if not for me, then for my kids, and the fact that I don't want to be in the health state that my parents are in when I'm their age... so thank you for reminding me of the small things that count.

  7. so that voice in your head telling you to lift up the dress was Wisdom this time around and not just Nonsense. Keep healing.

  8. that´s a lot of stairs. Be careful about that knee. You need it many more years.

  9. Absolutely fantastic post. It seems that man was put on the stairwell at the same you were just to provide you with inspiration -- as you constantly give inspiration to us. Beautiful pictures and thanks for the thought provoking words!

  10. I winced reading this blog post. Several years ago I ignored a bruised and swollen knee... sure I could work through it. I wasn't going to let that sore joint keep me down, no siree. So, when a home project required my climbing up to hold some blinds... I took too big a step and felt my knee rip and tear... it gave out and down I fell, in terrible pain. I had torn the meniscus which was vulnerable because of the bruise.

    To make a long sorry story short, I resisted the orthopedic surgeon's advice to have immediate "clean up the tear" surgery and opted for a course of physical therapy first. At my first PT session, I was put on a stationary bike for 10 easy minutes... hurt like hell, but I did it. In 4 weeks of therapy, I could walk almost normally... I saw the surgeon who had to agree I might not need therapy and that biking was a good thing, but DON'T PUSH A BADLY BRUISED SORE KNEE... LET IT REST UNTIL THE SWELLING IS GONE. Sorry for screaming.

    The one good thing to come out of my months of pain... I began biking in earnest and it continues to this day, pain free.

  11. Thank you, Anonymous, for sharing your experience. You are right. I should not have pushed while it was still tender. Pride often gets in the way...

    I think I must have lost many of the wonderful comments here when Blogger went down on May 12. Others also encouraged me to take knee injuries more seriously. Even though the comments are lost, perhaps forever, I did listen. And I thank my commenters for caring and for taking the time to share their thoughts.


Dusty words lying under carpets,
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You can talk to me... (Stevie Nicks)

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