Robert Frost writes about choices and decisions in the famous poem “The Road Not Taken.”
My favorite lines in the poem are: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could…”
I have stood on that divided path. I have had those moments of angst where I had to decide, “Do I go right or left?”
The journey that Frost refers to has no straight path. Similarly, my walking journey has had steps forward, unexpected twists, and forks on an invisible road. I chose the rocky and experimental path where I would experience pain and frustration. I would also learn to relish the small wins and every point in between. When I took the first steps toward the decision to try to walk without support devices, I had no sense of where the road would take me.
The first thought I had was, “I want to do it.”
The second was, “How do I do it?”
I made choices to engage with a team of professionals that had wide-ranging expertise, including having no specific knowledge about Spastic Cerebral Palsy.
I wanted the professionals that I worked with to have no preconceived notions about what I could or could not do. I wanted them to walk the unknown path with me; to guide and teach me, and to support me to advance.
I had to develop strong alliances. The professionals that I chose to work with had to show me a high level of commitment, a passion for their work, and demonstrate that they would use innovative methods to accomplish the defined goals. Each professional had to understand what I consider to be critical points of decision-making including:
1. When to initiate;
2. When to move forward;
3. When to rethink the plan; and
4. When to guide or prompt me in another direction.
The professionals working with me had to agree to support my primary goals of reducing pain and improving my general mobility. They also had to support nurturing a broader vision to help me realize my full potential. They had to form and cultivate a vision that I could and would be successful at walking without support devices full-time.
In the beginning, I tried a little bit of everything. One professional used passive modalities. Another focused on resistance training. I also tried a team approach, working with three different professionals to blend their unique methods and expertise. We used different exercises, different modalities, different levels of intensity, and duration – searching to find a perfect formula that would lead me toward my goals. We learned the formula that we were looking for did not exist.
The choices and decisions that I have made at different points included what exercise methods and interventions to use, how long to try them, and when to stop, reflect, and potentially choose a different path. Each attempt and decision I made brought me further down the path, where I would sometimes wonder, “Am I making the right choice?”
The beauty about the Frost poem is that there is no absolute. When I began my journey, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be free from the constraints of pain—a raw, intense, and unyielding awkwardness and discomfort that tested me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The only thing I knew for sure when I began was that the struggle and pain were not going to beat me.
Like the character in Frost’s poem, I often had two distinct paths that I could take. I had to look down the path. I had to see what I was capable of. I frequently had to be guided forward by the professionals working with me. I needed them to walk with me and help me decide what path to take.
This article was originally published on April 8, 2013, in the “Endless CapABILITIES Blog”, and National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability, sponsored by The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (www.nchpad.org). NCHPAD is part of the UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative and supported by Grant/Cooperative Agreement Number U59DD000906 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).