Thursday, June 19, 2014

They See Me Rollin'... // The Target Scooter

Yesterday I did something that I swore I would never do. For years I have been completely resistant to the idea of doing this activity. Not only was I afraid of what others would think of me if I engaged in this activity, but I was afraid for the safety of all of those potentially judgmental people...

I took the electric scooter at Target. 

It's no secret that I love shopping anywhere, anytime. Perusing the aisles of any store is my solace, my happy place. Also, I like to think that there is truth in the phrase "shopping is my cardio". Living with a physical disability, I like to take that one step further and say "shopping is my physical therapy". In fact, during a particularly challenging and emotional physical therapy session 2 years ago, my physical therapist suggested that I do my exercises in a park or outdoor environment in order to make it more enticing rather than just doing them at home. My destination? Stanford Mall. 

Over the years, however, I have found that shopping for extended periods (whether just window shopping or carrying an armload of purchases) is incredibly fatiguing for my legs, and sometimes not in a good way. The aftershock from the impact of traipsing those hard floors can sometimes carry into the next day. In fact, the current issue I am having with my knee came to a head when shopping with a friend. I nearly passed out from the physical pain I was in (though I had a smile plastered on my face because I was desperate to enjoy the afternoon) and had to leave the mall (gasp!) empty-handed. Unfortunately, it seems that retail therapy is not the best form of physical therapy for me lately. 

While I am a major lover of online shopping for this reason, sometimes nothing beats wandering the aisles and checking out the merchandise. Instant gratification aside, it's also something that's tied into my feelings about my independence: I want to know that I don't HAVE to rely on another person or service to get the things I genuinely need and to do the things I enjoy. 

When I had a cane after surgery in 2012, I still managed to push the cart with one hand while using my cane with the other. Since I have had to use crutches, I have found that putting the crutches under one arm and pushing the cart takes major coordination. Motivated by the desire to maintain my independence and to get some exercise, I shopped like this even as my body has made the gradual decline into the situation I am in today. While it's do-able when I need to run into our small local grocery store to grab a couple of items, having to wander a larger store like Target is more of a challenge. Even so, shopping smaller stores is no simple task for my legs, or my whole body for that matter. (Side note: for major grocery hauls, I have them delivered. Delivery service is inexpensive, and getting groceries feels like more of a chore than a Target run.) But after nearly passing out in the middle of a children's clothing boutique, I realized that push had come to shove and my days of shopping as physical therapy, at least in big box stores, were over.

During one of my water aerobics classes, we were discussing pain management and how we as a culture can be resistant to our options. We resist taking aspirin for a headache. That's for weaklings. Taking the electric scooter? That's for lazy people. We don't view these options as health management. It clicked with me then that taking the scooter was not "the lazy choice". I physically can't get around the store with a cart and crutches. I am the person those devices are designed to help. I know that I have tried everything I can to be independent on my feet, but right now (and maybe from now on) I am unable to do a large shopping trip without help.

Swallowing my pride (and my fear), I hopped on a scooter at Target yesterday afternoon. With my list in tow, I headed to the cleaning supplies aisle. I found that they are surprisingly pretty easy to drive (though slightly slower than I would have liked) and maneuver. I wish they were a little more compact, as it can be difficult to pass a cart coming down the aisle, but I actually enjoyed myself. The fear and shame melted within minutes, and I was so thrilled with being able to get the job done myself that I puttered around the ENTIRE store just because I could. After all, no trip to Target is complete if you haven't gotten at least a few things you don't really need. 

The thought of not being able to do the things I love the most as I deal with the ups and downs of my disability is frightening. My top two favorite pastimes (travel and shopping) require major walking. It is frustrating not to be able to do these things the way in which I used to be able to do them--which was a challenge even then. As life becomes progressively more challenging for me, I have to remember that taking the help is not giving up, but rather reclaiming my life.

I took a video of me learning to drive the cart. Because operating a phone while using the cart seemed like a great idea.

1 comment:

pratik said...

Love you for taking control of your situation!