A comment my massage therapist made a few days ago has stuck with me. She said most of the knots and cramped muscles in my back are probably due to my tendency to take on other people’s problems and negativity as my own, and store them in my back, neck and shoulders. I think she’s right. I do tend to take other people’s problems, which they come to me with all too willingly and without reservation sometimes, too much to heart. I feel a strong, irrepressible need to immediately try to help, brainstorm about solutions, ease their pain, put their minds at rest. I often feel like an energy sponge, but one that only works for negative energy apparently, soaking it all up and holding onto it as if to relieve the other person of their burden. And if you believe in this type of thing, I think the description in this article applies in some ways to me.
This morning I once again saw Walker Man as I think of him, an elderly gentleman who lives somewhere on my street. I don’t know his name, whether or not he’s married (possibly widowed), which house exactly he lives in. I started seeing him a lot around the time we first got Dai, our male Akita, and I was initiated into the ritual of The Morning Walk. I would see him almost every day, walking down the street, out on his morning constitutional (and I mean that in the sense of a walk). He would greet me as always with a smile, even though he didn’t know my name or where I live, make a comment about the weather or my dogs, give me an even bigger grin, and we’d go our separate ways. Flash forward to a few years later. I would see him heading into or leaving the physical therapist’s office, also on my street. Greetings were exchanged as always and we each went our merry way.
Jump ahead another year or so, and I was now seeing him shuffling along behind a walker. Cheerful as usual, always time for a hello or brief exchange, each of us on our respective sides of the street (I’m always worried my dogs will knock someone over in their enthusiasm, so I try to keep a safe distance.). I assumed he had had a hip replacement of some other surgery that required the walker as part of his rehabilitation. And still, he was out there every day, on his daily lap around the block.
As the year went on, I noticed he was walking slower and with less certainty, even wobbling a bit. And STILL, big smile on his face, always time for a greeting and a word or two in exchange. A few months ago, I noticed his speech had started to deteriorate and he was moving at what can only be described as a very slow crawl. In spite of this, still the beaming, huge smile and twinkling eyes.
I realized he might have had a stroke, and his speech was impaired as a result.
This morning I was nearly certain of it. We saw each other again, he stopped (presumably to take a much-needed breather), smiled what is now becoming a more crooked grin, but glowing nonetheless. He called out in a very loud voice what I believe was meant to be ‘Nice weather today!’, which it definitely is, and I agreed. He gave me that huge grin, and hobbled on.
As I continued on my walk, it struck me that in spite of his apparent misfortune and deteriorating health, this man is a pure ray of sunshine. Although he isn’t able to go as far as he used to, or as fast, he still gets out there every day, is in good enough spirits to smile and communicate with those he meets on the street. I am amazed at how someone like this still manages to stay positive, and exude genuine joy in spite of what he may be going through. I decided then and there to make a conscious effort to be a ‘positive-energy sponge’, to soak up this positive energy other people give off, in an attempt to counteract the negative in me. Let’s hope I am successful.
And as for Walker Man, I expect the day will come that I no longer see him on my daily walks. For now, I will relish his happiness and good energy while it's available to me. And though I may not be able to understand his words as clearly anymore, I know he’s still in there. I can see it in his smile.