I stood on the landing outside my apartment and got ready for my big moment.
I was pretty nervous even though Ayman, my physical therapist, was standing right in front of me, ready to spring into action should anything go wrong.
This was an important step for me, literally and figuratively.
I was about to walk down a flight of stairs.
Last week I ditched the leg braces and now I was going to walk down from my third-floor apartment to the first floor by just…walking.
I wasn't going to rely on the stiff-legged sideways crab climb that I've been doing since December. No, I was going to use my poor battered knees to carry me up and down.
I can't begin to calculate how many times I've been up and down these stairs in the years I've lived here. I never counted the steps, I never really paid attention to what I was doing because walking up those stairs was effortless. Until it wasn't.
But in my current condition, the stairs looked like as scary as Mount Everest during a Yeti convention and I suddenly appreciated Jimmy Stewart's predicament in Vertigo. Only Kim Novak was nowhere to be seen.
Naturally I was overjoyed that I was going to be getting out of my apartment, if only to get to the front door. I'm very grateful for the progress I've been making, but I think the long recovery period is getting to me. I feel fat and fragile and I've been even crankier than normal.
I couldn't help but think about all the years I've been running, boxing, and lifting weights and now the biggest challenge in my life was this formerly routine act.
Walk Dem Golden Stairs
I recalled the good old days when I could fly up a flight of stairs two at a time without a second thought. At the gym I'd get on the Stairmaster and climb the approximate height of the Eiffel Tower or higher. But not today, mon ami…
Now I was going to take it one step at a time and focus carefully on every single one of them. This was a great opportunity to practice mindfulness, to stay present and pay attention to what I'm doing in the here and now.
I felt so awkward taking those first downward steps and it seemed like I was going to topple over with each move.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And so does a walk down the stairs.
"Take your time," Ayman told me.
No argument there. My two-stairs-at-a-time days are way behind me-perhaps forever.
We reached the bottom of the stairs and I was tempted to drop Neil Armstrong's "one small step for man" line because it was definitely a giant leap for me. And now it was time to reverse my steps.
It turned out that climbing up the stairs was much easier than going down. I guess not having to look down is a plus.
Ayman wants me to do this every day until I become a stair master. This was our last session together and this week I'm scheduled to begin my outpatient treatment. I feel indebted to this man, who took me through a dark period of my life. I'm going to miss his regular visits and his positive attitude.
"One day this will all be a memory," he said, during a particularly dark day.
Yes, it will. And now it's time for the next step.