Snow-taxia: Ataxia, Part 3

The first snowstorm of the year provided me with an opportunity to compare my ataxia symptoms from last year to now. I joked with a friend that weather like today’s gives everyone a moment to experience what it is like for me and other ataxians every dry, sunny day.

New Paltz, where I live, is laid out on a gentle downward slope to the Wallkill River, the north-flowing, rather narrow (only about 175 feet wide at New Paltz), tributary of the Hudson River. As this year unfolded, I became aware that walking downhill, even with a cane, is becoming a greater challenge. I take it slowly. Walking uphill, I can still develop a rhythm (this is the only chance I have to tell anyone that I have rhythm!) and make my way. 

Watching the snowflakes accumulate.
Photo by Mark Aldrich

I am very happy that I can walk safely. I refuse to give in to unhappy thinking about things lost or experiences that I can’t really do again–heck, I’d enjoy making snow angels like when I was a kid, but I do not know what the bottom half would look like (an angel on a stick? a realistic depiction of someone thrashing about in the snow?) and I and whomever would be standing by to pick me up (completely necessary) would pretty much erase it upon picking me up. I am lucky that I have people in my life who will pick me up if I fall in the snow. I can walk and I am not going to play emotional games with myself, listen to the inner monologue about how soon? How soon until I can not, or will not, or fall badly? (Soon enough, and my worst face plant of a stumble and fall so far in 2013 was on a sunny, dry day, anyway.)

So I ventured out this morning to visit my support group and not spend the day watching the snowflakes accumulate. At first, I was not going to risk a fall–after the first snowfall of the season, sections of New Paltz’s sidewalks sometimes remain snow-covered until around May 15–and I know that the cane is not my friend on ice. Things that I used to like about walking in winter, I no longer enjoy: the moment of unsureness, of feeling a slide start, or the sound of my boot punching a crunchy hole through what I thought was solid ground–these now represent some of the difficulties with the everyday that my new world offers me.

I safely arrived at my destination. No falls, no slips–so now I am probably falsely confident. (But I happily accepted a ride home.)

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