The sunglasses fell right in front of me, off the back of a hat. The incident happened during the Mariner playoff game in October. My guess would be for someone typically developed. This happening might not be a show stopper. But, for a person with cerebral palsy, it was quite the situation to take notice. There has often been a rarity in attempting to help someone, physically. Usually when an item falls on the ground in public. I’m the last to reach down and help retrieve the fallen object. The reason doesn’t have much to do with my desire. I would be happy to help any person pick up something they might have fumbled. The largest reason I don’t find myself in situations to help is speed. Along, with the spasms that occur in my body and my trembling nature. All the symptoms could lead to me dropping it for the second time, whatever might have fallen. Though, it wasn’t the case with the sunglasses of this woman. She was seated in front of us at the baseball game. I watched as the sunglasses fell behind her. Landing just between myself and the person seated to my right. She immediately felt the glasses tumble behind her and reached down to retrieve them. I had reached at the same time, as we picked up the sunglasses simultaneously. My hand grasp one of the arms of the shades. She must have grasp onto another section of glasses. I let go once it was clear she had a sturdy hold on her item and the interaction ended. But, my amazement continued.
The shock of the moment that lasted just a split second, carried forward. There is a challenge involved with explaining just how great the feeling was. Most of my physical actions feel like they have a hitch. Especially when performing a physical task is immanent. Meaning there might be a pressure to accomplish something quickly. Ponder for a moment, when an object gets dropped on the floor. An example might be a pencil rolling of your desk. The natural instinct would be to bend down and quickly pick up the pencil. Returning the writing utensil to the surface of the desk. What if the process of retrieving the pencil wasn’t such a simply straight forward process? What if many more aspects came to mind, as the pencil fell to the floor? Like the angle that had to be taken when bending down to grasp it. Making sure to tilt the body in a way that insured the maintaining of balance, as to not fall yourself. Your arm might not extend as far as you would have hoped. Or, the arm might twitch during the reach, having the hand miss the pencil entirely. Even if the arm remains stable and the hand reaches the pencil. You would still be concerned about having your fingers and hand make the right adjustments to grab the pencil. Keeping in mind that all these things happen at a slow pace. The challenges usually lead to me staying out of helping pick up objects. Because, all of the motions rarely go to plan. There always seems to be a hiccup.
The hiccups in the process often come in the form of spasms. Causing me to lose momentary control on my muscles. The feeling can kind of be related to a lapse in concentration. All of the sudden, a muscle starts losing stability, sending my body on a path I didn’t intend. Working on my coordination inside the gym, seems to help minimize these instances. Leading to a more coordinated series of events. Helping me develop an improved reaction time, allowing me to relate to moving objects more positively. Which is part of what makes my interaction with the sunglasses so telling. When they fell from the hat of the person sitting in front of me, I reacted. Simply reaching down to the ground in front and grasping one arm of the sunglasses. There was no spasm in my actions. No hiccup in the muscles inside my arm as it reached out. Nor did I tremble when the woman reached back simultaneously. We both ended up grasping onto different portions of her sunglasses. Lifting them together, I let go of the glasses once it was clear she had them in hand. Again, the action of letting go of my grip resulted in no spasm of my hands. It was the smoothest handling of an object I can remember being involved with. Normally my nervous energy would have taken over the moment. Causing me to further tremble with insecurity. But, I have to think our work in the gym made this kind of circumstance happen.
Bernard has always wanted to help improve my reaction time to objects. Wanting to help me protect myself should something come flying in my direction. Like a set of keys that might be tossed to me, or a jar that falls from the table. He believes the skills can be developed to interact better with these moments. For me, it just hasn’t felt like a possibility to do anything but get out of the way of an object. Like leaving the fallen sunglasses for others to help get returned. But, that wasn’t how the baseball game scenario played itself out. The main reason for the smooth reaction I experienced was a result of tossing the ball. I would have never thought my interactions with a ball could yield this kind of result. There are numerous writings on this blog about all of my progressions with different athletic balls. The one activity that feels like it has really helped has been playing catch. Throwing the ball back and forth inside the yoga studio has changed my reactions. Using the smallest of the balls we have ever used helps me relate to smaller objects traveling in my direction. I become inevitably forced to react to the small object in order to make the catch. The tosses from Bernard come to different areas as well. Giving me the opportunity to react when the ball comes to me high, low, left, right, or in the middle of my body. The variety of playing catch in the different size yoga rooms, also plays a role.
We change the distance of our games of catch. Using the two different sizes of yoga rooms inside the gym. One of the rooms is a little more than double the size of the first yoga studio. Bringing into the equation more movement with the body. The longer throw means I’m required to move my feet in order to make a catch. This action of bringing in more of a gross movement pattern doesn’t occur with the smaller room and shorter distance. We have also begun to vary the type of ball we use in these games of catch. Bringing in a tennis ball along with the smaller squishy ball. The variation in the type of ball helps me interact with different objects. The difference in size and weight helps with the different ways in which I have to manipulate my hands. While, also smoothing out my movements when making the catches. I have the ability to practice heathy reactions to the different balls. Making more and more successful catches as we continue to practice the exercise. The successes in reacting to and catching the different balls also helps confidence. Another aspect leading to the ability in picking up the sunglasses. The assured feeling that reaching down for them would be helpful to the woman. My instinct told me that I wouldn’t be making things worse by trying to help. With all the hours of catching the throws from Bernard, I should be able to pick something fallen, from the ground. The key seems to have been, not only improving the movements of my body, but becoming familiar and confident with those new movements.
There has been excitement in understanding the results of tossing the ball. Bernard has had a goal of increasing my overall ability to react. Not only when it comes to picking fallen objects off the floor. But, he talks about the ability to stop my car a little faster. Or, notice some kind of accident getting ready to occur before it causes disaster. Even, picking up a falling object off the counter before it impacts the ground. Making a mess to clean up, if it weren’t reacted to in a timely manner. All of these concepts are fascinating to me, having a physical disability. Bernard explained to me the possibility of these improvements when we began tossing the ball. I didn’t think with my cerebral palsy, I would ever truly notice an impact. There it was in the middle of a Mariner playoff game. The light went off in my head over the distance I had traversed. Leaving me to wonder if he was correct about the possibility of improvement. Will I see a time in the future of catching something that falls from the table? Being able to reach out and grasp an object, to stop an impending accident from occurring. It would be a feeling superior to the one around the sunglasses. Could it be possible that in the future I would grasp those sunglasses on their way to the floor. Getting them before they hit the concrete and simply handing the glasses back to the woman. It all feels like something worth striving towards. The thing making it happen, is the simple act of playing catch.