Baby Steps to the Elevator


Baby steps to the elevator.

The line comes from the 1991 film What About Bob. In the movie, Bill Murray stars as Bob Wiley, a man with a psychiatric disability. Bob follows his psychiatrist, Dr. Marvin, played by Richard Dreyfuss, and his family on their vacation. I’m simplifying so much of this plot, but hopefully you’ve seen it and you know what I’m talking about.

In one of the early scenes, Bob sits in Dr. Marvin’s office. Dr. Marvin has written a book, “Baby Steps” and encourages Bob to set small, reasonable goals for himself – one tiny step at a time to get through the day. Bob takes this advice literally, and talks to himself as he exits the office.

Baby steps through the office. Baby steps out the door. Baby steps to the elevator.

Baby steps to the elevator.

This line has been a staple in my head when I approach something challenging since I first heard it uttered by my college roommate, Chris. It was the second semester of our freshman year and we were walking to the old service elevator we used to gain access to the main dining hall. We hated the elevator. It was old, smelly, and usually featured scraps of garbage on the (often wet) floor. We joked that you could tell what was on the menu for dinner just by looking at the bits of food in the corners. We never touched the walls, and we always held our breath as the car moved from floor to floor. Chris thought we needed to prep ourselves in advance, so we began to say the quote regularly.

Since my return home from the rehabilitation hospital last month, I have said it frequently as I have reached milestones in my recovery. I have said it so often, my Personal Assistants (PAs) now say it to me when I am complaining about my recovery taking longer than I would like. When this happens, I smile and comment on how I truly am aware of the progress I have made.

The first time I showered at home? Baby steps the the elevator.

The first time I wore shoes instead of slippers? Baby steps to the elevator.

The first time I completed twenty repetitions of my leg exercises instead of ten? Baby steps to the elevator.

This morning I took my biggest baby step in my quest to return to society. This morning I transferred myself into the driver’s seat in my van!

I don’t drive my van seated in my wheelchair. Instead, I transfer from my wheelchair to the driver’s seat. Prior to “the fracture,” I was able to perform the transfer without assistance. I need to be able to drive in order to return to work full time and in order to be active in the world outside my apartment. Driving is crucial to my independence, so transferring is a key milestone.

Granted, I was not able to transfer OUT of my driver’s seat into my wheelchair. My PA had to help me with that. But I got in on my own, without a great deal of pain.

HUGE baby steps towards that elevator today.

Current status: Eating pizza and drinking wine while reading the Playbill from the matinee performance of The Lion King at Proctors Theater. I’m driving to the next performance in our Broadway subscription series in May!


14 thoughts on “Baby Steps to the Elevator

  1. “baby steps to the elevator” is so difficult for a woman like you, who wants to conquer the world in one afternoon, but it is the only road to take right now. Hang in. Stay patient. And you will stay in the game.


    • I appreciate your comment – and I had never really thought of it quite that way. I will have to remember to bring my best to the moment I am in. I love that idea. Thank you so much for inspiring me with that today.


    • Oh, I have not been pain free since I broke my femur. Even with pain medication, the pain never goes away completely. But the sharp, shooting, agonizing pain is less frequent. I know when I have done too much and when to back off. I doubt I will ever be completely pain free again. At least, right now I can’t imagine it.


  2. Ok, I’m borrowing that mantra. I love your descriptions of the service elevator in college, the stickiness and the appropriate snarkiness made me laugh. You are rocking the recovery thing and I’m so tempted to share your posts with my husband but he is too busy feeling stuck at the moment. I love that picture you shared last week of you back in the saddle again and driving to work. You are one persistent woman.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your husband and I may need a Skype date! Or is it too weird to call it a date?!

      I was fortunate in that I went to a wonderful rehabilitation facility where I ate, slept, lived and breathed rehab for 2 weeks. It was total immersion and it was the best thing for me at that point in time. I am also in a slightly different situation because I clearly know the consequences of NOT pushing through. If I don’t do everything I can to regain function now, I will NEVER get it back. That is just how life is with a progressive neuromuscular disease. I am happy to communicate with your husband, but I may be a little to ‘You can do it!’ for him right now. I remember the pain, and it is agonizing. It is hard to imagine it ever not being a part of you. And even though mine has gotten better, I think I am going to be living with this pain for the rest of my life.


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