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!