Dear readers, this week my Living Well with ALS column will take a slightly different path down the road of wellness. Because, in the quest of living a balanced life, I’ve learned that humor is something we all need to incorporate into our days. And one of the best ways I’ve found to learn how not to take life oh too seriously is to pack my bags and go on a short trip, which happened last weekend.
Ours was a seven-hour drive north to Las Vegas, to attend a gala banquet event; it was a reunion of sorts, filled with old friends, many tributes and much celebration. It also gave me ample opportunity to practice my wellness behaviors.
For instance, it’s a given that when driving on a highway my husband hates getting stuck behind a truck. Me? Oh, I’d revert to “calm, patient driver” mode and follow that truck for miles and miles. My husband however sees the situation as a personal challenge – that our handicap van can indeed pass a double-long semi-truck on a winding mountainous two-lane highway. So, while he’s channeling his inner Mario Andretti, I do vocalization drills. Vowel sounds like, “Ooh – ooh-ooh! Aah-aah-aah,” and ending with a, “Ye-ow! THAT was close!”
From this point on we practice what we in the wellness industry refer to as, observing silence.
Back in the day, my husband and I were aces at long road trips. Fuel stops became split-second timing events rivaling pit crews at the Indy 500. We’d pull up to a gas pump, I’d run in, use the facilities and be back in the car by the time my husband had the tank filled. Zoom, we’d be off down the road!
But now that we’ve both reached that golden age of moving slower, pit stops take on a more calculated approach. First, there is reconnaissance before exiting the highway. No more roadside mom-and-pop gas stations; size matters. Scanning the landscape, we search for towering signs indicating that a large fuel plaza is just ahead. Their size guarantees compliance with ADA regulations, such as entryways that accommodate rollators and restrooms that are truly accessible.
Oh, there are always the little things and Murphy’s Law prevails. The lock on the handicap stall doesn’t quite fit, floors are wet from having just been mopped and paper towels are nowhere near the sink.
But all is offset by chance encounters with good samaritans. Total strangers who, seeing my plight, offer to hold the door shut from the outside, another time I’m offered paper towels, and always there’s a friendly smile. In return, I’m generous with my “thank yous” and add their good deeds to my nightly list of gratitudes.
Last year’s road trip to San Antonio included several overnight stays along the way. Although we always picked brand-name motels, I quickly learned that accessible rooms differ widely in interpretation. Yes, the room was on the ground floor, but several low-mounted towel racks don’t count as grab bars and a little plastic stool placed in the bathtub just doesn’t cut it!
But, I remembered my wellness lessons and silently thanked the motel manager for allowing me to practice mindfulness and hone my balancing skills. Navigating a rollator through the furniture-crowded room with no turnaround space had me fantasizing I was a competitor on the Ninja Warrior TV show!
This was not the case on this trip and our fancy-schmancy hotel in the heart of Las Vegas, although I did have one “Uh-oh,” moment when we learned our room was on the third floor. But the cement walkways, a low ramp and elevator ride delivered us to a spacious, and I mean spacious room! It was big enough for me to park my scooter near the entry and stretch my legs with a few laps around the room via rollator.
The bathroom? Ahh, the bathroom. Thank you, ADA spirits in the sky! Not only was the bathroom perfect, it had a bonafide roll-in accessible shower with a plethora of grab bars, a neat sitting area and a shower head that moved up and down. Too bad we were staying there for only one night.
We’re reminded often to see our lives as a journey and not a destination. We also know that challenges along the way with ALS can be met with a scowl or a laugh. I choose to laugh.
Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.