The paradox of life is that sometimes being ourselves gets in our way. Our lifetime of personal habits, preferences, patterns, beliefs and even quirks that have well served us, become dysfunctional in certain situations. Sometimes we need to experiment and even master an opposite and annoyingly different set of behaviors to get on in life.
The mirror for me appeared in the physical therapist’s office in the person of Kenneth. A youngish man in his early 40′s he was an inveterate body builder, runner, archer, weight lifter, all round sportsman. He was recovering from some kind of surgery to his shoulder. I would watch him week after week. Assigned an exercise to do 20 times, 3 times a day, he would inevitably come into the next appointment, reporting his practice of exercising 50 times, 5 times a day, and, no surprise, still in pain. The PT was always lovingly, and directly, dialing him back. It became something of a group room joke. I started laughing with and teasing him. He saw the insanity of his behavior but couldn’t seem to change. Clearly his good healthy habits had long served his life and his enjoyment of life. It was what he loved to do. However, his compulsive excesses did not serve his recovery. He couldn’t have been a better mirror for me.
As a woman with standards, goals, lots of ideas, needs to achieve, and needs to prove herself, I was watching my patterns in action through Kenneth as if seeing them for the first time. I am sure that my inability to master real “rest” has contributed to my MS. Most MS afflicted are the female self-acknowledged TYPE A workaholics. And I had always been a proud member of that group. Resting is not my MO. As a result of looking at myself in the mirror Kenneth was providing for me, I started paying a bit more attention to the number of things I would try to fit in during the day and cut them in half.
Kenneth’s turning point came when he “had to recover” to be able to participate in a long awaited tarpin fishing vacation in Florida, an activity quite physically demanding. All of a sudden, the goal became more important than the pattern. He did his assignments as prescribed. And he started feeling better. He admitted the frustration of not being able to carry on his typical schedule of heavy lifting, but he acknowledged the need for different behavior on a temporary basis. We continued to laugh and joke about this. He said: ”The hardest thing about succeeding in recovery is to be NOT ME.” Boing! There was the blog. He was the perfect mirror for my life.
It’s a process. No longer a business woman, I have few deadlines, and at 72, less “have-to-dos”. I am learning to no longer impose them unnecessarily on myself. I am mastering the art (more than occasionally) of doing nothing.
The OLD LIFETIME ME served me in so many ways. The NEW REFINED ME I am beginning to craft is required by my very important healing goals. I want to live out my life with the most health and well being I can promote and allow. To do that I will have to make some changes.
I look forward to seeing Kenneth after his Florida trip, sailing, fishing, and doing what he absolutely loves. As he said he could talk for hours about this and it may warrant another blog in a different category. No doubt he will return with some pains. No doubt he has learned some lessons.
No matter. If he hasn’t, I have.