This weekend, as I reflected on the events of the week and searched for a common thread that described my journey, I found it very challenging. Miracles are everywhere; all you need to do is open your eyes. The Creator is everywhere; all you need to do is look in the mirror or into another person’s eyes. Love manifests in so many places but can only be seen if you are open to it. This weekend, however, my reflections are a deeply personal description of a battle I waged and won within the last day.
Many years ago, I had a freak accident during a martial arts practice session during which I fell, managed to dislocate my knee and tore three of the four ligaments there. Since that time, I have had two surgeries on that joint –one to clean the debris, and one to reconstruct it — and a fall on some stairs that aggravated the joint with an extra sprain. I was given some painkillers and, thanks to the joys of workers compensation insurance, received very little rehabilitation. At about the same time as my injury, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a debilitating multi-system disease that has neither a known cause nor a cure. So I was given more pain killers (several of them) and a handicapped placard for my car. Between the sprain and the RA, I lost some of the use of my hands and knees. The next sight on that part of the journey was deep depression. So I received more therapy and an increasing sense of despair at my physical and mental condition.
This part of my life does change course, though. I’m not sure why, but somewhere around the end of April I came to the realization that I had become too heavy and that although I couldn’t change my medical condition, I could change my weight — or at least try. So I joined Weight Watchers (for the fourth time in my life) and took the first few tiny steps. I had no idea that the decision to take charge of my weight would have such profound effects on my entire life. I looked back at my journal today and realized that I could hardly put away laundry without excruciating pain six months ago. I could hardly walk the 1/8 mile to gather my kids from school. In my journal, I noted in August that I was walking 2 miles for the first time. About two weeks ago, I walked my first 5k since my martial arts accident. I also realized at some point that my knees didn’t hurt nearly as much as they used to. In fact, they hardly hurt at all. Halving my dose of the pain killers for my knee was relatively simple, and I accomplished that a few weeks ago. I decided about a week ago to try to take the dosage down by half again. I had no idea how hard that would be.
The first time I tried, I had a massive anxiety attack at the mere thought of being without the painkiller. I accomplished it the next day, but managed to trip during a walk and sustained a minor injury to the same knee (of course). I needed to use the painkiller for its original intent, so I had to re-take it. Yesterday, I decided to try again. It was one of the most challenging days that I have had in a long time. I distracted myself by working on with my children on school projects, exercising, and listening to
music. At some points, just making it from one breath to the next was as much as I could do. But I did it! I broke the dependency on the painkiller. Yes, I still want and need to get rid of the last of it, which I intend to do in about a week. My focus now is on the small victory of breaking the mental dependency yesterday.
In the midst of all the challenges yesterday, I learned a deep gentleness with myself. I took that part of me that was terrified of the pain I might feel and gently soothed it, honoring its existence. I also kept in mind all the seemingly impossible challenges I have overcome in my life: a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a master’s degree that I obtained through directed study, a doctoral degree that I earned while working three jobs and being a full-time mother, and some incredible success in my weight loss efforts. During each of those journeys, I remember many times that I wanted to quit each of those journeys for different reasons. Sometimes the studying was very difficult and I didn’t think I was intelligent enough to complete my assigned work. Sometimes the physical demands were more than I thought my body could handle. The common thread was determination, gentleness, and persistence. I was determined to reach my goal to prove to myself, if no one else, that the impossible was indeed possible. For each time I
allowed myself to quit, I only allowed my quitting to last as long as the thought itself. Then I was gentle with myself and got back to work. From those experiences, I gained the wisdom and the strength I needed this weekend.
The deeper insight is that there is no battle I cannot win as long as I have both determination, persistence, and gentleness in the face of fear. Those are the tools by which shackles can be broken. What would you do if you could break the fear-based shackles that bound you? What victory would you seek? It’s all yours if you want it.
- Adjusting to the Impermanence of Life (psychologytoday.com)