Phoenix rising

Going up

I cannot recall the exact moment when my fitness race went from pole position to shut down. Setbacks just began to accumulate. I pushed hard, harder…but soon I was careening into the pits.

Setbacks are a part of life…little interruptions that challenge us to grow. But what do you do when these challenges come too fast? When your regimen is so disrupted by setbacks that it seems there are no options left?

Glancing in the rear view, I see times when I could have made better choices; crossroads where better information, different advice, or more or less force could have made a difference. Looking back is important to educate ourselves to do better going forward. However, a lengthy sojourn to the past can invite inertia and quickly devolve into a guilt trip.

Recovering from injuries, I am again looking at the road ahead…and this journey begins with one whopper of a hill.

I have noticed many slogans assuring me that if I follow my passion everything will be perfect, rosy and sublime. Those mottos have the right idea, but I think they oversimplify the hills we all face. Real change is tough to achieve. To move ahead, we have to grind through the gears, stay focused, wear out our bodies and our minds. We have to plan and revise our plans and train ourselves to love the challenges. I say, follow your passion…but know that it will not be easy. But if you embrace the effort needed for change, you will be able to stick because the difficult road has made you more impervious to defeat. Besides, acknowledging that the incline is perilous makes its summiting all the more sweet.

Working my way out of the pits, I have learned many strategies to keep my future laps free of pileups.

I have realized that we must be active participants in our wellness. We must work with our health counselors. They have expertise in what ails us. We have expertise in our own bodies. A doctor is to be a partner in your health journey, not an arbiter. If you feel a physician is not willing to work with you, or is not heeding your insight, it is time for a second opinion. Remaining silent betrays your innate knowledge and also deprives your doctor of important clues. Doctors cannot do it alone or employ magic to heal us. When we agree to a treatment plan, we must do the exercises, eat the diet, get the rest and do whatever is necessary to give our plan the best chance at success.

I have also learned that many physical maladies result when we underestimate the interconnectedness and fragility our personal eco-systems. Just because a symptom settles in one location, does not mean that the cause lies there. Just because we can push through pain, does not mean that we should. Our bodies are complex, we have to consider every option and potential interplay and also be considerate of current limitations. Once we understand our body’s weaknesses and imbalances, we must work to make them stronger and more highly functioning.

The one thing – more than any other – that has gotten me through this time of restricted activity has been my devotion to helping others move forward. When we meditate on our own ailments, losses and disappointments; we multiply our grief. When we spend our energy taking care of ourselves as well as others, we multiply our joy. We are not separate beings, not really. When we truly invest in one another’s lives, every success is shared rather than envied, and the sting of each setback is made less potent.

When I admit to this next lesson, I am certain my momma will jump up and shout, “Finally!” Yes, reluctantly, begrudgingly, and at times child-worthy huge tantrum throwingly, I have learned some patience. I have realized the road is long and that to keep moving down it as I wish, there will be times of rest, recovery and specific guidelines. Building up after a complete teardown must be done with care and attention to detail. By taking the time to understand how our systems work and giving them what they need, we will likely come back stronger.

The one factor that has done the most to turn my outlook around is the return of hope. With standard treatments exhausted and over eighteen months of pain that refused to pack its bags, hope had left the arena. My belligerently cheerful nature had begun ceding territory to despair. It was only when a new treatment began to heal me that I realized I had been living without hope. With the first, tiny improvements in my physical well-being, my mental well-being soared. In time, will this treatment allow me to return to my full exercise routine? I hope so. But even if it does not, I will never again let go of hope.

A phoenix is meant to rise. Races are meant to be run. Setbacks or successes, we must remember that we are meant to be whole and happy creatures and it is our duty to keep seeking the answers, the challenges, the tribe and the spirit that will keep us moving forward along the open road.

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