Denis Leary was on Letterman the other night and was joking that he’d gone through five marriage counsellors that “sucked” before he found the sixth, who was awesome, but then he said that once he accepted he was wrong, everything went gr-r-r-reat with counselling.
I had to laugh.
I’ve been having the same epiphany of late.
For five straight days now, my back has improved every day. This doesn’t sound like much to you, but to me, this is life-altering. I have not had *two* days in EIGHT MONTHS where my back has improved each day, let alone five straight days. I’ve had a couple days where my back’s “felt good” here and there, but feeling good and improving are distinctly different experiences.
Total acceptance of the fact that my wanting to improve and working hard to improve, the earnestness and diligence I had in both, didn’t mean I was doing everything right. Or, even that I was doing anything right.
Wanting something and working towards it is no guarantee we’ll achieve it.
I took a look at my situation. One, I’m a person who got injured from just plain trying too hard. DRIVE is not my problem. Two, I’m seeing a trained professional. Three, we’re both on page, we’re both working hard, I do my exercises, he does his assessing, and that’s that. Four, it just wasn’t improving.
So then the dilemma is: Where’s it going wrong? Is it me and my technique? Is my my physiotherapist and his approach? Or is my body just stupid?
Well, of those, which is most likely? Me and my technique. He’s a professional, after all, and my body’s pretty similar to the other six billion or so out there.
So, I went into my last appointment with this assumption: “I’m doing everything wrong. Teach me. Let me show you what I’m doing, and I’ll be completely open to your feedback.”
Five days later, my back is more stable than it has been since about nine months ago, let alone two weeks ago.
This isn’t the first time in my life that’s I’ve gone and said I’m probably wrong, teach me, but it’s mostly likely going to count as the most profound.
The thing is, I WAS listening. I thought I was really hearing his instructions. I thought I was asking all the right questions. And maybe I was. But asking them again and telling him beforehand how dejected and low I was feeling, and how I knew we HAD to be missing something, changed everything.
I sit here at this moment, granola on my left, coffee steaming on my left, sunlight streaming past my cheap Ikea curtains, with a smile on my face and a strange sense of calm that this is the beginning I’ve been confident was coming. This is the start of my journey to a new physical self, a stronger, more stable me than I’ve been before. Now I really believe that can happen. And this is me talking after a 69-pound weightloss. NOW the change comes. NOW comes the part I’ve been working SO HARD to achieve: Health. Goodness.
I was getting scared, I was losing faith, and with that, my heart was breaking a little. When three months to “all better” turns into six months and “only 50% improved”, things start to toy with your resolve. Lord knows it did mine.
I feel like like someone just turned the light at the end of my tunnel from “dimmed” to beaming, and I can’t tell ya what that’s like.
But it comes from accepting I was wrong. From accepting that I could grow and change and learn, that there was a better way to achieve my goals.
Ironically? It comes from laying off. I’ve been trying too hard, over-extending my stretches, destabilizing myself all by myself. The solution? Stretching less. Constant awareness about when extending a stretch is about to rotate a joint, and stopping before I over-extend, and holding. And because I’ve been so overtight for so long, it seems like I’m barely even stretching. “How can this be helping?” I first asked last week.
It’s about having faith that less is more, and knowing that I have the power to change the result simply by becoming more self-aware in the moment.
If you think I’m just writing about back problems here? Think again. I’m writing about life.
LIFE isn’t about working harder. It’s about working smarter. That can be interpreted differently for each of us, as we all have areas where we waste or over-expend our energies, where we lack awareness and do more than we ought. And with those wastes and over-expenditures comes a severe loss of quality in other areas of life. Work inefficiently on the job, your social life pays. Cut corners on your diet when you over-plan, your health pays, and you compromise later.
I don’t like the adversities that find me in life. I never have. But I don’t have to like an experience to learn from it.
And I suspect I have learned more about myself in the six months of this back injury than I have at any other point in my life, mostly because I was willing to go there. I’ve really sought to learn new things about myself in this time, to understand what role injuries have played in defining me as a person over the years.
What I have learned about myself in the last six months will serve me until my dying day. It has been a profound coming-to-self, and I suspect I’ll be writing on those lessons for years to come.
But had I never injured my back, I never would’ve learned I could lose weight through diet alone. I’ve never been that girl.
And now I am. And now I’m back, baby. And baby’s got back.
This summer won’t be what I had hoped it would be.
It will be different. In its way, it will be better.
Because I’m better. What a fuckin’ ride it’s gonna be.