Overcoming Physical Limitations
Ultimately, our body will betray us.
Our minds are without substance. Thoughts, ideas, and judgments spring forth because we have brains—but our mental activities do not have form. However, our muscles, bones, organs, and skin are definitely physical! And like all material things, they will ultimately break down. This we know for sure, although we don’t like it!
Thankfully, and hopefully, this dissolution happens slowly over many years. When that happens, we have time to adjust to the inevitable changes that occur. But, this is not always the case, and we may find ourselves like cars that break down on a long road trip—on the side of the road, calling for a tow—with no idea when we will back on the highway or how much it will cost! Of course, when it is a car, we can always rent another one while ours is being fixed. We haven’t figured out how to do that with our bodies.
Just like automobiles, when we do take care of ourselves and make sure we are well maintained, breakdowns may be less likely. But they still occur—and we have to figure out how to make the best of what we have. Many times this is easier said than done.
Several years ago, after many years of jogging, I developed a serious tendon problem in my left foot that could only be repaired with major surgery. I was in a cast for two months, and side lined for a year. After months of physical therapy and hard work, I was able to become active once again. But my running days were over. I still miss those jogs around Greenlake! And, despite the miracles of modern orthopedic surgery, I still have periodic pain and limitation.
Accidents, illness, chronic disease (diabetes, heart disease, asthma, etc.), and muscular skeletal problems can occur to any of us, at any time-- even if we are young. The real question is—how do we handle these “mechanical” problems when they do occur? How do we cope with them?
Naturally, we hope that modern medicine will have a pill, potion, or a fix for our particular problem. And frequently, they do. But sadly, our modern technology does not offer a fix for everything. Some problems we have to learn to live with, even if we don’t want to.
The search for a fix can span many months or even years—trips to different doctors and alternative health care providers. Sometimes we do find some help, and sometimes not. But at some point we have to accept that which we cannot change. This is where we have to apply our wisdom—which resides inside of us and is not subject to physical decline. Indeed, it deepens with the march of time. It grows within us, as we encounter and respond to challenges and hardship in our lives.
My 90 year old mother, living alone in Florida, has chronic, severe back pain from arthritis. She gave up on pain pills which made her loopy. The other day she decided to bake cookies--- “I stood in the kitchen for 5 minutes making batter, and when the pain got severe, I lay down for 15 minutes. So, I would stand for 5 minutes, rest for 15 minutes—and guess what, after a time, I was eating hot chocolate chip cookies!”
I decided that I was going to continue to practice Aikido (a martial art) after my surgery. I never asked my surgeon if it would be OK—I just decided that I would get back on the mat. It took months of physical therapy and painful rehabilitation—but I did it! I couldn’t practice at the same level as before, but I there I was, rolling around on the mat once again.
We have all seen cancer survivors on Susan Komen walks—with a spring to their step as they raise money to cure breast cancer. Their mission to do good overcomes their fatigue and fear.
In many instances we cannot rid ourselves of infirmity. But we can harness our own wisdom to accept, in a more neutral way, what we cannot change. We can consider it a challenge to ask ourselves what we can do, rather than focus on what we can’t.
How have you coped with physical changes? Share your stories!