Hi everyone. I suppose the fact that I dropped off the face of the earth for a few days is as good an example as any of how easy it is to set intentions and then not follow through. I am currently chilling at the Borders in Lincoln Park in the city with five hours to kill, as I had to bust out here ASAP to meet one of my absolute favorite authors and memoirists ever, David Sedaris. (He is out promoting his quirky new children’s-book-for-adults, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk.) When I found out he was coming yesterday, I instantly transformed into “excited electron” state and buzzed about my house all day quivering in anticipation. My friends, bemused, observed that I like to “collect” authors as people treat movie stars and other celebrities. What can I say? Writers are my own brand of celebrity.
Anyway, this is not a cop-out at all (HA!), be prepared for life’s unexpecteds to crop up unannounced. I’d say anyone dealing with a traumatic injury is familiar enough with the concept; the fact that the onset of the injury occurred at all is enough unexpected, as is anything else that follows it: Who knew it would be so hard to go back?
And by “going back,” I mean any variation of the phrase. It’s tough to go back to old tasks (like tying your hair back or putting on a sock), sometimes old friends (especially the ones who don’t try to understand the new affected you), old hobbies (like dancing).
The antidote to “life getting in the way” (as Scott Smith famously says all the time) is to be flexible. We all like to plan certain aspects of our lives — it’s something we’ve been instilled since we first received handbooks and calendars in middle school. We look at our lives in a similar way as we look at syllabi from our courses.
They’re our guidelines for what to expect in the future, but if you’ve ever taken a humanities course, you will have experienced adjustments — both major and minor — to the schedule because lessons don’t always go to plan. Sometimes your class builds up momentum and breezes through some parts as though a simple breath, and others, you arrive at a certain point and stay awhile.
And since it’s life, and not a class, all outcomes depend on you. You’re going to get a lot of resistance coming at you from all angles: from friends, certain family, even doctors. Or from life circumstances. (I know a girl who had trauma to both brain and spinal cord, back when we were inpatient together, and when we’d met up years later she told me that after the birth of her [two!] children post-accident, she’d put therapy on the backburner.)
And let’s not forget that a lot of resistance comes from ourselves, too. You know even in the career world, most of us have the fear of success? This fear manifests in myriad ways: procrastination, laziness, indifference.
How often, for example, have you known that writing an e-mail with both hands would be better in terms of your neural reprogramming than just taking the easier (and albeit faster) route and just shooting it out with your one superhand?
Does it happen to me? Of course it does. The conflicts between what we rationally know and our outward behaviors often aren’t the most congruent. Be prepared for that. And not to drive it too deeply into the sand, but be self-aware enough to know yourself and your tendencies. Don’t go against them, but adjust your approaches accordingly.
For instance, I once asked a therapist what to do about the one-handed typing habit. I told her it was too easy for me to just ignore my affected hand and do what was quicker, especially since I write so much. She told me to always start out writing at least five minutes with both hands. Sometimes just five minutes has to be “good enough,” because without it the alternative is “nothing at all.” And if you work particularly well in tandem with others (and letting them keep you accountable), use that to your advantage too. (I’m currently working on having my friend Pete Mockaitis write you a guest article on the subject.)
Flexibility also involves working your way up the scale. Any trainer or therapist regularly exercises flexibility when it comes to planning your routine. I know mine have always taken me out for a “test run” before and modified accordingly. Too easy and they’d bump up the challenge factor, and vice-versa.
As a matter of fact, the very thing I, and perhaps many of you, rely on is exactly the flexibility of the brain or mind to adapt and change itself — in other words, plasticity. Run with it and not against.
To our healing,