|Just about to go down Fat Man’s Squeeze in
southern Illinois last summer — braced and ready to go!
I remember a long time ago, a therapist suggested I film my progress, much like Arthur from the videos previous to this post. I vaguely thought it was a good idea, but quite obviously, I haven’t been filming myself at work for the past nine-plus years. Why not? Honestly, it was out of fear and out of embarrassment.
Many of us who go through some kind of sudden life transformation for the worse (or what seems like it) are quite frankly ashamed of it. I’d even venture to say that this is all of us. Let’s talk about this for a moment.
I can’t speak in examples of situations I haven’t personally lived, so I’ll step out of the “we” now and talk about my own experience. Even if the trauma had nothing to do with something I did (there was no way, for example, for me to know that I’d suddenly have a stroke at 19, and because it was a congenital weakness in my brain, there was no way for me to prevent it), there is still that part of me — my ego — that holds on for dear life to my old self-image. My ego refuses to let go of the life it used to know, the fact that I used to sprint faster than the majority of people I knew even though my legs were shorter. That dance was so freeing and I was good at it. Wearing high heels for a special event? No-brainer. Acting on stage for drama club was all about expression, not cowering in shame. I didn’t have to think twice about anything I did physically, and because I didn’t have that weight on my shoulders, I was able to concentrate on my mental, emotional, and spiritual endeavors completely.
But all of this is what’s called a story. A story in this sense is the (often long-winded) explanation that we tell ourselves to justify something or explain what is. It can be as simple as a 14-year-old boy asking out a classmate and having her say no. His story might be, “She rejected me,” or he can choose to believe the story is “She’s not ready for me.” Stories have the power to hold us back from what we want and pardon ourselves for a lifetime of nonsupportive behavior.
Do you see the underlying message here? We have the choice to believe our stories or rewrite them completely. This is one of my absolute favorite quotes, ever, and I remind myself of it all the time, regarding business and regarding health:
The 14-year-old asking out the girl? Here are the facts: he asked her a question; she said no. There is no story there. “Rejection” is a fabrication of his own mind! You can’t reject another person! Does not going out with someone mean you are rejecting who they are?
So, stepping back into reality, here are the facts: Currently, I have hemiparesis. My left side is weaker and less coordinated than my right side, which is practically superhuman by now.
I can decide to tell myself the story that as far as I know, no one else has ever healed completely from this condition, so I can’t either. I can tell myself that I will forever live with a disability.
But here’s the rub — by telling myself that story, am I not instilling an unconscious disability into the way I think?
This is from Kyle Cease, whom I mentioned the other day — don’t ask yourself “Can I do it?” because that only gives you two options: yes or no.
Instead, ask yourself “How can I do it?” because that automatically qualifies you. You are capable.
So coming full circle, I never filmed myself because I was embarrassed. Ashamed of how I’d look on camera.
You know what? My friend Bertrand took a photo of me a few months ago during the Diabetes Walk. He’d posted it to Facebook and I untagged myself because I hated the way I looked in it — why? Because when my left leg gets fatigued, I tend to drag it a bit, and he had caught that dragging and hip-hiking on camera. As well as a clasped left hand.
|Draggy foot. Actually, at second glance, it’s actually not as bad as I remembered it. (Um, hello.)|
“Oh come on, you look awesome,” Bertrand had protested when I untagged it.
I always, without fail, feel discouraged whenever I see pictures of myself hip-hiking and clenching my fist. It’s like, “I’ve worked so far to get nowhere. My body still fails me. I’m still not who I really am.”
There’s a story if I ever saw one!
Fact: I HAVE BEEN THROUGH HEMIPARALYSIS. Fact: I ONCE NEEDED A WHEELCHAIR. Fact: A year after hospitalization, I moved to Florence, Italy, a city covered (COVERED!!!) in cobblestones, without a personal assistant, without a wheelchair, without a cane! And lived there for ten whole months.
Do I always drag my foot? Probably a small amount. Do people sometimes ask me if I hurt myself? Yes, occasionally. Do I use my left hand as much as I should, and do people sometimes notice and comment on it? Definitely (especially when they see me typing).
Who cares?? The point is, I shouldn’t!
So in the efforts to lead by example, even though the idea frankly terrifies me, I’m going to do what that therapist suggested years ago. I’m going to record myself — not 24/7, but when I’m doing what I am supposed to be doing to further my rehabilitation. (And if the videos start to drop off . . . I’ll know I need to amp it up a notch.) This is my new project.
Again, I don’t want to stretch myself too thin what with all the other things I’m doing, but I think it will change my life to document on camera what I am doing. The camera doesn’t lie.
It won’t let me tell myself any stories. Keeping track of your progress is always so motivating and eye-opening, so if you’re in a similar boat to me, I suggest you start. Whether it’s video or just putting pen to paper, you should absolutely document what you’re doing.
Especially with a condition like mine, progress can be imperceptible — but over time, you can look back and go, “Whoa. I wasn’t able to do that three months ago.”
Are you with me?
For the sake of time and lack of resources (like a staff of video editors or filmmakers), I’ll warn you now that these videos will likely be pretty ghetto and poorly cut. But I’ll do my best to release a video a week summarizing the little gains I’ve made. And if they are terribly edited, I am okay with that, because at least I have made a leap into something scary, yet at this point, necessary.
I’m sure this will lead to a more extensive musing on the importance of little celebrations . . . so stay tuned.
My hope is that putting my true, vulnerable, and imperfect self on camera for you will inspire you to treat yourself with compassion and understanding.
Acknowledgements. Thank you, Katie Freiling and Kyle Cease for leading me to this path, as well as my friends Ryan Yokome and Kris Britton for your regular fitness motivation. Thank you, Kris Carr, for leading a health food revolution. And thank you, Arthur, for pioneering the lead-by-example paradigm for others to follow. It really touched and inspired me to see how open and honest you were with total strangers.
To our healing,