You don’t know how much you use a particular muscle until it’s not working.
These days brushing my teeth, eating, writing & typing produce, at worst a searing hot pain & at best a dull ache. Meeting a tight curriculum writing deadline has caused tendinitis in my arm.
Multiple doctor & physio appointments later, I’m relieved to say it’s finally improving. In the meantime I’ve grown quite used to the odd looking braces I wear on my arm & my constant companions – heating pads.
After weeks of not being able to use my right arm or hand, I found myself feeling pretty down & frustrated. I needed some new perspective & I needed it fast.
Of course, being the lifelong learner I am, I applied a learning lens.
The 3 F’s – what my temporary disability has taught me.
- Fatigue– I’ve been sleeping waaaay more due to the pain. It’s tough when simple things become difficult (who knew brushing your teeth could be so hard?), which results in mental & physical fatigue & hence the need for more rest.
- Fear– I adore my work & not being able to fully function has been scary. I found myself thinking ‘will this ever get better & what happens if it doesn’t?’
- Frustration– I enjoy throwing myself into my work & into my life. Without a fully functioning arm I feel frequently frustrated. I can’t do 2 simple things at once – like carry a plate & open a door (because that takes 2 working arms).
The gifts of empathy, insight & perspective
As I’ve started to feel better, I’ve noticed my fatigue, fear & frustration (on good days) have given way to empathy, insight & perspective.
- Empathy – thanks to excellent healthcare I’ve been able to see the doctors & the physio I’ve needed to. I can afford the ultrasound, the medicine etc. My heart goes out to those who can’t afford the care they need. I’ve also been reassured by all the medical professionals that although we’re 7 weeks in, this health issue will resolve itself. I empathize with those for whom their disability &/or pain isn’t temporary & it’s something they manage everyday, & have done so for years & will continue to do so for years.
- Insight – anyone who knows me well, knows how utterly & entirely phobic I am of needles (I even have trouble typing the word) and yet, I’ve had acupuncture multiple times …. & I didn’t die. I learned when my fatigue, fear & frustration are high enough, that I can do things I thought would have been impossible.
- Perspective – when I was told I couldn’t type or write for weeks, I’ll admit it, panic set in. How would I work? How would I serve my clients? Taking a deep breath & gaining perspective really helped. For example I found Dragon dictation. I’ve learned how to speak (& to speak punctuation aloud, which sounds pretty odd), have my words instantly transcribed & peck around with my left hand to copy & paste into emails.
In the end:
- Fear, fatigue & frustration have given way to empathy, insight a7 perspective.
- I discovered I could do more than I thought I could (desperation likely played a wee role). To my great surprise I tried acupuncture, which not only helped but I didn’t die in the process.
- I found workarounds. Our family recently had the chance to visit a research station near the Tanzanian border where my kid is doing an internship, only it was a 4+hour drive away. Determined not to miss the opportunity, I found I could still drive, just using my left hand. Voilà. It was thoroughly worth it. For example we drove through these stunning, bright pink salt lakes to get there.
- As a result of my arm not functioning, I appreciate all my body bits that DO work just fine. Thank you eyes that blink automatically, heart that pumps, knees that bend etc. etc.
Your turn. Take action.
- What have you learned from a trying time in your life? What has fear, frustration & fatigue taught you?
- What do you do to gain empathy, insight & perspective?
- Speaking of perspective, check out this short (1 ½ min) video for a sweet take on a new perspective.