This week I would like to talk about choices.
This is a topic I have written about before, but I find myself wanting to say more, so here goes nothing.
About 20 years ago, I was beginning my education to become a physical therapist.
If the truth was known, the real reasons I became a therapist were mainly because:
• I absolutely loved learning about the body and how it works.
• I wanted to own my own business doing something I imagined would be fun to do.
In physical therapy school, one of the things we studied was gross anatomy.
This is where you dissect a human cadaver.
I absolutely loved this class. Seeing and touching each muscle really helped me to implant them into my memory.
To this day, when I do an evaluation, my brain sees the body part while the patient is describing their symptoms.
I often will say to patients that I can “see” the problem. I mean it literally. I see it in my head. I also say that I have no idea why my brain works that way, but it certainly makes my job easier.
Anyway, after months of gross anatomy I had a strange thing happen, I began to feel uneasy with the body bags.
Without going into a lot of detail, it really messed me up. My beliefs about myself and about life and death were put to the test and I found myself on the verge of breaking down.
I felt like things were crashing down in front of me. I felt like everywhere I turned led to more confusion and more frustration.
I went to every “expert” I could find to help me answer my questions. I was willing to try just about anything to find peace again.
This experience was very difficult for me and yet things worked out.
This is why I continue to repeat that even in the worst predicaments, there is always a way through.
I have experienced several more trials in my life, physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. As I look back I realize that I am who I am because of these events.
The choices I made during my trials have helped to mold me into who I am.
The failures I encountered turned out to be lessons. Some lessons were painful and others were flat out disturbing, and yet through it all I was able to find peace again.
So, about two to three weeks ago I was feeling uneasy inside. It was a familiar sensation, and yet it had a different quality.
My mind wanted to identify it as a feeling I have had before, but the truth was I couldn’t find this exact feeling in my memory banks.
Then one day while talking to one of my assistants, I heard myself say, “It’s like when I was in PT school dealing with body bags day after day.”
Then it dawned on me that the uneasiness was familiar and yet it was still unique. As I allowed myself to experience this sensation, I realized that the unfamiliar feeling was similar to other times in my life when I came to a fork in the road.
My tendency was to want to fall back on behaviors I knew, to do what I have always done, to take a familiar path.
But something is happening to me. This time, I decided to walk down a new path.
This can be very unsettling but it is necessary for my personal wellness, and I know it.
Each and every one of us comes to this point in our lives, and usually more than once.
These are defining moments. These are the times when we have to make a choice for ourselves- we can continue down our familiar path or try another path that is outside our comfort zone.
For a lot of us it is physical in nature, like an injury or a health problem. We have to make the choice to be well again or to continue down our road of pain and distress.
There are a lot of us who repeat a path that didn’t work the first time.
This is especially true with weight loss.
How many of you out there have lost weight through some “weight loss program,” only to gain it all back, and in a lot of cases, gain even more?
Until one day we make a choice that changes the rest of our lives.
Sometimes these defining choices are ones we are not even conscious of.
I wrote a book on back pain a while back. In the book I have a section where I talk about the “common sense approach” to treating back pain. In fact I have used this quote in an article I wrote before.
For example, I had a patient who told me that their Uncle Joe has had back pain every day for the last 50 years and he does these exercises every day to “help” his back, so this patient felt that he should also do the same exercises as his Uncle Joe.
I asked my patient why in the world they would take the advice of someone who has had back pain every day for the last 50 years.
To me it makes more sense to find the person who had one episode of back pain 50 years ago and performed a certain exercise and has not had pain a day in his life since.
Now take a look at your own life situation.
Maybe you have had back pain for years and continue to push through your pain despite the chronic nature of your pain.
Maybe you have had weight problems for years and still eat poorly or avoid exercise.
Maybe you have a ton of stress in your life and keep putting off taking a few minutes a day to find peace.
The choice is yours. Keep going down the same road and you will continue to experience the same results.
One of my patients told me today that he is sure he will have problems because he “always” has problems.
Immediately I hear in my head, “Well then, time to change the road you’re on.”
I realized that my memory of a similar event was not the “same” thing as the current event.
No matter how close the similarities are each event is unique.
Our minds want to tell us that what someone said is the “same” thing they have said before, but the fact it every event is unique.
Sure, there may be similarities but each moment is unique.
This is important to me because part of suffering comes from the belief that the current situation is “just like” another situation that happened before.
This classification creates the belief that what we are experiencing is a continuation of another event.
It is not.
Our physical body is different day to day.
Our world around us is different day to day.
The people around us are different day to day.
The point is that instead of trusting our memories of a past event, however similar it seems, try coming back to this moment and allow what is happening right now to be an event in and of itself.
Make the choice based on what you are experiencing, not what you did experience or what you think may experience in the future.
I, like most of everyone out there, have made choices from a place of comfort, not necessarily from a place of peace.
Tonight before writing this article, I heard myself saying certain things and immediately I feel uneasy, so I stopped to reconsider what choices I was making.
This slight hesitation in me allowed me the time to choose from a place of wisdom instead of from a place of fear.
So tonight when I saw myself getting on the path that I am familiar with, I opted to try a new way, an uneasy way, but a peaceful way. What a difference/
In fact more and more I feel lousy when I go down that all too familiar road, the one that keeps bringing me to a dead end. I am tired of ending up right where I started, so I am committed to try something new. I am heading down that road less traveled trusting it will make all the difference.
I believe that wellness is available to everyone, even though the road may not be easy, you can be well if you want, the choice is yours.
Please take a minute right now and consider where you are in your life.
Our minds will tell us that what we are doing is helping, but if you keep running into the same problems, then maybe your path is an old worn out road.
Take the leap and walk a new road, a road to wellness.
Remember there IS a way and there are people who want to help.
Thanks for reading my columns.
Matthew Goodemote, a Gloversville native, owns Community Physical Therapy & Wellness. His Health & Wellness column will answer your questions and discuss topics that are relevant to your everyday way of life. If you would like to ask a question, e-mail Matthew at firstname.lastname@example.org.