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There are no mistakes in life, only opportunities

August 3, 2008
By MATTHEW GOODEMOTE, For The Leader-Herald

The last two weeks have been the hardest I have had in a long time.

I have been reminded on several different occasions how important wellness really is and what wellness really is.

My lessons have come in the form of my own physical body, patients, staff members, family members, friends and situations. Apparently there are still lessons I need to learn.

Wellness to me includes not just the physical, but also the emotional/psychological and the spiritual.

When one of these areas is out of balance the rest of them will eventually suffer, too.

My life has been a generally good life, but I certainly have experienced setbacks and downturns, or at least I perceived them to be set backs and down turns.

I have come to learn that there are no mistakes, only opportunities to learn our own individual lessons.

For me, most of my stress comes from my thoughts, memories of the past or worries for the future.

I have watched my patients, family, friends and staff members go through their own stressful thoughts- memories, in particular.

These thoughts of what we remember from past times most definitely affect us physically and spiritually.

We follow behaviors that are familiar to us and often we stick with things even though they are no longer working.

We keep doing the same things we have always done, but expect a different result.

We are frustrated when events don't follow the plan that is familiar to us or that we try to control.

A few weeks ago, we had a breakthrough at the Wellness Center.

I was treating a patient with the same techniques and strategies I always have used.

I have been successful with these techniques, but there were several occasions when I felt like I was missing something.

This was exactly what precipitated the discovery.

My old way simply wasn't working, but on this particular day I was doing something different: I was allowing the moment to dictate what I did and didn't do.

In other words, I was not following my old behaviors.

My memories were replaced with what was happening at the moment.

This is what led to the breakthrough.

Here is what happened.

A patient of mine with sciatica who had responded to my old ways was still having buttock pain.

I decided to try a stretch, but when I did it, the rest of his body moved.

Because of his response, I stabilized his opposite side; this made all the difference.

His buttock pain resolved and over the next couple of sessions his pain stayed away.

We have named this new movement the "Reciprocal Pelvic Tilt."

I have searched the Internet and asked chiropractors, doctors and physical therapists if they have ever heard of it, but no one has.

Here is a new way of addressing back pain and the results are unmistakable.

This new treatment for back pain has opened the doors to creativity at the Wellness Center.

We are taking what we have been doing and improving it.

My staff is constantly looking at the way in which we do things to make sure we do things because it is the right thing to do, not because it is how we have always done it.

Anyone who comes to the Wellness Center notices the changes we make.

We continue to work on making the facility the best we can, not based on what we used to do, but based on what works best now.

We would also like to apply our "here and now" mindset to benefit our community.

We have recently started work on a community project.

We are going to work on restoring Fulton County to a new level of beauty.

I remember what Fulton County used to be like and came back to the area to help restore it to its glory days.

As I am writing this, I realize my own mistaken thoughts.

I, like everyone else out there, simply cannot restore anything to what it was formerly.

It is impossible- and that's relying on past memories.

What can be done is to start in the here and now and move forward in a creative way.

Even more importantly, I did not come here to "go back."

I came home to help "move forward."

We cannot go back to what things used to be, because those things are gone, they are mere memories.

No matter how fond my memories of Fulton County are (or anything else for that matter), no matter how well things seemed to work, the past is not where we are today.

My physical, emotional and spiritual realities cannot ever be where they were even a year ago.

Interestingly, although at work I have been applying the principal of basing decisions on what the situation demands. In other areas I found that I had been basing my choices on the past.

Memories cloud our vision.

Memories can serve as a clue to our salvation or can be the obstacle that keeps us stuck. Memories are not reality. Reality is what is happening in this moment.

All memories, good and bad, cloud our reality.

Remember that everyone sees the world through his or her own perspective.

No one has the exact same experience as someone else. We all have our own life experiences that shape what we believe and how we perceive the world.

These are the memories that distort our perception.

Let me get specific.

The 90-year-old patient whom I mentioned in my previous article cannot return to the way of life she had when she was 20.

In fact, she cannot return to her way of life at 89.

Her body is different.

All of us have different bodies year to year.

But why go back there anyway?

Why not consider a new perspective?

Why not start where you are today.

When the memory of yesterday comes up and you think "this is how my life is going to be," you limit yourself and your physical well-being.

Yesterday, a woman in her late 60s told me she has "never felt so good."

This would not be possible if she was living from a memory of how she should feel, because it would have limited how good she could feel.

As she said, she never felt so good, so if she determined how good she could get based on her past, she would be stuck in the memory.

But for her, life is no longer focused on what it used to be. It is focused on where she is today.

From this "here and now" position she, and we, can see the world from a peaceful perspective.

This is where wise choices are made, where we are today.

One of my patients comes in almost every day and tells me how much pain she had a year ago.

First, the pain she had a year ago is not happening now, it happened a year ago.

Second, the stress she feels because of what happened a year ago leads her to make poor choices with her body today.

Her focus is clouded by memory.

Before you think that I am not talking about each and every one of us out there, take a minute to consider how you treat yourself.

Do you get frustrated because you are heavier today than when you were younger?

Do you get upset that you can't eat the same food you did when you were younger?

Do you get frustrated because kids don't behave the way you did when you were younger?

Do you get frustrated with the government because it does not act the way it did when you were younger?

All of these areas are stressful because we are stuck in our memories.

I fit into this category and as I write this I know why so many things from my past have been coming up over the last few weeks.

Obviously my lessons still need to be learned.

Please understand that what I am trying to get at is for our own wellness.

When the anxiety, frustration, disappointment, anger and sadness come up inside us, our bodies are trying to help us come back to what is actually happening in the moment.

I told one of my patients who has been in pain for more than two years that her body is such a gift, because every time she feels poorly it is because she is being reminded to come back to where she is right now, not where she used to be.

The pain allows her to stop now, not last year. The pain can be a reminder for her to choose a new road, not the road of her memory.

Our bodies are constantly working towards balance.

It is called "homeostasis."

Our body finds this in the present, not in the past. Our minds try to take us back to where we were, but we can't ever get there, fortunately.

Our community wants this balance.

Our families want this balance.

Our society wants this balance.

Someone on my staff just came in as I was writing and told me that at our Wellness Fair last weekend there was a participant who told her that when she came back to the area she wanted to build a wellness center, too.

And she wanted to restore Fulton County to what she remembers it being. She came back because her heart craves homeostasis.

I think all of our hearts crave this. But cannot go back, and we are not meant to. We are meant to be where we are right now, at the beginning.

Let's put our efforts into helping each other find wellness.

How do you fix something that is not broken?

Our thoughts tell us things should be different, but reality tells us it should be exactly what it is. Instead of fighting against where we are, we can use where we are as a starting point, a new baseline.

We can choose from peace what we want to do now, and from this repetitive choosing we will be focused on what is happening instead of what "happened."

The physical, emotional and spiritual all live where we are today.

A healthy spiritual life 50 years ago is a memory, where are we today matters more.

A healthy physical body when we were 10 is a memory, where we are today is a reality.

Stress from a year ago belongs exactly there, a year ago. Let's start where we are and do it from a peaceful heart.

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



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