I didn’t see it as a gift when I was told that my shoulder needed to be operated on if I wanted to get back to my racquet sports and swimming – not to mention if I was interested in a remaining lifetime free of chronic and acute pain from a torn rotator cuff that would only get worse. Upon getting the d-date for late May, I broke down and cried.
There’s nothing like having surgery on your (dominant) arm and then being told you can’t use it for 6 weeks to get your attention – well, there are so many things much worse, but this was enough to get mine. The worst part was this meant I had to reach out to friends and ask for help. For some, this isn’t hard to do – for me, it’s excruciating. I’ve gotten much better at it over the years, but, given a choice, I prefer not to ever have any needs – that’s how I roll.
At the eleventh hour, I made a few calls, stopped by a few friends’ houses, and wrote a few emails, letting people know I was heading into surgery and could use some help. In less than 24 hours, friends were sending out emails to my other friends and, before I knew it, I was inundated with support.
Between everybody, everything was taken care of: from day-of hospital logistics to post-op in-house movie nights – it was a revolving door of friends cooking for me, taking care of Rocco, doing my laundry and dishes, bathing me, taking me to dinner and to cool events, driving me to doctor’s appointments, downloading audio books, and checking in on me 24/7. My aunt and uncle even made a special visit which was reminiscent of when my dad came out to be with me for a minor surgery I’d had 25 years ago, armed with what seemed like a year’s supply of my grandma’s chicken and matzo ball soup and homemade Mandel Bread.
Although I’ve had the good fortune of having many close and very special friendships throughout my life, I was, once again, overwhelmed by the generosity and support that was so freely given by so many and I am forever changed by it. And, with the exception of a couple fast and furious meltdowns, I have been in exceptionally good spirits from the moment I left the hospital.
While I don’t recommend having to have surgery that renders you relatively incapacitated in order to have a shift in perspective around being vulnerable, it’s been said, when the solutions to our problems come, they are often difficult for us to receive. Life has a way of giving us the perfect people and situations to help us do something different so that we can actually have the things we say we want. Someone or something will show up in our lives that is the most challenging to our specific, deep-seated, fear-based beliefs that will take us out of our comfort zone – and it’s our choice whether to be open to receive the gift of that opening, no matter how uncomfortable it feels when it happens. Or to refuse it.
This is one of life’s many moments of truth – are we going to welcome a challenging opportunity in order to evolve beyond our self-imposed, internal barriers or will we resist and then still feel victimized when we continue to not get what we’ve been saying we want. All the while, turning our backs on the very people and situations that show up to heal us and bring us the love, connection, and affinity we so deeply long for.
Now, having spent six weeks in a sling, I can’t imagine not having had this fortuitous opportunity to let my friends be there for me – it’s as if they were waiting for it all along and I finally woke up. I can be stubborn so an injury would be an obvious wake-up call for me.
And, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask you to identify one thing, however small, that you are resisting because it feels too hard – and do it! Most of us know what we need to do, and what we need to stop doing, in order to have what we want. Simply decide to do one thing differently and see what happens. You might be surprised by how good it feels – maybe not right away – in fact, at first, it’s likely going to make you feel disoriented, anxious, and put your stomach in knots. If so, that’s the one you should stick with! Learning how to do something differently requires the willingness to tolerate discomfort. And remember, you wouldn’t be considering changing things up if what you’ve been doing was getting you what you want so you’ve really got nothing to lose by breaking up a long-held habit that has been leaving you empty-handed.
In one of her poems, Mary Oliver asks, “Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?”. See what shows up from asking yourself this question. And then, enjoy the freedom and peace and aliveness that comes from bravely choosing your truest path – it’s called authentic happiness and time waits for no one.
Have fun playing with this new approach and email me what you notice!