In January, I wrote about the aspiration of a cyst on my spine which relieved my back pain and lifted a huge weight off of me. I described the results as a Benjamin Button moment where I became instantly younger, livelier, and freer than I could have imagined. I felt both literal and figurative transformation and was poised to reclaim my spry self.
It turns out I spoke too soon.
The procedure was only a mirage of a miracle, relief dissipating in just one short month. The persistent cyst quickly re-filled with fluid, and as I entered the month of March I also re-entered the hospital to have it drained again. “Second time’s a charm,” I told myself, waiting to welcome back that rush of youth.
The second time was not a charm.
For whatever reason, the sedation didn’t knock me out and I ended up having the procedure while being awake and aware of all that was happening. It was hell.
To add insult to injury, that second procedure gave me almost no relief at all.
March fell heavily into April and instead of feeling the much-anticipated spring in my step, I found myself sinking back into the dark disability, frustration building and the pain so omnipresent that it cast a dull haze over everything. “Give it time,” the doctor said when I talked about my ongoing struggles. “Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks for the full effect of the draining and the cortisone”.
But the weeks slowly passed and the pain went in the wrong direction. So did my perception of self. Forget Benjamin Button – I now felt like the world’s oldest woman. By May, I began a conversation with a spine surgeon who will soon perform full-blown surgery to remove the cysts (it turns out I have more than one), and who will also deal with the underlying structural decay.
Which leads me to what I really want to talk about. I want to talk about losing control.
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Anyone who knows me will vouch for the fact that I’ve never been one to lose control of anything easily. That’s why I’ve never tried hard drugs, I feel no effect from marijuana and I have no desire to do mushrooms or ayahuasca. It’s why I always prefer to be the driver, the planner, the decider and the boss. It’s why I exercise daily and it’s probably part of the reason that the second sedation didn’t work.
I won’t let my body go.
I find letting go exceptionally difficult. Especially now – a time that feels like letting go of my body means I’m letting go of my youth. No amount of exercise, stretching, meditation or surgery will slow the progression of years and the obvious wear and tear on my core. Like everyone else, I’m aging.
I know, I know. Eye roll from those of you who are older or have already come to terms with this fact. Those of you who are younger will probably not relate either. But for me, my body breakdown is in direct conflict with my youthful state of mind and perception of a 30-year-old self.
In fact, my spine is waving the truth in my face: I never really had as much control as I thought.
Of course, I’d prefer to breakdance than to breakdown.
But those aren’t the only choices. By letting go of full control, I’m beginning to discover something new — the beauty of getting out of old patterns, and reframing expectations to create a clean slate for what comes next.
It’s obviously time to make a fresh start. Physical slowing makes room for mental stretches. Less “doing” and more “seeing” is another way to grow. Physically, the control needed for Tai Chi is no less than the control needed for a hundred-meter sprint. There are alternative ways to be strong in the world.
Getting there requires a rebirth of perspective and less rigid forms of measurement.
While I’m not letting go, I’m loosening up. Because in my new, lightened state of control, I’ll have more space for the world to sink in.
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How have you successfully used setbacks to reframe your life?
Share it Small: We can all learn from each other. If you had to let go of some expectations in order to make room for a new life chapter, tell your loved ones about what you did and how you did it. They are probably working on their own reframing too.
Share it Big: So many of us think of life as a straight line instead of a series of pivots and re-thinking. If you are taking a turn – in your physical self, in a relationship, a job, or an aspiration… share it out loud! It turns out that every 12-18 months every one of us is in a transition. Sharing yours will be a way to open the dialogue with others doing their own pivoting.
Share it with Me: We all learn from each other. If you have had a revelation, a breakthrough, an insight, or a triumph, we can learn from you so please tell me about it here! I’m collecting stories of these cascades of good for ongoing community building and to track The Parlay Effect in action. I would love nothing better than to hear how you lifted, were lifted, or observed something in others that made you feel good and recognize your own power.