The Coach is In…

No Pain No Gain

Two weeks ago, I went through my second knee replacement surgery. The other one was two years ago. Nurses, doctors train us to respond to our pain with a number from zero to ten, zero being “no problem,” ten being ☹ (unmanageable). The  helpful thing about knee replacements (and I’m guessing other surgeries), is that they give y0u a nerve block that deadens the pain for about 24 hours. The cynic in me believes they do this because withing 24 hours you are being discharged and we want you comfortable until you’re home. Once home, my pain was 15! I know, the scale only goes to 10.  I’m just telling you what it felt like. It stayed that way for 3-4 days. It’s the kind of pain that makes you think you might just throw up. Too graphic? Sorry.

The other thing, with certain orthopedic surgeries, is that you begin rehab the same day as the surgery. That’s okay when the nerve block is working. When you get home, while your pain is at its highest, you are asked to take your body through a series of exercises to regain your mobility and range of motion. Not fun.

The other thing you are afforded for the first couple of weeks is time. You are not doing a lot but your exercises, going to the bathroom, sleeping, etc. The narcotics don’t solve all the pain issues, but they do a wonderful job of curbing your energy and motivation for much else.

As a former athlete, I often heard the term, “No pain, no gain.” In athletics it was a way to motivate you to develop your skill, often beyond what you thought you could produce. Is the “physical” the only way we experience “pain”? “No.”

I don’t know what the next area you might choose where ‘pain’ and ‘gain’ are linked. Would it be Intellectual, Emotional, Spiritual? For me, the next area would be Emotional. I can think of a myriad of events that created ‘challenges’ for me (i.e. my mother’s death, divorce, losing a job, the emotional roller coaster of children, etc.). Some of these would qualify as a “15” on the pain scale. What I describe as “rip your heart out” pain.

At this point, I believe you see where these illustrations are going. I’m thinking all of us have had ‘pain/trials’ in all areas of life. How you qualify/define the challenges in your life, you may not use the term ‘pain’ or ‘trials.’ Feel free to use your own label.

In those ‘pain’ moments of your life, what have you experienced/learned about those moments and about yourself? How did they shape who you are today?

During my youth, some of the events of those years (i.e., breaking up with a girlfriend) were difficult because I didn’t have the perspective to understand two things – Bad things happen to good people; all of us ‘suffer’ at some point. I also became aware that “this too shall pass.” In the moment that phrase seems ‘trivial,’ but I came to understand that those moments of pain do pass.

As a 14-year-old trying out for the varsity baseball team in high school I came to understand the meaning of “no pain, no gain.” I was being challenged physically and mentally to get better. I began to see the value of hard work as my skills increased. Those experiences became the cornerstone for how I viewed and dealt with the “trials” I would face in my 20’s and beyond. I had a choice as to how I would react to the events of my life. Perhaps because I’m an optimist, or because I found a process that worked for me, I came to learn that with the ‘pain’ I have had the opportunity grow my perspective of the value of pain, and to build many capacities for dealing with life. Whether that was physical, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual, each trial taught me an additional set of coping skills. There was always a gain, even when it might have been years later before I recognized it. The series of difficult events in our lives offer us the opportunity to build confidence in our ability to cope, the ability to get through, to survive, and even to thrive.

For the largest portion of my life, I wanted to avoid pain and get through it as soon as I could. Then, when I saw what those moments were teaching me, I had the wisdom to say, “Wait a minute, this really sucks, but…let me take a moment, sit a little longer with this difficult moment in time and explore what might be here for me to experience, to learn. Decades later, as I look out over the tapestry of my life, I see that each block in the quilt of my life had meaning and helped shape who I was to become.

The knee will heal. The pain of those moments will fade into my memory. I will look, with a smile, at the irony of how something so painful can lead to something better. Sometimes, it is difficult to view what is going on in our life as ‘good’ when it hurts so much. Yet, over time, I have developed a trust that there will be value, even if it might take me a long time to recognize what that might be. I hope the ‘moments’ in your life have woven themselves in such a way that you can have gratitude; to celebrate your resiliency.

Toward a better you…