Sometimes You Don’t Have to Be Elegant

Many of my patients worry that they aren’t doing things “right” when they are sick. They fear that they will do the wrong thing or make a wrong decision. Sometimes they are nearly paralyzed by the thoughts of what they might do. It becomes difficult to make a decision when suggesting to oneself that the stakes are so high.

Patients worry about what others think of them and their decisions to work or not work or to volunteer or not. There is a whole world of fear of what other people may think of them for their illness and how they go about treating themselves or not.

It’s easy to get caught up in that. Here’s a metaphor. I ski. I’m not a good skier but I love to do it. I can get down just about anything, although not always elegantly. Frequently I find that I am on a hill that seems greater than my abilities. As I stand there on the hill wondering what I have gotten myself into, I remind myself that I don’t need to worry how I look. The goal is not to always “look good” skiing but to have fun skiing. If I’m not having fun, then the best thing to do is to get off the hill however I can–if that means snow plowing and going very slowly then that’s how I do it. Then I can go up and find a run that I do have fun on.

I think sometimes we need to remember that life is like that. It’s not how we get down the steep hills, it’s whether we can have fun on the majority of hills. If we’re having fun, it doesn’t matter what it looks like to the outside. Not all hills are fun for everyone. Sometimes you get stuck on those because of terrain changes from week to week or misreading maps. Who knows why you got there? The fact is, in the middle of a not fun hill, all you can do is ski it to the best of the your ability and get to the bottom. Don’t worry what others think of you. Get to the bottom and choose your next battle.

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