Feeling perfect is not the goal

Posted on December 13, 2013

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I talk a lot about feeling better, getting out of pain and being healthy. Sometimes I think people take this a bit too far. They misunderstand me, or whomever, talking about getting out of, say, lower back pain, for saying, “Your back, and the rest of your body, can feel perfect, all the time.” I routinely tell people, “Look, you’re not going to feel like you’re 10 years old, where you could throw your body against a wall like a pinball, hit the ground, get back up and do it again as if nothing happened.”

There’s a balance here. You don’t need to be in chronic pain, but you’re not going to feel amazing everyday either. This doesn’t mean you’re “forever fucked up” as some have said to me, it means you’re human, and you’re alive.

A common scenario I run into with this is say Tyler started with me, with chronic knee issues. He could barely get out of a chair, walk up stairs, etc. After a few months together he’s squatting holding a 50 pound dumbbell, gets up and down stairs fine, etc. Every now and then Tyler will solemnly go, “Yeah, my knees were a bit pissed off yesterday. I don’t know if it was the weather, the long hike I did, or what.” Forgetting how shitty his body felt when he started, and how far he’s come, he’s almost upset how his knees act up here and there. He’s forgetting other body parts have acted up and there too, the fact this is intermittent, and a few months ago his body hurt every day. Furthermore, after a day Tyler goes, “I’m fine now. That was just a bad day.”

When he presses me for more info as to why this happened my response is usually of the vain, “Welcome to being active. You’re not going to feel great every single day.” Often I get an, “I’m just old” response, where I’ll then respond, “It’s not being old. Plenty of teenagers have days where their body is sore, a joint is bothering them, whatever. It’s not called being old, it’s called being alive.”

This is no different than trying to be happy everyday. No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to be smiling like a jackass 24/7. In fact, myself, and many I know, despise those who are ALWAYS jovial. It seems dishonest. I’m sure we can all relate to talking about someone to the tune of, “Dude, there is no way that person is always that happy. No one is that happy. I hate when people are fake like that.”

This seems much more understandable. We all know we’re going to have days where our friends piss us off, we want to strangle our significant other, kill our boss, punch a wall, or find our most loyal confidant (Jameson). Your mind and body aren’t that different.

  • You’re going to have days where you had to uncomfortably sit in a chair 10 hours, or on a 6 hour flight, or in a cramped car, all likely pissing your lower back off.
  • You’re going to wake up somedays where you just didn’t sleep right. We all know what our necks feel like when we say, “Ugh, I slept wrong last night.”
  • Despite shoes such as Vibrams and other minimalist brands, you’re going to be wearing shoes that aren’t the best for you. I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman who went, “High heeled shoes feel so great on my body!” Women know those things are horrendous. However, I don’t know a woman who hasn’t worn them regularly anyways. Nor do I know a guy who has said, “I hate how women look in high heels.”
  • You’re going to grab your brother and best friend, break into the park with the giant hill at midnight, go sledding head first down said huge hill, accidentally hit an ice patch, go 10 feet up in the air, land on your chest and bruise yourself (this may be biographical), yet talk about what a great memory it is 5 years later.
  • You might get so sick or have such bad allergies your ridiculous amount of coughing hurts your lower back. I even know a couple people who have broken a rib because of violent coughing.
  • Due to kids, atypical events, the weather, you’re not going to be able to exercise and take care of yourself everyday. You don’t expect to eat perfectly everyday, do you?
  • Lots of other things can affect pain. Being in a bad mood, job satisfaction, stress, the weather, and so on. All these things aren’t going to be great all the time. I can attest to certain clients consistently being in more pain during something like Wednesday night sessions -after work- compared to Saturday morning sessions. I can also attest to living in San Diego, some of the most joint friendly weather in the world, and still having people mention the weather was affecting them.
  • For my kind of people -the drinking inclined- you’ll have nights where things go wrong. I had a woman two weeks ago walk in with a sprained foot which happened while she was out having a good time. What am I going to do? Tell her to never go out again? You might even have your friend throw you into a thorn bush because he couldn’t think of a comeback and that was his solution (scars to prove it), throw your arm out while trying to compete for who can elicit the greatest PSI on the boxing machine, or lose your voice from booing the DJ off stage because he refused to play hip-hop music (yes and yes; I wasn’t the only person booing and that DJ was a dick). But going out with friends and acting like idiots are some of people’s greatest memories.

This is an area I really think orthopedic imaging, X-Rays and MRIs, has done a disservice to people. We look inside a person’s body and go, “Your meniscus is worn out, your lower back is degenerated, your shoulder labrum is torn.” As my girlfriend has said, “When I’m 80 I’m sure you could look at my shoulder and it will look completely worn out. (She was softball pitcher for many years.) But shit, I’m 80, it’s supposed to be worn out.” You don’t need to be 80 either. We’re finding these things in all ages. The more we look, the younger we find. I don’t mean 60, I mean teenagers. Yet we use this imaging as justification to go inside the body and try to change how things look, despite these things having little correlation with people being in pain. We should accept having abnormalities is part of being alive.

It’s like having scars and the signs of age on your skin. It might not look great, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work just fine.

You can’t expect yourself to never get sick; don’t expect yourself to never be in pain. No, you don’t want to be sick everyday, but, you’re going to get sick sometimes. You can absolutely get out of pain, manage your pain, get yourself to feel pretty damn good…but you aren’t going to feel great all the time. This is what alcohol and drugs are for. If you’re never in discomfort, you’re probably not pushing yourself enough, getting out of your comfort zone enough, or generally just not living life enough. The body is made to be used. Use, don’t abuse…but do use. 

“I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let… let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.”

“May I never be complete.  May I never be content.  May I never be perfect.  Deliver me, Tyler, from being perfect and complete.”

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Posted in: Miscellaneous, Pain