I’m sitting in the café in the Milwaukee train station, but I should be on my way back to Chicago. A combination of an overly optimistic assessment of the time I needed to get ready and misdirection from SIRI has landed me here for the next three hours, and somehow I find that I don’t mind.
The soundtrack at this café is smooth jazz saxophone renditions of pop songs. Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” just ended and it’s got me feeling reflective. This was one of my favorite songs growing up. It does lose a little something in the sax translation, I’m not gonna lie. But it still reminds me of some of my core values. Life is an experience and whatever is going on, it’s more rewarding if you feel the power to choose and respond to life and better your situation rather than just reacting or wasting away as a victim of circumstance or others’ choices.
Many of the people I see only come in because they feel they’re out of options. They’ve seen every doctor and can’t find any reason for their illness, or the cure for a serious illness has left them unable to fully recover, emotionally or physically. Chinese Medicine offers a perspective on life that says, no matter where we are, where we’ve been or where we’re going, we have choices and power.
However, the same abilities to adapt and change that give people options for increased growth and health often blind us to where we’ve been and the progress we’ve made. It’s an interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed especially in the past few weeks as this sluggish Spring lurches forward: both my patients and myself have a tendency to edit out any progress toward our goals in favor of frustration that we haven’t achieved them already. Why would this be?
Spring is the Wood season, and Wood is all about speed, efficiency and growth. For healthcare, this means seeing results, seeing them quickly, and moving on to the next life goal.
Over the last few weeks some of my patients have asked dejectedly as they walked in, “do you really think it’s working?” Typically this is asked on the third or fourth visit, by a patient who is making significant progress with a previously stubborn, long-term illness or symptom. This is one reason I write things down, actually, because then I can respond confidently, “well, 4 of your 6 concerns are gone, as well as these other 3 things you hadn’t told me about before they went away.”
Selective amnesia of this sort is actually an excellent sign that deep change is taking place, and I’m always glad when my patients ask for a review of our progress and plan if they feel discouraged. It’s even more empowering and encouraging, of course, when you can look at your own progress and see it without asking someone else. So this week, with all the momentum of the Spring Wood season behind you, hold up a mirror to your health and give yourself some credit. At this time of year, we tend to need self-validation more than self-criticism in order to build momentum in life.
Take a look at where you’ve been. Congratulate yourself for whatever progress you’ve made, and also acknowledge both the positive and negative circumstances you didn’t control but have contributed to your present position.
Then set down the mirror, take a deep breath and decide where you want to go from here.