For some years now, B has slowly been helping me reshape my vocabulary and, indirectly, my mindset. The changes are subtle and I doubt anyone besides him would notice them, but I find they do make a difference.
Instead of saying that I will become healthy, I say that I will become even healthier – because I want to think of myself as being healthy already, although there are plenty of things I want and need to work on. Instead of telling him I have been bad or irritable or impatient, I tell him that I have had trouble being as positive and patient as I would like. Instead of claiming to hate or even dislike something, I find softer phrases or avoid the topic entirely.
Mindset is important particularly when it comes to health. For most of my life, I have thought of my immune system as weak, have thought of myself as uncoordinated, and have focused on more things I could not do than things I could do.
That made it more challenging to pick up new physical activities because every time there was a hiccup – and hiccups are quite common when learning new skills – I would see that as an affirmation of everything I believed. Even a good friend who used to be positive about almost everything would say things like, “Geez, I thought you said you knew how to ride a bike!” Part of me would protest silently that I did, and that I really enjoyed riding on footpaths and dirt roads, but the other part of me would think, “Yeah, what sort of sheltered idiot would fail so miserably at jumping the bike up and down curbs on the road?”
B’s faith in me and my experiences over the last few years have changed that. I have all but weaned myself off reliance on medication and even supplements. I have climbed mountains, hiked in altitudes of over 5,000m and travelled to some very remote parts of the world. I have zoomed down mountains on a bike and scuba dived in an ocean still turbulent from a cyclone (three months before that, I did not even know how to swim). I fall ill from colds and flus less than most of my colleagues, and even when I do succumb to the bugs, I recover within a couple of days. And my rate of recovery only keeps improving.
Now, that is a good thing because I also have far more to recover from. I have long since forgotten what it feels like to walk without pain – it tends to be mild when I have hiking boots and orthotics on, but it flares up extremely quickly when I do much else. I have yet to come to a landing on what might be affecting my liver or kidneys. Arthritis in my fingers has deterred me from Bach for the past ten years, and my digestive and immune systems are still working hard to recover from my recent trip. My body spends each and every day trying its best to overcome all of that and a million other things else I am not aware of.
But somehow, it is doing that more quickly and more effectively than it ever used to. I have more to recover from, but I recover more quickly. Does that sound odd? One might argue that, if I really were stronger, I would not have as much to recover from in the first place, but the truth is that I am putting my body through more exertion and challenging conditions than I used to. The bar lifts higher and higher. Instead of going for a walk or a brief jog, I plan multi-day hikes up mountains. Instead of trying to wriggle out of swimming class, I can keep going for hours in the pool and enjoy the ocean even more. And that happens despite the strain – physical, mental, emotional – that work puts on me and my body.
These days, when I am confronted with another injury or a hiccup like having to turn back from a hike, I look at it as a stepping stone, a blip on the path that leads unmistakably towards a bright future. I accept that there may be a dozen reasons why I may need to try again, but that if I heap enough time and determination onto it, the obstacle will budge – and I will level up, growing mentally and physically stronger in the process. I focus on my successes – the dreams I have achieved – like they are badges of honour. I fill my walls with photos and canvas prints from my travels because they remind me every day of what I can achieve. And instead of saying I cannot do something, or that I want to do something, I simply say that I will do it. The question is not “if”, but “when”.
Thank you, B, for helping me realise that I can conquer the world.