Sometimes, in the midst of our own difficulties, it is hard to remember that while there is much in life we can’t control, there is also much we can.
It’s been a difficult year medically with the problems continuing for another year. Last July started the surgical clock on my right knee and a year of recovery. February will start the clock on my left knee which has the same genetic problems as the right, along with a history of 4 failed corrective surgeries. That means it will be Christmas 2023 before I know how, or if, this will all play out.
I could be pretty “down” about all of this – and I’d be lying if I said I never was – but mostly I make the choice to be pleased that after a decade of unstable knees, falls, and failed surgeries I accidentally, with our move to small town PA, find myself under the care of the best orthopedic surgeon in the country.
So here we are again at the “choice” crossroads.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is mostly about learning to alter your focus or as Epictetus (A.D. 50-130) noted, “What upsets people is not things themselves but their judgments about the things.”
Want to fix a behavioral problem whether drinking or otherwise, if you see the behavior as a habit choice or as an incurable progressive disease will determine your success or lack thereof – and your choice of view will depend on whether or not you actually want to fix it or just pretend you do.
Granted there are things either so tragic or so permanent that no amount of perspective-shifting is going to help much, but these are comparatively rare and even these can be lessened by what we do in the rest of our lives. At three and a half, there was nothing I – or anyone else – could do about my younger brother’s death from leukemia. But it did propel me to adopt a supposedly dying infant 22 years later, my son Jacob who turned 53 this past Thanksgiving Day.
Again, our responses to events are things we do have a great deal of control over, and regardless of what we might wish, we will decide.
Unhappily, the most popular “decision” is “deciding not to decide.” Thinking this will free us from responsibility for whatever outcome results. Good luck with that.
Next is deciding to do something we know won’t work so we can pretend we are doing something – seeing the same therapist weekly for 20 years, joining AA, going to “rehab”, offering up “thoughts and prayers” and so on.
As we approach the season of resolutions, I suggest that we all resolve not to make resolutions but rather to make conscious choices to either actively do something about a perceived problem or decide not to. Quit pretending. You’ll feel better for it.
Remember too, as Kris Kristofferson said, “I’d rather be sorry for something I did, than something I didn’t do.”
A Happier New Year.