Even though it impacts me every moment of every day, this is something I rarely share about in detail. Not because I’m ashamed of it. Mostly I’d just assumed that part of my message is about focusing on what’s possible, instead of focusing on limitations, and so I do my best to model that. But I can see that also means I could be brushing aside an important part of the story.
I wonder if I’ve been downplaying or hiding it a little, thinking you might not take me as seriously if you know the extent of what goes on behind the scenes, so I’m coming clean in an attempt to disprove that doubting, cautious part of me.
You see: I’m in chronic pain and I have been, to some degree every day, since late 2008.
I had spinal surgery in 2009 and things improved for a bit. I modified a few important things in my then consulting biz, but basically, I tried to keep working with the ferociousness of a woman in deep denial. Then in late 2011/ early 2012, the pain got much MUCH worse.
I’d been struggling to keep going. After a frightening experience where I collapsed outside when my entire body suddenly became completely paralyzed, while at the same time it felt like lightning was coursing through me nonstop for hours, I knew I had to start learning to listen to my body. A few days utterly incapacitated in bed turned into weeks, which turned into months, and then, shockingly, turned into years.
Thank god for a few incredible friends and Rod. Really, he carried the load. I couldn’t actually get downstairs, couldn’t stand or sit in the shower, couldn’t prepare food, couldn’t drive, couldn’t get my shoes on, couldn’t do any chores. Walking – even standing at all: breathtakingly excruciating.
Perhaps you can relate?
The pain I’m talking about isn’t muscle soreness (a feeling which, as a previously fit and active gal, I remember loving). It’s white-hot, sharp searing pain that’s hard to ignore. It feels so hot it actually feels icy. It’s almost constant muscle spasms. It’s complete weakness and weird numbness in my back, legs, and feet that’s out of my control. God forbid I ever need to cough – or worse, sneeze; a few seconds so painful I’m still fearful of them.
You know how some life lessons will come back around and around, each time a little less subtle, until you learn the lesson for good? Why is it that some we’re able to take onboard quickly, and others (no matter how simple or obvious they seem from the outside looking in) are much harder to stick?
For me, the need for consistent self-kindness and a solid dose of soul medicine – it seems way more than feels comfortable – is a life lesson that regularly cycles back through this experience of chronic pain. But man, it’s definitely not the only life lesson pain has blessed me with.
This experience of being in pain and being in bed for so fucking long was never part of THE PLAN (you know, that plan you may not have even realised you’d had until life set you way WAY off course). But, it’s also a constant reminder that, through the right lens, the absolutely worst thing can in fact sometimes be the very best thing. Through this pain I’ve gotten to know myself; I’ve thought about the woman I’d like to become; I started Betty Means Business.
It’s true. I do most of my work lying down (I’m lying down writing this now). Pain and medication mean I can’t do some things I used to do. Isolation and dependency can suck very large balls. My elbows look like elephant knees from years of using them to prop myself up and take my full weight. Muscles in my right leg have atrophied and sadly, not in a hot way. I’ve had many MANY more injections in my spine than anyone I know. I spend a butt load of time at rehab and medical appointments. Sometimes I lose my shit about it.
And this (and yes, we’re coming to the point of this whole post): none of that means I can’t be the very VERY best in the business.
Because here’s the thing: everyone has something. And unless you really want them to, your limitations don’t have to define you.
All innovation is the result of and spurred by a need to deal with problems.
Some of the most liberating and powerful traits a business can have – creativity, problem-solving, agility, an entirely new perspective – are born from challenges.
Can you only work on your business 4 hours a week? Great. Only got $1k to invest to get your empire started? Ok. Can only work lying down? Fucking fantastic.
The key to your dreams coming true is this: focus on what you can do and get on with that, every day. I promise it’s a far better use of your time than obsessively reflecting on what you can’t, or, worse, what you used to be able to, do. That way is only pain.
If you’re struggling under the weight of your challenges today, my advice is to get fucking fired up about it. And then direct the energy you’ll create into action that serves your highest self. With heart and aligned action, almost anything is possible.
P.S. A practical tip: Instead of saying to myself ‘I can do this’ when the weight of challenges are threatening to flatten me, these days I ask myself ‘how can I do this?’ and ‘how do I know I can do this?’. Our brains can’t help but engage with and respond to questions. For me, my answers to these questions feel more genuinely useful and powerful than affirmation alone.