I tore the meniscus in my left knee playing tennis. I felt the tear as it occurred. Arthroscopic surgery easily fixed the problem but recovery forced me to examine my views on the use of time.
Once home and with the worst of the pain dissipating, I immediately became an impatient patient. How long, I whined, would I have to wait before I could resume my life?
When I opened my eyes each morning, I asked: “Is today the day I return to normal?” Then I tried to walk. My stiffened knee reminded me I must wait a little longer!
In this vulnerable condition, I started thinking about all the other periods in my life where I felt suspended between the “before” and the “yet to come.” Limbo periods seem to be a regular feature of my life. In high school, I waited impatiently until I could leave home and start college. I waited through my first pregnancy by marking off each long day. I waited in the hospital to see if my daughter would survive cardiac arrest. The list goes on.
When I tally up the time, I realize how much of my life I’ve spent in one spot, idling my engine, waiting for the next stage or the next event. Waitingitis reminds me of driving a car with the emergency brake on—very hard to gain momentum and disastrous on the running parts of the vehicle.
In my medically imposed leisure, I’ve had time to identify five symptoms of this malady that could easily be confused with excusitis or blamingitis. Although waitingitis isn’t life-threatening, like obesity, it can lead to other conditions that are, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and even dementia. Immunized with information, maybe I can avoid the damage of waitingitis by recognizing its symptoms:
1. Downward Spiral: A sense of decay and deterioration is present. If depression doesn’t cause passivity, it certainly takes over if I feel helpless long enough.
2. Excuses: Life is filled with remarkably plausible excuses that I try to convince myself, and others, to believe.
3. Powerlessness: The cause of my waiting always seems beyond my control. And since I have no control over what is going to happen next, my only alternative is to wait.
4. Myths: If I repeatedly tell stories about how real the obstacles are, I convince not only myself but others as well.
5. Self-Pity: It is easier to talk myself into accepting my situation rather than to seek the unique opportunities in each particular circumstance.
Recognizing the dark role of waitingitis and noticing when I am in that state freed me to handle my recovery more positively. While I couldn’t do everything, I could still do floor exercises in the morning with my good leg and upper body. As part of the healing process I noticed both improvements and setbacks. By keeping track of progress in my diary, I took charge of my outlook.
Going further, in a real turnaround, I began to realize the huge opportunity I had to use this time constructively. I became rested, I read broadly, and I had time to reflect and replenish my emotional bank. Best of all, I had a ready-made excuse to enjoy the upcoming holidays without all the fuss and work!
Shortly before the knee surgery, I finished teaching a workshop—From Fat to Fit—offered at the local hospital. Like me, they’ve finally realized the destructive power of delaying their intent to get fit. They are having fun getting fit, they are designing their own individual programs, and they are participating together—surrounded by a support team of their own creation.
We don’t have to wait for the perfect time to begin adopting healthful habits. Now is not only the best time to begin but it is the only time we have. The rest is obstacle illusions.