May 30, 2024

Pain and the Patella: Change from Within

20111118_babyWhy do we ever change anything? Because we want to. There really is no other reason. The question is, how do we develop the desire to change anything? This story of a frustrated baby (who would grow up to use the story in his newsletter…) and his response to recurring pain in the patella, or kneecap, explains it all.

The year was 1947. A small boy had mastered high-speed crawling. (Rallyists show promise at an early age.) My home had well-worn and well-loved hardwood floors, and I would fly around the dining room, the hallway, my parents’ bedroom, and another room we called the den with tremendous grace and style. But I would not go into the living room. Why? There was an obnoxious oak door saddle in the archway that would pound my knees as I thumped over it. I was not equipped with the suspension needed to traverse this rough patch without doing damage.

So I avoided that room. There was nothing of interest in there anyway. Chairs. Lamps. No TV. There was an old wooden radio, but if no one was in there, it wasn’t on.

But when Pop came home and Mom was cooking dinner, Pop would plop down in his easy chair in that living room (I still have the chair), and now there was something of interest…Pop!

I would put the old butt in gear and head for that painful obstacle, thump my knees, and start crying, which worked—at first—’cuz Pop would come pick me up. You younger parents recognize this ploy.

Eventually Pop got tired of comforting me and schlepping me over to his easy chair and left me to my own devices. Thump, thump, cry, cry, cry, crawl over to the easy chair. Repeat on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Then one day out of sheer frustration at the pain in my black-and-blue knees, I rocket-crawled over to the archway, stood up, took two halting steps over the door saddle and fell back down for the final crawl to the chair. Those were my first steps ever, and they were totally unassisted. In fact, Pop barely caught the action, looking over his newspaper. Mom missed it entirely.

But here’s my point. Not until I was incredibly frustrated at the pain I had to endure to get to my father did I make a change, take a risk, rearrange my world for the better.

Using frustration to your advantage

This dynamic is at the core of every change you or I will ever make. It’s the positive that comes out of frustration. We’re frustrated because we’re not getting/achieving/accomplishing what our Knower/Judger says we’re supposed to. We don’t want to feel that frustration any longer. We change something.

We can also use frustration to change the source of the frustration—expectation. Without an expectation, there’s no reason for frustration. So every time you find yourself feeling extremely frustrated, you have two choices, and both are valid:

A. You can manage (lower) your expectations so that the comparison of what’s expected to what’s going on isn’t so different, and the result is not judged so negatively.

B. You can change something.

There are certainly situations where simply lowering your expectations in lieu of making drastic changes makes sense. Look at your expectations for your kids, for example. We all have fantastic expectations for our kids (Harvard, NBA, NASA scientist, etc.). But they have something to say about their lives, much more than we do, and there’s not a lot we can do about it. Drop the expectation, and frustration disappears.

But in situations where expectations are more or less dictated by job descriptions, health issues, etc., changing is the only way to lower frustration. And you’ll only make changes when you want to.

Here’s my next point. Either of these solutions to high frustration levels is totally internal. Made by you.

By this stage of your life, you’ve most likely tried to order the other person to perform at a level that doesn’t frustrate you. It’s a Dr. Phil moment. “How’s that workin’ for ya?” My guess is, about as well as my demanding that Pop move his easy chair to the dining room would have worked.

So what’s left? Let it go. Lower your expectation. Change your routine to adapt to the reality of what’s going on. Like my infant self, you might find yourself rising to an entirely new level of skill and experience.


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