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Sunday Backtrack: Would You Change It If You Could?

No shame in pain

No shame in pain

It has been both a wonderful and horribly painful six weeks since I asked you the question:

Would you change it if you could?

“It” was the hard thing in our lives.  “It” was the thing that keeps us up nights and keeps us from reaching our potential.  Like usual, my “It” was Tourette’s.

I said that, if I could go back and choose, I would not decide to go through life without the disorder.

When I wrote that, I thought it was true.  But part of me wondered if I was fooling myself just to write a good post.  Was I trying to fake it until I started believing it?  I thought that time would give me the answer, and I wasn’t wrong.

Today I tell you: the last six weeks have been a brutal nightmare.  I have hurt myself badly and lost control of my body in ways that I haven’t seen in years.

But not my mind

My answer is the same: I would not change it if I could, but that does not mean that should be the case with anyone else. What I deal with is pitifully easy compared to many of the other challenges people face.

I have learned things in the last six weeks that I could not have learned any other way.  My face and body may be the worse for wear from the thrashing they’ve received, but everything else is strong and unblemished.  I won an award.  I picked up a bunch of new kettlebell clients.  I faced down death by Frisbee in Monterey. I set a number of personal records in my strength pursuits.

I may smile with newly cracked teeth, but it’s still a smile.

There is a price to be paid for clarity.  Endurance is the only key to many doors worth opening, but it isn’t everything.  Sometimes getting rid of “It” would be the very thing keeping the waters murky.  But not always.  It’s a question I want to continue asking myself, just so I can reevaluate things as I go.

Refuse to cope.  Insist on life.


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photo credit: Megyarsh

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kira November 15, 2009, 2:09 am

    I disagree.

    There are many things, unspeakable things, that only the strongest of us are able overcome and utilize to develop character and become better people.

    Good post.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 15, 2009, 10:06 am

      Kira, I loved the latest Gruntman. I want you to sell it and come tour the States.

  • Karina November 15, 2009, 5:31 am

    I would get rid of my “It”. I would get rid of it in a second. Although my “It”, which is a weak back and herniated discs, has indeed taught me something very valuable which is to appreciate the fact that I can still walk everyday, some days are just incredibly debilitating. I’ve spent weeks not even being able to go to the washroom by myself because of the pain. I hate being inactive and I hate not being able to walk for more than 5 minutes on those beautiful sunny days. It’s an inconvenience as I’m sure everyone’s “It’s” are. And it’s painful, both physically and emotionally, as again, all the “It’s” are. But unlike you, I wouldn’t do it over again.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 15, 2009, 10:05 am

      Karina, I’m sure I would feel the same way. This whole question is easy and convenient for me to ask, simply because it isn’t realistic. We can’t go back, so the conjecture is interesting, but is never an indictment or a sign of weakness of any sort.

  • Vandy Massey November 15, 2009, 6:36 am

    I’ve had a few “It’s” in my life, and although there have been times when I wanted to change them, when I look back, they have all resulted in growth. The thing I’m not sure about is whether I could say the same about the effect they had on my family.

    Fourteen years of heart condition constrained aspects of my lifestyle and created an unwelcome level of anxiety. I know now that I use what I learned then whenever I’m faced with challenges now. Would I want my husband and sons to have gone through all the worry. No. So, for them I would have preferred to change the “It” – but not for me.

    A hijack at gunpoint resulted in us making some very different decisions about where we live. Result: expanded horisons, a more personal perspective on violence in the world, new careers, better at taking risks, more travel. All of these are good, and in retrospect, the hijacking had a good outcome (and I realise I can only say that because we were lucky enough to escape without injury!). But, once again, would I have wanted my family to go through such a traumatic experience – not for a second. That’s why we moved.

    However, the reality is that most of the time we have no choice. We can’t change “It”. So, I love the fact that this post focuses on all the reasons we should embrace the good elements that come from dealing with “It”. So much more productive than railing against the difficulties it causes.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 15, 2009, 10:03 am

      Vandy, wow. I’m glad you got out of that safely and were able to move past it. I would have moved as well, as I doubt I’d have handled it as bravely as you are. Well done.

  • Joey | R. J. Spindle November 15, 2009, 8:40 am

    I wouldn’t get rid of my “its” (yes, it’s its), but their all mental. I’ve always been told that my brain works differently. Friends have a hard time understanding where my thoughts come from and sometimes they get very dark for seemingly no reason.

    I’ve been couch diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, ADD, heck even dyslexia. Although, the last one is almost a “duh,” because both my father and younger brother actually have dyslexia. I find that reading a bunch helps this a whole lot.

    No, I’ve always wanted to fight through my struggles with my thoughts. Maybe part of it was I was young and just wanted to get through it on my own, but I feel like all those years of fighting with my head allowed me to be the writer I am today–the writer I always wanted to be. My partner in crime and I are almost finished the first draft of book one in our fantasy series, and I’m telling you: if it wasn’t for my wonky thought processes, then our story wouldn’t be half as fun as it is.

    I really enjoyed this post. I’m not sure I could conquer something as physical as that. You never know until you go through it though. Keep the encouragement coming, Josh. Love hearing from you.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 15, 2009, 9:59 am

      Joey, maybe all those quirks in your head are what will lead to you becoming the incredible novelist everyone talks about reverently a century from now when they teach your novels at the University on the moon.

  • Srinivas Rao November 15, 2009, 9:15 am

    I would get rid of my IBS, stomach problems because without a doubt they have affected my energy and even my career earlier in my life. But, in another they’ve been a blessing in disguise because I developed much better health habits/

    • Josh Hanagarne November 15, 2009, 9:57 am

      Srivinvas, I just learned that we have a mutual friend: Philippe Til is part of the RKC clan, he was on my team back in June. He told me that he sees you on the beach all the time.

  • Lisis November 15, 2009, 9:16 am

    Hey, Josh… your post, and Joey’s comment, touched on something I’ve been thinking about lately: if I could choose to have a physical disability or the hidden disability I’m stuck with (much like Joey’s), which would I choose?

    When I read your accounts of the pain, the injuries, the way people react to you, etc., I think, “I could never survive that… I’m a wimp.” But then Joey reminded me of how hard it is sometimes when the “broken” part is our BRAIN… the very thing that tells us everything we need to know about everything.

    Stephen Hawking has lost the use of most of his body, but he’s still the brilliant Stephen Hawking. If the thing that doesn’t work is my brain… am I still me? Which of my thoughts are really mine? Which ones should I act on?

    I don’t expect you to answer those, I’m just sayin’… I guess if I could, I’d get rid of BOTH our ITS.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 15, 2009, 9:56 am

      Lisis, I’m glad you don’t expect me to answer those questions:) Of course, I can’t prove it, but I really do think that we each have challenges that we can overcome. That’s why I have Tourette’s–because I can handle it. That’s why Hawking is in the situation he is in–because he is able to overcome it. I couldn’t deal with what he does, but I don’t have to. Maybe you couldn’t handle Tourette’s, but you don’t have to. We all have things that feel unbearable. I’m most interested in trying to figure out what things really ARE unbearable. So far, there aren’t any of those things in my life, although in the moment, they certainly feel that way. Thanks for a thoughtful comment.

      • Lisis November 15, 2009, 1:59 pm

        I don’t know if there IS anything unbearable, really. Things BECOME bearable, as we deal with them one day at a time. First we learn to cope, then we get pretty good at managing, eventually life goes on right around IT.

        I remember thinking it would be unbearable to see my son suffering pain, or hospitalized; but when he was, I dealt with it… one day, one moment at a time. IT sucked, but, like all things, was bearable… barely. 🙂

  • Tom Bailey November 15, 2009, 11:07 am

    Adding or taking things away from life… I would never know what I would get. I am being sucked forward into a future I am creating that I love so I would not change the past. I am so focused on my now creating my future that I am really loving life.

    You have great thoughts here.

  • Eric November 15, 2009, 1:08 pm

    I’m not even sure what my “It” is. Is it psoriasis? I can deal with that ok, and don’t often think about it, after all, it’s just red itchy skin. Is it kidney stones? Yeah, those sucked bad, but they weren’t life altering. (well maybe a little life altering, I limit the beer and cut out the iced tea.) Is it working a job that put me out of balance, leaning too much on the work side, and too little on the family side? This doesn’t sound very epic, it more sounds like normal.

    I’m just not sure I have anything traumatic enough to call my “It.” Certainly not compared to your tourettes or the “its” of your other commenters. Maybe “its” are just little things that you wish could be changed. If that’s the case, then I’d definitely change the kidney stones. Those are bad, bad, bad.

    Really though, I’m just trying to enjoy the ride as I gently steer this life in the right direction.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 15, 2009, 1:38 pm

      Eric, it’s certainly not about comparison. There’s no pain scale that measures accurately that what person A feels is worth more than what person B feels. Our mental states, ages, backgrounds–all of these things shape our “it’s,” and one is just as valid as the next.

      One thing I’ve learned is that there are thousands and thousands of people going through something worse, and handling it better, every single day.

      Glad you’re enjoying the ride! Amen on the kidney stones. Those definitely qualify in my book.

  • Boris Bachmann November 15, 2009, 7:28 pm

    Plenty of “it” in my life. Not as much as some, more than others, I’m sure.

    Maybe we could just call “it” “life’s tough love”, and read “Man’s Search For Meaning” or watch “God Grew Tired Of Us” when we start feeling like life is unfair to us.

    Love your posts Josh.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 15, 2009, 7:53 pm

      Thanks Boris. I’ve never heard of God Grew Tired Of Us. On my way to look it up now.

  • AnnMaria November 16, 2009, 4:06 pm

    Yes, I would change it. My husband died when my daughters were young. My third child has competed in two Olympics and is en route to 2012. She believes everything happens for a reason and she would not have the drive she was if not for missing her dad at her meets and trying to fill that missing spot. I disagree it is for the best. If he was alive and she never won a medal in her life it would be all right by me. (and I AM her biggest fan)

    • Josh Hanagarne November 16, 2009, 4:08 pm

      AnnMaria, thank you for sharing that. You must be an incredibly strong person. What does your daughter compete in?

  • Daisy November 16, 2009, 8:48 pm

    “It” is often something that forces us out of our comfort zone and into an active role we might not have chosen otherwise. I didn’t let hearing impairment stop me from getting a music degree; I tell people it’s quality, not quantity of sound that matters. Really, it’s more complex than that.
    My son is blind and has Asperger’s; if he could choose, would he choose to be sighted? Or neurotypical? I know he’s suffered through depression frequently in his teens, dealing with being different. At 17, unique is not always good.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 16, 2009, 9:04 pm

      Daisy, I’m sorry if I’ve made it sound more simple than it is. You’re right: it’s anything but. If I had been dealing with the symptoms I am now when I was 17, I would have been lost, and they are nowhere near your son’s challenges. One of the reasons they are bearable is because I am an adult with a decade of trial and error behind me.

      • Daisy November 17, 2009, 6:31 pm

        Josh, you didn’t make it sound simple. Don’t put yourself down. I feel that your blog shows the complexity of living with Tourette’s – emphasis on living, not on Tourette’s. I think it’s easier for me to face hearing loss than deaf kids, but I also think they have a more openminded generation around them. My coworkers tend to wonder if I can really handle all the challenges that teaching throws my way. Well, I have, for 14 years.