Saturday, April 19, 2014

Stoicism

How tough are you?  How well do you respond to hardship?  Are you strong or weak?

I know the answer about myself.  I'm tough.  I'm stoic.  I endure pain, suffering and mental stress better than most people.  Compared to your average overfed, lazy, middle-aged suburban man, I'm tough.

Let me give you an example.  Six weeks ago, I had a motorcycle accident.  I didn't tell you (or anyone else) the full extent of my injuries.  I fell on my right arm and twisted it badly under the weight of my body.  For a month after the accident, I had excruciating pain every time I touched something or simply put  my hand in my pocket.  Since I'm right-handed, searing pain occurred about every hour.  I couldn't write or type without suffering.

Yet I didn't miss a day of work.  I even conducted a trial a week after the accident.  I can't shake hands without wincing in pain, but showed up for battle regularly. 

My blogging barely slowed down.  I conceived creative, fun posts about a variety of subjects.  I learned to eat with my left hand.  I drove Gina with my left hand reaching across my body to move the stick-shift.

Despite this daily misery, I refrained from complaining online.  I didn't whine about my situation.  I didn't ask for sympathy.  I just pushed forward.

A week or two ago, my right arm started to heal.  I can move my wrist and forearm again.  There's still pain but I'm back to doing things.  Yesterday, I got on my motorcycle and rode for an hour.  It hurts to twist the throttle but I can bear that.  It feels good to be flying in the wind again.

An article in the new issue of The New Yorker describes how the best cave-explorers in the world climb miles underground, in the dark, for up to 14 days.  Without knowing what's in front of them, they squeeze through tiny spaces, fall down tall heights, wrestle with animal-life and bacteria, injure themselves -- and push forward on their mission.  They endure almost-constant suffering to do what they set out to do.  These guys are tough.  Compared to them, I'm a wimp.

How tough are you?  How well do you climb back from adversity?

23 comments:

  1. I'm tough and resilient. It's a trait I inherited from my mother. It's both a boon and a burden.

    Strange that you posted this today. There have been some tough times in my household in the last two years, which makes me go into super-tough survival mode. I can be hard to live with when I'm like this.This morning I was lying in bed contemplating my state and how it effects my relationship. I had a light bulb moment...when times are tough he loves me harder...when times are tough I close myself off - the vulnerability of loving is weakness. Weakness is not allowed.
    So I vowed to open myself up to the vulnerability of love when times are tough. It's a choice that makes me want to cry, because feeling weak makes me scared.

    Lisa.

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    1. I understand, Lisa. I've learned that making ourselves emotionally open is actually strength even though it feels like weakness; being vulnerable is the toughest thing of all. If something makes you scared (like this does), then that's a sign it's hard. Be proud of pushing through the fear.

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  2. I like to think I'm tough, though certainly not as tough as you. I like to think I'm emotionally tough, as well, although I could be wrong on both accounts. I guess it's all relative.

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    1. I believe your last sentence is correct. Nobody thinks they're weak, even people who are babies. You impress me as tough. When I visit Chicago, I want you to be my bodyguard!

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  3. This post had me thinking...I think I am something in the middle, I feel weak sometimes but the truth is that I can be tough when I need to be ! I admire you for being tough and not whiny ! Glad to hear you're feeling better now, anyway. I wish you a happy Easter ! Hugs

    Fashion and Cookies

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  4. Truthfully I know I am strong, and resilient, but that does not mean unfeeling or uncaring which it is often mistaken for. As I accompany my significant other on his chemo-journey I realise increasingly that this strength and stoicism will carry us both through. Though truth be told I do wonder if at the end of it all I might crumble in a heap. Take care on your bike and on your journey. Easter wishes to you and yours.

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  5. That's terrible you have been in such pain! But a real credit to your tenacity and stoicism to keep going.x

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  6. I'm one of those who pushes through the pain, though I find that chronic pain really does wear me down. I'm also one of those people who gets VERY calm and clear-headed in an emergency. I'm so sorry to hear you've been in pain, but am glad to hear it's resolving.

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  7. Yeeeeeeoooow that's some nasty injury you've been carrying there Ally! Good on you for battling through it - respect. My grandad was a motorcycle racer and he was always injuring himself, getting up and back on his bike, riding through the pain. It was the desire to go faster and faster that made him keep going. You may have seen his story in the film The World's Fastest Indian? If not, this is probably a great time to watch it. Big hugs xoxoxoxo

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    1. Your grandad was Burt Munro? Really?

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  8. Physical pain is the worst when it continues long :( ! Am glad you feel better now.

    I have no idea if I'm tough or not, but at least I can act stoic when it comes to difficulties nowadays :P. I recently read about the stoic philosophy and that's actually a good way to think about life - just that if the stoicity goes over the edge it might look like you don't give a shit about anything / anyone :D

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  9. I am so sorry you have had to suffer in silence. Although it is not good to complain sometimes it will ease your burden if you can tell someone about it.

    I would consider myself pretty tough. I've been run off a road while riding a moped in Portugal and crashed on the road while wearing shorts. The drivers didn't stop. Other people did. I was stitched up without painkillers in a very small hospital without any modern conveniences and taken to the hospital in the back of a station wagon. My arm became infected after that and I had to have some guy that "claimed" to be studying to be a Dr. that we met while in Spain take out the stitches and clean it for me. The area was obviously infected and had begun to turn green but I couldn't bring myself to touch it.

    I had a standard surgery go horribly wrong last year that almost killed me and I'm still dealing with the after effects, which sadly I believe will stay with me for life.

    My husband also almost died last year when diagnosed with kidney cancer while coming out of surgery they overdosed him and he went into a coma. He doesn't remember a thing. I remember it all.

    I've lived through many strange and not always pleasant things when I travelled on my own but I have become the person I am because of it.

    I have had fibromyalgia and have had it for some 25 years now. Along with a herniated disc in my back and degenerative discs in my neck, probably from carrying around a 100 lb backpack for years. It was the horrible surgery from last year that made me realize how good I've got it.

    Eesh...this is turning into a novel...sorry about that : ) I guess I feel better when I share.

    Big hugs and I'm happy to hear you are back on your bike. I know how much joy that brings you.

    bisous
    Suzanne

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    1. Sorry to hear your woes, Suzanne. You have my sympathy.

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  10. Wow. Okay the fitness trainer in me says that you should do some rehab on your wrist. You can do it at home but it will help strengthen it. I'd like to think I'm pretty tough...does dancing on pointe with a broken toe and torn hamstring count?
    xo
    styleontheside.com

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  11. I'm a total wimp, but it depends. I also feel strong. One of the reasons I love getting my tattoos is they make me feel like I survived something, survived the pain.

    They remind me that I've gone through hardships, and healed.

    Echoing some of the other comments, don't forget to slowly work out your wrist/arm. Having had a broken arm myself once, you're only as good as your physical therapy!

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  12. I am delighted to hear that you have healed enough to get back on your bike again.

    As MaggleBish said ... I guess it's all relative ~ If you give us all the exact same battle to fight we will all come out on the other side in a different frame of mind.

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  13. I'm sorry to hear that you were in such pain! I give you a great deal of credit for pressing on though! I feel physically I am rather strong - I gave birth to Oliver naturally, no pain medication. Emotionally though I do struggle at times.

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  14. I am sorry to hear that you are still so sore and hurting, but glad that you are feeling a little better. Kyle was just asking how you were yesterday when we were out with Louie. This post reminds me of Gloria Estefan, when she got into that horrible accident and was told that she might not ever walk again. And yet, she can still "Conga" like never before.

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  15. It's hard to say how tough you are until you've really been tried...

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  16. I am a soufflé, one loud noise and I fall! I am glad that you are feeling better, and I'm sorry that your injury was so severe.

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  17. i like to consider myself tough...i'm a single mom of two, lol! but seriously, i've always felt strong mentally and physically, have a high tolerance for pain, and with no physical/financial help, had to stay strong for my kids. as my mom would say...you're a mom, you don't get to cry anymore. she's a tough one, my mom. BUT, i know there are others battling worse situations. and as pink cheetah says above, you don't know how tough you really are until you've been tried.

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  18. I am stoic too, once I received an email from a good friend that was all about this specific topic.
    I think its a facade we put up, not knowingly and as a form of defense... but we crack sometimes, I know I do.

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