Anyone can win at poker when dealt a royal flush. But what can you do when the cards you are dealt don’t appear winning at all? My answer: Make the best of what you have.
Recently I learned of a colleague who sustained a broken back in an accident. He continues to work, wearing a brace and not taking pain medication. I know from watching his videos that he routinely handles the most complicated eye surgeries. Such cases are challenging to any seasoned ophthalmologist, without physical constraints and constant pain. This internationally renowned eye surgeon dubbed his constant pain “background noise.” How on earth has he maintained a positive attitude despite such a major setback?
His remarks provide us with much insight. He is grateful for the fact that he can still perform tasks required of his profession and skill set. He recognizes that many others deal with even more limiting conditions. Regarding such major limitations, it is all relative. But relative to what?
For my colleague, it became an issue of mind over matter. Our minds can overcome many kinds of bodily assaults. In his case, he can anticipate the time when his body will heal, and he will be able to enjoy freedom of movement without a back brace. The light at the end of the tunnel may appear far away, but he will advance toward it methodically, determined to regain normal function. His mind can overcome the immediate challenges to dedicate his efforts to work toward resolution. It probably helps that he has a history of surviving rigorous medical training en route to his current position! The work that he is doing gives meaning and satisfaction despite the pain that he undergoes every moment of every day and every night.
Playing the hand you are dealt the best you can underscores the human capacity not just to survive but also to thrive.
Paul Pender is an ophthalmologist and can be reached at his self-titled site, Dr. Paul Pender. He is the author of Rebuilding Trust in Healthcare: A Doctor’s Prescription for a Post-Pandemic America.
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