Just about everything falls apart at some point


Not all at once, but with use and years, parts fail.  Whether it’s a car, a dishwasher, or our bodies, time takes its toll.  What are we to do with that nugget of reality?

In the youth of anything, man or machine, fixes are routine.  There are problems, and then there are solutions that are close to making things perfect again.  The older the dishwasher, the less likely it will be returned to “like new” condition.  What about us?

As a nurse of 40 years, if I had a dime for every time I’ve heard, “I leave that up to my doctor, I don’t bother with the details,” or “My wife knows what medications I’m on, I leave that up to her” I’d be rich.  Why do some folks know more about the condition of their car than their own bodies, and pay inordinate attention to things that will rust and decay?

We live in a cure-focused world. 

How often have you heard “there must be something they can do,” even in the direst circumstances?  Much of our life experience is zooming down the highway of life in the passing lane, getting as much fixed as possible.  We age and face McPherson Struts that need replacement or a faulty transmission.  Eventually, the mechanic tells us that the car can only be driven in the travel lane.  The passing lane…is in the past. 

Instead of eliminating a medical issue through the “cure” of pharmacy, surgery, or treatment, we move to a middle lane called management.  The CDC reports that 60% of American adults are living with chronic illnesses that cannot be cured.  Fear not if you are among this unenviable group, as am I.  We are not powerless. 

The failures and breakdowns in the body are at some point not “fixable,” but they can be totally manageable.

How?  The first step is to accept that whatever “it” is, you may well be stuck with it.  If that’s not the case, great—congrats.  However, if it is, a strategy will be required.  For example, you have been diagnosed with X.  The specialist for X has given you a treatment plan that will only work if you are committed to it.

Lack of medication compliance is the number one reason that many adult Americans’ manageable illnesses become out of control.  Partnership is required to achieve the best results, meaning the medical team does their part, and you do yours. 

In truth, I don’t know any 70-year-olds, or even 60-year-olds, who are not “managing” a health issue that requires regular specialist appointments and adherence to a plan crafted to prevent the condition from escalating.  The general public’s expectations may be, “They are making such advances in medicine; I’m waiting for the cure to come around.”  That may be true, but what is available today?

Changing the mindset from cure to manage is a powerful one. 

It serves us well, and like the popular Polar Plunge, it is a well-meaning wake-up call. The power in your new mindset is to ENGAGE with your circumstance, stop hating it, and partner up with it. 

“OK, vascular system, we have some high blood pressure here. Rather than hate you, let’s be friends. Let me see what helps you and what makes you worse. In my effort to accept that we are stuck with each other, what do I have in my toolbox? Less coffee, taking my meds, turning off the news, checking my blood pressure regularly, and more walking?”

Your most powerful tool in managing your chronic condition isn’t intervention—it’s your head. Stop wasting time resenting whatever you have.  Breaking News: it won’t help.  You have the opportunity to “physician, heal thyself.”  We forget we can be healed without being cured.

Think on that, and as our friends in the 12-step program say, “Accept the things I cannot change, change the things that I can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.” 

Bonne Santé!