While working with clients, I try to do everything possible to help them return to all their “normal” activities. We’ll typically have conversations about doing things differently or even giving up some of their usual activities, and those conversations are not always easy ones. I’ll say things like, “The system is just not perfect anymore,” and most of the time it seems to help them realize their limitations. At times, though, my clients have been absolutely resistant to making any changes in their “normal” routines. I knew that making modifications would make their lives easier or less painful and, still, some resisted.

I have had to heed this message myself. In my twenties, I tore ligaments and cartilage in my knee. That resulted in having to wear a brace for any hiking, skiing or rock climbing that I did. Then in my thirties, I broke my kneecap badly enough to have half of it removed. Going forward, I had to be more careful in all my sports, yet I continued to do them all. By my fifties, I started to realize my “system was just not perfect anymore.” I gradually did less and learned to be even more careful. In the last year, the lawn has taken two days instead of one day to mow. I might now do half a day of yard work and then rest. Walking is okay as long as there are no hills. These changes happened over time and yet each one was relatively easy to adjust to, as long as I was open to changing routines.

I have fought this change for a long time now, and finally, I traded in my stick shift for a manual.

Then I finally needed to give up my stick shift car; I have been driving one since I learned to drive. I love driving a stick shift because there was always something to do. I had to pay attention more acutely and I enjoyed the challenge of driving those windy back roads, while driving them well. I have fought this change for a long time now, and finally, I traded in my stick shift for a manual.

Now when I am discussing changes my clients are resistant to, I understand. I think of my own struggle to fully understand that my “system was just not perfect anymore.” It’s not always about not doing what we love to do—it’s often about doing things differently.

Maggie Donohue, PT

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