The concept of ‘workarounds’ has been coming up rather frequently in conversations of late. To clarify, by ‘workaround’ I mean the action taken to work around something that gets in the way, or is simply not working at all, rather than addressing the problem or issue in the first place.
What happens is that the workaround eventually becomes the norm, sometimes to the degree that we no longer remember what the original issue was. Then when the work around no longer works, another workaround is created to work around the workaround. And on it goes. Sometimes becoming folklore or lasting for generations.
(You might remember the story about the daughter who always cut the ends off any ham she was cooking. When asked why, she realised she did so because her mother always did. When she asked her mother why she cut the ends off the hams she cooked, mother replied it was because her mother always did. When the daughter asked her grandmother, she replied, “I cut the ends off the ham to make them fit in the pan I had”)
So how do wellbeing and workarounds come together? You may have noticed that as we ripen, various aspects of our wellbeing function less effectively. But if you’re like me, instead of noticing what’s not working early, joining the dots and doing something about it, we simply work around the issue. Cases in point:
• Dark shadows under the eyes – use concealer
• Food getting stuck in teeth – increase the flossing; get a new toothbrush
• Fingers stiff in the morning – rub in an anti-inflammatory cream
• Feeling physically sick with worry – keep busy instead
• Sore feet when wearing heels – wear lower heeled shoes
• Aching lower back from flat heels – wear higher heeled shoes
• Busy mind keeping you awake – get up and do some housework
• Sore knees when climbing stairs – take the lift
• Eyes not reading the menu well – extend the arms; brighten the lights
• Tight neck and shoulders – get an ‘elbow digging in’ massage
• Hips giving a twinge – go to an Osteopath for an adjustment
• Headache after lunch – take some painkillers
Get the idea? We may grumble or even laugh a bit about the particular issue but in the busy-ness of our lives, we tend to just get used to the workaround.
Depending on our nature, we may notice or think more about the issue, if it’s an unusual occurrence because it’s easier to spot the pain when we can think of a reason for it: “My shoulder got sore when I lifted that too-heavy bag into the overhead locker on the plane”. Decent reason for pain = relatively quick remedial action to be taken. Done. Fixed. Move on.
We may attach less significance to a recurring pain because it’s not caused by an event that we can clearly identify. And so we simply live with and work around it, not really noticing how bad it’s gotten unless we look back to a time when there was less pain or frequency of occurrence or inconvenience caused by the gradual deterioration. A friend who had major knee surgery remarked, about 6 weeks into her recovery, that she had lived with the pain and limitations of her knee for so long that she literally couldn’t remember what it felt like to be pain-free. It was liberating for her to consider possibilities for a more active future.
Last December, when contemplating my Ripenist Resolve for 2016, I wrote a ‘Niggle List’. From top to toe I identified the location of every niggle (e.g. right temple), the nature of it (e.g. sharp, shooting sucking-in-of-breath pain), the frequency (e.g. between 1 and 3 minutes; random occurrence; no discernible pattern), my work around (e.g. apply pressure to temple hard with eyes closed till the spasm passed), the impact on my quality of life (e.g. scary; mid-sentence-stopping) and what life without the niggle would provide (e.g. increased peace of mind and professionalism).
The contents of the list shocked me all the way to the Doctor, who, when presented with her own copy of it, not surprisingly informed me that it would take “quite some time” to work our way through it 😉
She also suggested that ignoring the niggles was a luxury only afforded to those in their youth “before they’ve figured out that they are no longer ten foot tall and bulletproof”.
So on that point well made, if there’s a niggle or two you are working around, may I suggest you pay attention – before your workaround becomes your way of life.
Got any Wellbeing Workarounds you’d like to share? Please do so below …