Yesterday I had knee surgery. An arthroscopic clean out and lateral release of the knee cap. It went well and the surgeon’s happy. It was the third operation I’ve had on that knee and I’ll get the same procedure on the other knee in about six weeks, for the second time.
The surgery was minor and should give me some relief from my knee pain.
But it wasn’t all good news.
“The surgery I performed on your knees 11 years ago brought you some good time, but it looks like that time is now up,” the surgeon told me solemnly when I was back in recovery.
“Your knees are severely arthritic. You’re going to have to be very careful about what sport and training you do from now on.”
Exercise is a massive part of my life. It plays an important role in both my physical and mental health. I love high intensity interval training (HIIT), netball umpiring, and my favourite is obstacle racing. Spartan Race and Tough Mudder are my happy places. They may now all be out of the question. I’ll find out more at my post-op review in a couple of weeks.
It sucks and I’m disappointed. I was looking forward to recovering from surgery and getting back into everything I love. I had hoped to start running again by joining a new local Park Run in a few months’ time. I had set the end of the year as my goal for taking part in another obstacle race.
Now it looks like neither of those things will happen.
I’m allowed to be sad. I’m sure I’ll go through a grieving process over the coming months as I come to terms with the changes it means for my life. And that’s ok. Those feelings are normal and I’m allowed to acknowledge them.
But in the wake of this news and as I recover at home today, I’m reminded that this is just another learning opportunity – the chance to put one of my biggest life lessons to the test: I can be a victim or the creator of my life – the choice is mine.
As a victim, I could sit here thinking ‘poor me’. I could feel powerless, hopeless, helpless, and sorry for myself, saying useless things like ‘why me?’ and ‘life’s not fair’.
I could look at my knees and feel anger, viewing them as my persecutor – something to blame.
I could focus on the problem (bad news, bad knees) and react to it automatically without thinking.
I could waste my time worrying about something I have no control over.
If I chose that path I wouldn’t be alone. Being a victim is a common response to things that happen in life – be it something minor like having to alter the way you exercise because your knees are shot, or something major like disease, death, marriage breakdown, or disaster.
Many people don’t even realise they’re responding from a victim orientation, they just forget they have a choice. They forget they have the power to be the creator of their life. They forget that no matter what it is, or how bad it gets, they can choose how they respond to life’s challenges.
You can’t control a lot of what happens in life, but you can control how you respond to it.
That’s not to say it’s easy. Oh no, not at all.
Being a creator rather than a victim takes incredible courage, resilience, strength and control. And you won’t always get it right.
Victim or creator, you will experience extreme sadness, sorrow, fear, anger, grief, and anxiety in your life. Of course you will. Bad things will happen and you’ll struggle with those feelings – and that’s ok; you’re allowed to feel them.
But if you’re a creator, you’ll choose to move forward despite them.
So how do you do that? How do you move from being a victim to a creator?
It’s as simple and as difficult as realising you have a choice, and then making it.
It involves making a conscious decision about how you respond to life’s challenges each and every day, and then being aware of the choices you make.
Creators focus on the outcomes they want, victims focus on the problems they face.
It takes practice and discipline, but it can be done. You have to train your brain.
For me today, it means focussing on the outcome of getting back to as much exercise as I can without further damaging my knees, rather than the problem of my knees being shot and having to give up some of the things I love.
Choosing one path will move me forward, choosing the other will hold me back.
And so, I make the choice. I create the life I want, one decision at a time.
Because even when you feel powerless, you are in fact powerful.
*To read more about the roles of victim and creator, I recommend reading ‘The Power of TED* The Empowerment Dynamic’ by David Emerald. This book discusses the Dreaded Drama Triangle and its roles of victim, persecutor and rescuer; versus The Empowerment Dynamic of creator, challenger and coach.
Leah Mether is a communications specialist, trainer, and professional speaker with her own business, Methmac Communications.
To learn more about Leah’s work and her upcoming workshops, or to read more from her blog visit www.methmac.com.au.