Can’t you show me nothing but surrender? It’s a quote from Patti Smith’s punk poem/anthem Land. I’ve already written all about the song, so I’ll spare you my unabashed praise, I just want to use the quote as my jumping off point for some thoughts about new year resolutions. Surrender: As used in the song, an angel admonishes a boy just assaulted: Fight back, bitch!
Surrender is a strange word for me. I think generally (almost universally) it has negative connotations: to give up, to quit. My wife Susan, steeped in Buddhist teachings, meditation and yoga has a different interpretation. For her, to surrender means to accept. Possibly, this is the same thing, or at least has the same outcome, essentially, to stop fighting, but the internal motivation is different.
Marriage, if done right, is a learning exercise. Give and take / teach and absorb. Both people grow. I’m not sure if I hold up my end of the equation, if I offer as much as I receive, but I’m certain I’m a better person as a result of my twenty-five-year marriage. Most recently, I’ve learned to surrender.
I feel like the entirety of the past few years has been a battle. Arising, recurring and escalating medical issues keep me in perennial fix-it mode. Recovery from injuries and concerns over health degradation seem to take up most of my brain power. And you know what? I complain a lot. I complain to myself. I complain to others. I complain to all of you who read my blog.
My mantra through this period has been fight back, bitch, and it’s gotten me nowhere.
This morning, I went to work for a while. December 30, eight in the morning. Desolate. The only other person in the building was Erica. I sat in my office, puzzling over a problem, something I hoped to knock out quickly. I struggled. My planned approach was flawed. I grunted. Over and over, maybe constantly, reminiscent of a lawnmower with a gunked-up air filter. Hrunh, Hrunh, Hrunh.
My Tourette syndrome symptoms increase when I’m stressed. Grunting is one of my most common tics. Any minute, I knew Erica would walk into my office. She always stops by to talk. She would catch me grunting.
Surrender popped into my head. I have Tourette. It’s part of who I am. Fighting it is useless, it only makes me more stressed, and then I grunt even more. I suddenly thought Who cares if she catches me? It’s not a secret. They must see me squish my eyes together all the time. They must see me stick out my tongue. This is no different. Accept! Just be me.
It occurred to me that I could surrender to all my medical crap. On September third, I fell off my bike and dislocated my shoulder. I fairly screwed it up. I’ve had the same injury at least six or seven times in the past, and recovery typically takes a couple of weeks—not fully healed but at least fully functional. This time it’s taking months.
My knee jerk reaction was to fight the injury. To deny the severity and plan for another quick recovery. As time passed, my disappointment increased. The healing crept at a glacial pace. My doctor studied the MRI and gave me an unoptimistic prognosis. He talked about the possibility of surgery. I sulked. My injury was ruining my life.
Eventually, and without noticing, I surrendered. I stopped fighting the injury and began to accept it. I didn’t change my approach at all. I still dogmatically completed my physical therapy every day. I continued to pass when asked to lift heavy objects. But I stopped complaining. I stopped sulking.
As a sixty-year-old, I’ve got it pretty good. I’m fit and I’m often mistaken as almost decade younger than I am. Sure, I’ve got medical conditions to monitor and tweak, but all in all, I can do the things I want to do. If I need to adapt sometimes, that needs to be okay with me.
This afternoon, I went mountain biking with my kids. It’s the first time I’ve ridden off-road in four months. We picked the tamest trail we know, but it’s fast and undulating and fun to ride. For the time being, I’ve accepted that the gnarly, rocky, root-strewn trails that I’m used to are off limits. My shoulder can’t handle the jarring, and for God’s sake, I can’t handle another fall. But today I learned I can still have fun.
For 2023, at least on the medical front, I plan to surrender. Not give up, but to accept. Fight back, bitch looks good on paper, but as a medical strategy, it’s proved to be exhausting and ineffective. As I work to correct or improve these problems, instead of fighting, I can do my best to coexist with these issues I can’t control. If nothing else, I won’t feel so stressed.
Previously Published on jefftcann.com and republished on Medium.
Photo credit: iStock