Stay on Target

by Ian Doescher


Stay on Target, Stay on Target!

Back in August, I tried to start a lawnmower (that didn’t want to be started), and pulled and pulled on the starter cord until, finally, the cord stopped midway through a pull and <BANG> my shoulder was yanked in a way shoulders aren’t supposed to be. As a result, for the first time in my life I’m in physical therapy.

When I think of physical therapy, I imagine heroic scenes in movies where someone walks for the first time after being told they never would again. I imagine trumpets and fanfare—some sweat, sure, but far more reward. Those of you who have done physical therapy may, at this point, be laughing at what I thought it would be like. Physical therapy is hard work. You visit a person who identifies, in painstaking detail, the exactly muscle or tendon or ligament that is giving you a problem. Once identified, they do everything they can to focus on that one spot through exercises, stretches and, as my physical therapist Carolyn puts it, controlled trauma. “Controlled trauma” basically means she intentionally massages on my hurt spot and makes it worse, because ultimately that’s supposed to make it better.

Between my appointment yesterday and my appointment two weeks ago, I was—for the first time, honest!—really bad about doing my exercises. I knew I hadn’t done a good job, and I dreaded telling Carolyn the truth. She didn’t give me too hard of a time—after all, I can’t possibly be the first person who has failed her in this regard—but she did politely point out that the shoulder will only heal if the exercises continue.

I foresee a day, somewhere down the line, when my shoulder won’t hurt anymore. After about 6 weeks of physical therapy, I can tell the difference. My shoulder and my arm are getting stronger and my shoulder doesn’t hurt as much anymore. Progress is being made. That said, this is one of those times in life when I know I have to stay on target (to quote Porkins from Star Wars) to get something totally done. There’s no glory in this. No one will be cheering for me at the finish line, no one except me will ever see the result of the work I’m doing right now, no one will even notice. (With the possible exception of my wife, who will hear me whine about my shoulder less. But I’ll be whining about something else, so she may not even notice, either.) This one is all for me, and I have to stick with it for it to get better. It’s not fun, doing the exercises is a chore in addition to being a literal pain. But in order to heal, it’s also necessary.

When have you had to stay on target? What helped you push to the end? Last question: will you help me start my lawnmower when I finally get up the nerve?

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