There are no don’ts
Two seemingly unrelated things happened recently.
The first random thing: I bought a new pair of boots for winter. They are tall, black, 14-hole lace-ups. In other words, ass-kicking boots.
Kind of reminds me of when I was a teenager. Back then I wore combat boots from the army surplus store. They were held together by staples, the soles were hard as rock, and they killed my feet.
God, I still miss those boots.
Anyway, here’s the second unrelated thing: I went to the hospital for my annual cardiology appointment.
During these appointments they check my pacemaker to make sure it’s working okay and tell me how many years of battery it probably has left. It’s a bit like having a countdown clock hooked up to your heart and I can’t say I love the experience. But I try to be a good sport.
So why are these two random things actually related to each other?
Well, I didn’t wear my new boots to the appointment. (It was warm that day.)
But fifteen or twenty years ago things would have been different.
As a kid, anything to do with my dysfunctional heart made me feel weak and vulnerable as shit. Walking into the hospital and being treated like a feeble 80 year old patient made me feel humiliated.
Luckily I had a coat of armour.
I had those great combat boots, laced up tall. And conveniently I had a whole closet full of punk clothes to go along with them.
Not to mention the attitude. I brought my defences along to every appointment.
I probably treated the doctors and nurses like they’d arrested me for a crime I didn’t commit. But that’s kind of how it felt.
Today, things are different.
Today I go in to the appointment like a regular person. I’m a good 50 years younger than the average person, so I still stand out. Admittedly, I am wearing my favourite leather jacket. But I’m not carrying around a cinderblock-sized chip on my shoulder.
I tell the doctor about my athletic endeavours. He’s supportive of my boxing training (“just try not to get punched right in the chest”), strength training, sprinting and anything else I want to try.
He left our brief meeting with this message: "there are no don'ts."
“There are no don’ts.”
“Do anything you want to do,” he adds.
I felt a bit stunned by this wide-open blessing. The bigness of it. And the ease with which he’d granted me the permission of all possibility.
I left thinking about all the times I came to appointments like this, afraid of being told what I couldn’t do. Afraid of limitations, real or imagined. Bulking myself up, preemptively; layering myself with leather toughness.
And here, all along, I could do almost anything I wanted.
In saying “there are no don’ts,” the doctor was effectively saying: “there is no war here.”
There is no battle to fight.
In my younger years, I had the story wrong.
I thought I had to fight for my freedom. But the freedom was already there. Just chillin’ out, waiting for me to come claim it.
Funny thing about the stories we tell about ourselves: they’re often wrong.
So if you ever feel like you’re in a battle – whether it’s with your body, your boss, or the whole big bad world – ask yourself what you’re fighting for.
Is it possible you already won the prize?