Resets for the New Year

by Robin Bush,  ISR Communications

“Don’t let a health setback become a new health set-point.”

– Kay Van Norman

Throughout our lives, there are times when an illness or injury impacts our daily life – remember that time you fell off a horse at age 7, tore your ACL skiing at 22, got pneumonia at 33, lost a parent, or got back spasms reaching for the phone three years ago at age 72? Events can be critical turning points, and the direction you choose can impact your mental and physical health for years to come.

One of the challenges in aging is deciding if a health setback is one you are forced to accept, one you choose, or one that is temporary, allowing you to return to what was.

Coming to grips with that decision takes courage because you may feel an emotional void if you can no longer do what you used to, or at least not yet. But, as Aristotle claimed in 300 B.C., “nature abhors a vacuum.”  “Something,” he said, “will always move in to fill the space.”  He wasn’t just talking about the natural world; he was also referring to human nature. When there is a vacancy, someone or something will step in to fill the void. Look around you. Remain open to new opportunities; that will lessen your focus on the barriers. It takes determination to sustain yourself through the healing process and to ensure setbacks don’t threaten your vitality.

When my great-aunt was in a car accident, it left her unable to walk without assistance; she thought it would be the end of everything that gave her life meaning. The recuperation process was slow; it took over a year before she could even walk around her home. Were her days of managing church bazaars over? What about standing for hours of cooking turkeys for holiday meals for those in need? Or the volunteer work she did at the local thrift store. She understood those things might not be possible for a long while, but she was determined to make this a reset, not a setback. She discovered what would fill the void. She began sewing costumes for the local elementary school plays and signed up as an online reading tutor for a 9-year-old struggling in school. She could do both of those activities from home, and they provided meaningful interaction and connection with others throughout her day.

Most importantly, these new activities gave her a sense of purpose. She told me she’d discovered that these new activities that had come into her life due to the accident were some of the most meaningful things she had ever done; they brought her joy every day. “Nothing ever stays the same,” she used to say, but she found a way to make her setback into a positive reset point. She couldn’t go back, but she was certainly moving forward. “It’s all in your perspective. Out with the old and in with the new” were some of her best words of advice to me. I wonder if she realized how much she was proving Aristotle was right.