To my readers,
I have recently entered a new blog topic called “Viewpoints.” This is for my opinions and my writing which explores more than the science of health and well-being. Please understand that the clinician in me prefers to stick to the science as that helps me understand the ‘why’ of things. However, in experiences of love, grief, loss and death (things that have encompassed my life recently) the science does little to soothe my heart. Rob Bell (In the Beginning) says, “The Bible is mostly written in mythos language. . . . Good religion traffics in mythos. . . . Mythos language is for that which is more than literally true. . . . Evolutionary science does an excellent job of explaining why I don’t have a tail. It just doesn’t do so well explaining why I find that interesting!” I suppose what I am saying is that at times, I personally need something more than science to express the “more-than-factual meaning” of my current life experiences. I hope not to offend any readers nor lose my credibility, but mostly that you may remain open to the concept that there is something bigger albeit unknown involved in your life to give you hope, whatever that looks like to you.
Dr. Carolyn Dolan, DPT
hope: (noun) 1) a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen; 2) a feeling of trust
hopelessness: (noun) 1) a feeling or state of despair; lack of hope
I am not sure you, the only reader of the SOAR blog, have noticed, but it’s been quite a while since my last blog or podcast or really anything…but thank you for hanging in there. This past fall and winter have been and continues to be in a word….challenging. I am not asking for a pitty party or even really go into much detail at this point as I appreciate that every single one of us has challenges even if we eat our fruits and vegetables. Healthy eating can only go so far.
A recent conversation with one of my best friends was incredibly revealing. We both are going through challenging times albeit in different states and different circumstances. Yet, there are many parallels in how our individual challenges are affecting us emotionally. As we discussed our current challenges it became clear the very stark difference between us. In her case, she had hope. In my case, I was hopeless. The difference here is subtle but substantial.
Four years ago I embarked on a health and wellness journey to share with the world, particularly health care providers. I began preparing myself with information including going back to school to get another degree. I wrote a book. I started a blog. I started a podcast. I was passionate….hopeful even…about changing the face of the health care system one health care provider at a time. I even focused on a thesis project that my husband’s surgical practice could use in their recovery process to reduce the need of addictive opiates and NSAID’s that impair healing. I took this program to the surgical group and even to a local hospital so optimistic given my research as well as patient testimonials on its effectiveness that I thought there was no reason to be denied. And yet….here I am, denied for various reasons.
None of the reasons make logical sense, but I am denied nonetheless.
I wasn’t denied because I lacked credentials. I wasn’t denied because the program didn’t work. My best guess, I was denied because of fear. I will never understand the fear response from the allopathic health care community. Unfortunately, I responded in kind….in fear. My fear though is based on my lost hope and feelings of inadequacy as a result of my denial. It’s complicated, of course, as psychology often is.
I lost hope that the health care system is willing to change for the better based on the new science behind lifestyle medicine. Honestly, two years ago, when I embarked on furthering my education, I had hope, if not trust and expectation that allopathic health care would change because it is desperately needed. Yet it may have been an unrealistic expectation or misplaced hope and here I am left feeling in a state of despair…hopeless.
I like visual analogies, so bare with me. If we imagine a tree full of apples where each apple represents a health care participant from MD to pharmacist to insurance to patient. I imagined the doctors and hospital administrators were at the top of this tree. I needed to climb to the top of the tree to have an effect on the lower hanging apples, the patients. As I climbed to the top of the tree, apples fell and hit me in the head and even knocked me out of the tree resulting in my starting over again.
A mentor once said to me, “Success comes from helping the low hanging fruit.” Up until now, I mostly rejected this concept because I sought rapid change and that wasn’t going to happen with the low hanging fruit. And yet, here I am…bruised, hopeless and on the ground far away from those top apples.
In my efforts to support my friend in her challenging situation, I told her to focus on the bright spots in her life to help guide her through the darkness. Things like her kids, her dog, the sun, prayer, a hug or a smile from a stranger or whatever small gift was there. It didn’t mean you couldn’t be sad, but the bright spots will help guide you through the darkness.
As my friend described further where her bright spots in her dark situation came from she said, “The difference between you and I is you have lost hope where I still have a seed of hope. Where is your seed of hope?”
Stunned, I could understand immediately that she was right. I started to research hope. As you can imagine it lead me to scripture. I found a blog written by John Eldredege president of Ransomed Heart. John writes:
“Hope is one of the Three Great Treasures of the human heart: “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love” (1 Cor 13:13). A life without faith has no meaning; a life without love simply isn’t worth living; but a life without hope is a dark cavern from which you never escape. These things aren’t simply “virtues.” Faith, hope and love are mighty forces. And hope is the cornerstone; the fate of the other two depend upon hope’s resilience:
... we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus
and of the love you have for all God’s people
—the faith and love that spring from hope... (Col 1:3-5)”
Further he writes that:
“…both our faith and our love “spring from” or “result from” our hope. But of course. Hopelessness makes it impossible to care. Without hope faith is just a doctrine gathering dust on our shelves. The highest things that make a heart worth having and a life worth living—they rise or fall upon the condition of our hope. Which makes hope the mightiest force of all (love is the noblest; hope is the linchpin.)”
I have been in the darkness of hopelessness making it hard to have faith and hard to love.
How do I get hope back?
If we go back to the apple tree. Instead of a hierarchy, we view the apples as simply a community of people…of neighbors…of friends…of simple humans scattered randomly in the tree. Suddenly, I see the way to get back to hope.
The low hanging fruit.
The one's I don't have to sacrifice myself to help.
As I climbed before, I missed those that were ready, willing and looking.
My grandfather once showed me how to check and see if the fruit was ready to be picked in our orchard which contained pear and apple trees. You gently grasp the fruit in your hand and place your index finger on the stem. There is a spot where the stem meets the branch. As you gently pivot around that sweet spot where your finger tip lies, if the fruit is ready, it will ‘snap’ off. It the apple isn’t ready, it won’t ‘snap’...it bends and you move on to the next one. Sometimes, when you 'snap' an apple off and the branch wiggles, others ready to come off may fall so be ready with your other hand to catch them in the air to keep them from bruising on the ground. To do this, you must be stable and secure in order to respond. On the ground or on a stable ladder....not climbing the branches.
If I shift my focus and stand firmly on the ground then I can catch more apples before they fall to the ground or even help those ready before they fall.
Suddenly, as if the universe responded to my request to restore my hope, I found bright spots from the low hanging fruit around me in the form of feedback or testimonials.
“Carolyn, I have been gluten free, alcohol free, sugar free for 30 days and I feel great! I mean great! So simple. I even asked a friend, ‘Have you read Carolyn’s book? Of course you didn’t know she wrote a book. You should read her book.’”
“Carolyn, you are making an impact. Even after 3 years, my mom is finally making changes to improve her Rheumatoid Arthritis. It took a while, but it’s finally happening.”
“Carolyn, that patient who I did an ACL revision on who used your supplement program said he didn’t take any opiates or pain meds during recovery. He feels better after this surgery over any others.”
“Carolyn, thank you for the recommended neck exercises with the supplements. I think it really helped after my shoulder manipulation.”
-Wait…is that hope?
“Carolyn, I really enjoyed the supplements and focused my energy on eating a whole foods breakfast every day and my recovery is going well without need for opiates.”
“Carolyn, your SOAR Into Healing program really helped me be brave enough to get off of my daily use of NSAIDs and allergy meds. The best part is I don’t have my chronic pain anymore.”
"Carolyn, I finally did the 'Whole 30' and I have broken up with diet coke for good. I treat it like heroin. I am done. My brain fog is gone now too."
-Maybe I am hope-full now.
On this new apple tree, the low hanging fruit could be a doctor or a nurse or hospital administrator or a neighbor. There is no hierarchy; only apples. Climbing or shaking the tree doesn’t change the whole tree. It only strains the branches and misses the apples ready to be picked.
Gabrielle Bernstein writes in her book Judgement Detox:
“The quickest pathway to living in the light is to recognize the light wherever you are.”
When you look beyond those around you, you miss the opportunity to see the bright spots to light the path back to hope. Restoring hope requires only to look at the bright spots right in front of you.
Remove. Replace. Restore.
Replace connect to the bright spots in front of you. They are there if you only allow yourself to see them.
Eat Well. Move Well. Sleep Well. Connect Well…..SOAR on.
Thank you to all my friends, patients and clients for being the bright spots to help me through the darkness so I could find my way back to hope. Thank you to Crossfit Initiative for always reminding me of my progress. It still stuns me that I gain so much from this little gym. Thank you to mentors like Robb Wolf and Joe Tatta for being willing to share your time and kind feedback. Thank you to my best friend for sharing this challenging space with me with such grace. Thank you especially to my children for being bright spots. Thank you to my husband for your consistent optimism and faith.
Dr Carolyn Dolan DPT, Cert MDT, MSHN
Where physical therapy, nutrition and lifestyle meet, because how you live your life determines whether or not you soar. Inspiring action with information so you can reduce pain, optimize healing and improve function naturally during recovery from injury, surgery or painful condition. This is a website for the open-minded; obstinate need not apply.