Saving Face

“God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another.”
William Shakespeare
Act 3, Scene 1 of Hamlet

I knew I was in trouble before I opened up my eyes this morning. I could feel that my eyelids were swollen before I attempted to wrench them apart. A trip to the mirror confirmed what my senses implied. My upper eyelids were elephantine. Worse, there were tender red patches beneath each eye. Worse still, tonight I’m scheduled to sit in front of a hundred or so paying audience members with a spotlight shining on this problematic face. Worst of all…it’s kind of my fault.
I write, “kind of,” because last night, when I applied my makeup, I hadn’t realized the potential for this consequence. I write, “my fault” because my neurologist had given me the opportunity to take an all-expense paid trip to the National Institutes of Health, (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, and get my rash seen by a dermatologist there. At the last minute, I’d chickened out, and had the NIH cancel my flight, because on that particular morning, my skin didn’t look so bad, nothing a little concealer couldn’t fix. I couldn’t stand the thought of flying all the way to Bethesda over a couple of little scaly patches that could be covered up with concealer. Believe it or not, I thought I was saving face. I couldn’t stand the possibility of being regarded as a hypochondriac.
Yeah, right. That hypochondriac option has been out for decades. Who did I think I was fooling?
I’m going to have to back up a bit. I’m going to have to be straight with you about a thing or two.
Starting with this: I set up this blog to share my experiences on an experimental medication for multiple sclerosis, DAC HYP. It’s only now that I notice that I’ve underplayed…as in, possibly haven’t mentioned…that I’ve experienced a side effect. That side effect is rash.
You might well ask, why not?
Here’s why not. I’ve got multiple sclerosis (MS) a horrible, and so far, incurable, degenerative neurological disease, and DAC HYP is the only medication I’ve taken—and I’ve taken plenty—that has actually served to stop the disease progression.
That’s pretty significant.
Rash? As side effects go, rash just hasn’t seemed that significant.
To put it into context, a potential side effect for a competing drug, Tysabri, is sudden death. So, yeah—rash. What of it?
I’d rather have a rash I can see than a brain lesion I can’t see. The choice to take the medication, and bear with the side effect, has been a no-brainer, at least for me. For a while there, I thought that anyone who saw things differently must just be more brain damaged than I am.
Two things have happened since I’ve started this blog that have changed the way I view the risk/benefit analysis of taking a drug that stops MS, yet causes rash.
Thing One: after years and years and years on this drug, I finally did get one—and only one—new brain lesion. And still, as far as I can tell, that’s a phenomenally good result if you compare the efficacy of this drug to that of any other MS drug out there. I’ve been told this one lesion had the good grace to show up in a “silent area.” I don’t agree that the damage was silent—I felt pretty horrible for a while there—but in truth, I’m feeling all right now.
Except for—
Thing Two: the rash has gotten worse.
Way worse.
When the rash first showed up—I believe that happened around the time the medication changed its formulation—it appeared on the inside of my hand; a nice, innocuous spot. No one was too likely to see it. And that was important to me. Some people call MS an invisible disease. I like it’s invisibility, thank you very much. MS only stays invisible if it isn’t allowed to progress.
The rash itched. I applied hydrocortisone. It went away. And then the rash reappeared, on my face of all places. A place everyone was likely to see. And that made the rash something I had to…um…face.
I managed to not face it.
I had a solution. I used a cosmetic. A simple concealer. Perhaps if I were a man, and not in the habit of putting on makeup, that move would have felt like a big deal. But I am a woman. Most of us women are all too familiar with, shall we say, putting our best face forward. (See: Hamlet.)
So yes. I wore concealer over my rash every day. Even on those days the NIH flew me out to examine me, to, you know, see if I was experiencing any side effects on DAC HYP.
Maybe we’ve been at cross-purposes. Whenever I visit the NIH, I always strive to be mistaken for a doctor instead of taken for a patient. My most treasured moments in Bethesda are the times I (almost) get away with this, like when a driver for the NIH picked me up from the hotel and asked, “Are you a patient, or…”
I treasured that “or.” I gave that driver a big tip.
The NIH culture supports these seemingly innocuous mistakes of identity. A nurse once berated herself after she’d asked me a question about my condition in an elevator. “I shouldn’t have done that. I’m not supposed to address you as a patient in front of other people.”
I’m not to be treated like a patient. I’m to be treated like a peer. One never gets too personal with one’s peers. I’ve had one neurologist actually apologize several times during an examination, for having to touch me, for asking me to disrobe. I understood she was expressing her respect for me. But that sentiment can go too far, and actually disrupt the messy process of getting down to the ugly truth.
And it’s hard to get there. For instance, you’ve been reading paragraph after paragraph about my rash, and I still haven’t mentioned I also have scaly dry patches on the inner folds of my arms and my legs. These patches itch. But I tend to forget to mention them, not only to you, but to my neurologist. Why? Because these itchy patches are not visible to others, at least not in the winter months. I can bear almost any amount of discomfort. I just can’t bear exposure.
Which brings me to the prospect of going onstage with a rash in front of about 100 people.
I’d had other plans for this evening’s appearance. I’d planned to get a professional make-up job. I’d planned to get an elaborate up-do. I’d planned to look fabulous, like I did on opening night, just a few hours after I made that cancellation.
Life doesn’t always go as planned
When I’d cancelled my flight to the NIH and my appointment with the NIH dermatologist, my neurologist had suggested I quit wearing make-up. After opening night, I complied. As of last night, my face was repaired, just in time, I thought, for me to take the stage again. Thinking the problem was over, I’d applied a little makeup before going to a concert. We know how that turned out.
This morning, I cancelled my make-up session. I didn’t want to make my elephant face any worse. I did not cancel my up-do.
And then I went to yoga. I’m so glad that I did.
Our teacher, Sharon, shared a passage from a book in which yoga instructor Sianna Sherman answers the question, What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Sianna answers, “Inner body bright,” a phrase she’d picked up from her teacher, John Friend. Sianna explains that this phrase is “his way of saying ‘It doesn’t matter what’s happening on the outside. No matter how fierce and intense and up against ourselves we feel, if we tap into that place—the place that yoga guides and invites each one of us to—we’ll find that our essence is bright and that our inner freedom is fully present.’ Often, it’s our outer freedom that’s compromised by own mind. We say: ‘Oh I’m not free’ or “I’m a victim, I’m not empowered. Or, ‘This happened to me…’ And then we start to close down. And that’s easy to do, but if we go inside and wait a minute, there’s this inner freedom that’s never compromised; there’s this inner light that’s always true. So you say to yourself, ‘Inner body bright, let me melt the outer body, melt all the crazy stuff that’s happening into the fire of my heart, into that inner light, and then I’m going to stand tall in this light and keep going, no matter what.”
As it happened, that message was exactly what I needed to hear to muster the courage to get onstage with a rash, and without the makeup. When I sit in the spotlight, I somehow doubt I’ll be whispering to myself, “inner body bright.” But I did get the message there’s more to me than meets the eye.
I have lived a long time. I have sported many appearances. I have been a cute little girl, a wince worthy adolescent. I’ve been a woman in a wheelchair. Last week, just before my opening night performance, when I was the lady with the fabulous updo, the owner of an upscale restaurant rushed up to my beautiful family, and asked, “Where do you come from?” in awestruck tones, as though he expected us to answer, “We have descended from Mount Olympus.” That night, it didn’t feel like a challenge to take the stage.
Tonight I’ll have to give the audience some credit. I’ve cancelled my up-do. I won’t apply concealer. I’ll see if I can summon up enough inner beauty to outshine the rash. (The swollen eyelids had calmed back down.) I am, after all, performing for trueTheatre. The audience expects me to be vulnerable. What better occassion to take that risk?

The Answer

In the past few months, I’ve made the same complaint to every health care professional I meet. I report that my range of abilities is shrinking. That I don’t feel as fantastic as I used to back when I first went on daclizumab to treat the multiple sclerosis.
Year One on daclizumab, I was inspired to stretch myself to my physical limits. I was suddenly able to swim three hours a day. I could hike for an hour at a time. Every other day, I’d be off to the gym. Once a week, I’d attend an hour and half yoga class. Year One, I discovered I could stretch pretty far.
I am now in Year Four on daclizumab. I still stretch myself to my physical limits. But I tell you, those limits are not what they once were. Hike for an hour? I’m lucky to walk a few blocks. The funny thing is, I do feel lucky. But isn’t that also perverse? Shouldn’t I feel…outraged?
These days, if I decide to go to an hour and a half yoga class, that means I am implicitly deciding to write off any further physical activity for the remainder of my day. Which would be fine if I didn’t have a family. But I do have a family. My day is also my husband’s day, is also my son’s day, is also my dog’s day. My cat could care less if I walk or not, as long as I am still able pour his food. But the rest of my family is aversely affected if I overextend. They would probably prefer it if I would under-extend.
I wouldn’t want that. I’m not dead yet.
Every day becomes an experiment. I check in with my body more or less continually. If I don’t, my body checks in with me. More and more often, my body is saying, “Enough.” More and more often, I listen. I stop what I am doing. And I agree it is enough.
Is this acceptance? Or is it complacency?
I think there’s a difference. Acceptance is wonderful. But complacency is dangerous, particularly when you have a debilitating disease. You can mistake a medication for a cure. You can think you are doing enough, and by the time you find out you’re not, it’s too late.
Lately I’ve been wondering if daclizumab is doing enough.
I will whine to the nurses, or to the neurologists, “I feel like my physical range is shrinking.” I will speculate, “Maybe I don’t have Relapsing/Remitting MS anymore. Maybe I’m slipping into Secondary Progressive.”
No one can tell me. There’s no clear line to cross. What they can tell me is this: every MRI of my brain comes back showing no new lesions. How have I responded? I’ve asked to have an MRI taken of my spine. I want the whole story, even if it doesn’t have a happy ending. I don’t want to be living a lie. I want a clear answer to the question: why I do I feel I am in a long slow decline?
A very clear answer occurred to me just this afternoon. I was downtown, picking up a new pair of glasses, which happens to be my very first pair of bifocals. These glasses are totally and completely nerdy looking. It turns out my distance vision is -11.75. And all these years I thought the vision span only went to -10. It looks like the parameters for bad vision can stretch like the debt ceiling. Maybe the parameters for physical (dis)ability will stretch that way, too. And stretch. And stretch.
In the optician’s office, I thought of an explanation for this insidious phenomenon I’ve been experiencing. I am aging. That first year on daclizumab, I was still in my thirties. I’m not in my thirties any longer. Maybe the answer could be as simple as that.

The Keys to Heaven and Hell

The mind is its own place,
and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell
a Hell of Heaven
-John Milton

Nearly two years ago to this day, I met two unforgettable working women on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Readers, tuck away your image of nubile brown women gyrating in grass skirts. The two women I’m about to describe were both, by my estimation, well over fifty—although there is a strong possibility that one of these women was much older than she looked, and the other, much younger. In any case, it is highly unlikely either woman would remember Ms. Lab Rat, or would have found our quotidian interactions at all remarkable. Yet in that day, just by going about their usual business in their usual ways, these two women inadvertently handed me nothing less than the Key to Heaven and the Key to Hell.
I met the woman with the Key to Heaven in a place you don’t find listed in any glossy Big Island travel guide. A place that has never been rated by Zagat. A place undocumented by Lonely Planet. My husband is in-the-know about quite a few noteworthy spots on the Big Island of Hawaii, as this island is his mother’s birthplace. He listed this particular location above all the other hot spots we planned to visit that day: above Onekahakaha Beach, which is totally a beach for locals, above Volcano National Park, which is totally a top-ten contender for any sane person’s bucket list. Be that as it may, this list I’m referring to was not my husband’s bucket list. It was his to-do list. You see, we happened to be staying in a plantation cottage so rural, so isolated, that there was no municipal garage pickup.
Yes, we found the woman with the Key to Heaven working at the local garbage transfer station.
I was as mystified as you are.
At first glance, the woman working at the transfer station looked completely ordinary. It wasn’t as if she wore a fragrant lei and a grass skirt. No, her outfit was more along the lines of a drab polo shirt tucked into pressed khakis. Yet this woman was utterly dazzling. She radiated well-being as she stepped out to greet us with what felt like the warmest word on the planet.
“Aloha.”
As she greeted us with Aloha, she was smiling uncontrollably, just beaming with joy, as though she had been waiting to meet our little family her entire life, and she could imagine no better place on the entire planet for this transformative event to take place than on this very spot. The garbage transfer station.
Her joy was utterly contagious. I couldn’t believe how happy I was to meet her. How happy I was to be there, at the transfer station, with my husband and son, where we could complete our meaningful task of getting rid of garbage. And to think we’d assumed this task was merely something we had to perform to go on to our real destinations.
“Aloha,” we responded. And it felt like we were returning, not so much a greeting, as a blessing.
Raise your hand if you think you know the meaning of the word, Aloha. I would have raised my hand, too, even back in the day when I thought all Hawaiian women traipsed around in grass skirts. Like most Mainlanders of my generation, I considered myself an expert on Hawaiian culture after I’d watched a portion of the three-part Brady Bunch Hawaiian Adventure. Ah, well. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I’ll say this much—don’t look to little old freckled me, a haole, a white person, to define Aloha.
Instead, allow me to consult a genuine expert, good old Aunty D.
Aunty D’s Hawaiian Language Workshop cites the dictionary definition of Aloha as follows:

Greetings! Hello! Good-by! 


That dictionary definition is probably not too far off from my old Brady Bunch-inspired definition.
But buckle up. Aunty D and I are going to get all mystical on you. Aunty D digs a little deeper into the etymology of the word Aloha, to reveal that “alo” means presence, and “ha” means “Divine Breath.”
Now, what does the phrase, “Divine Breath” evoke for you? If you are of European origin, like me, that phrase may seem bizarre at first hearing. We white people do not, as a rule, associate the breath with the Divine. Breath can be bad. Breath can be good. (And then only when camouflaged by mouthwash and/or toothpaste.) But Divine? Get out of town.

According to Aunty D., Aloha is

…the spirit of God in Man. As life’s essence, Aloha is everywhere. It is the magnificence in every person, as well as in the `âina, i.e., the environs which is the air, the land, the sky, and the sea…

Does this deeper meaning of Aloha remind you of any single word in English?
Me neither.
Where I was growing up, The Divine was never mentioned in the same breath as breath. The official word was that God resided in churches, in flat tasteless communion wafers, (and then only through the specialized mediation of a priest.) God was not in Man (or woman), and was certainly not in the air, the land, the sky, or the sea.
Then again, I didn’t grow up in Hawaii.
Luckily for me, I was raised by parents who hauled us kids off to the woods to check in with God at least as often as they hauled us off to church. My mother would remind my sisters and I, “Your body is the temple of the Lord.”
Aloha, Mom.
I would not encounter a word even remotely similar to Aloha until I was an adult confronted with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, and I thought maybe the lifestyle I’d been living wasn’t working too well for me. I got myself to a yoga studio. The first word I learned there was a greeting in Sanskrit.
Namaste.
Namaste means, roughly, the divine in me recognizes the divine in you. That’s not so different from Aloha. I must say, either greeting is far superior to, “May I take your order?”
When the lady at the dump greeted us with, “Aloha” that morning, I not only heard the word, I felt it, too. I felt the spirit of the Divine in this magnificent woman. I immediately understood her source of contentment. It was within us, and all around us, right there in the transfer station. I saw that she wanted for nothing; she had a job, a useful job, in a beautiful place. Her status in life was irrelevant. Her job description might not impress anyone, but that was irrelevant, also, because she was clearly in no need of external validation.
In retrospect, I don’t think I was viewing the transfer station agent’s situation through a vacationer’s rose-colored glasses. I think she was simply so magnificently present that she blew away all the labels and judgments that habitually taint my perceptions. I tell you, it was a relief to take a moment to lay down this burden. I could clearly see the Divine in this woman, the Divine in her workplace. Sure, it didn’t hurt that the sun was shining, and that the sky was blue, but I might not have noticed the warmth of the sun, or the color of the sky, had I been wearing my habitual blinders.
I thought a lot about that moment when I started reading a book by Eckhart Tolle. What a Hawaiian might call the power of Aloha is what Tolle calls “The Power of Now.” He observes, “identification with your mind creates an opaque screen of concepts, labels, images, words, judgments, and definitions that blocks all true relationship. It comes between you and yourself, between you and your fellow man and woman, between you and nature, between you and God. It is this screen of thought that creates the illusion of separateness, the illusion that there is you and a totally separate “other.” You then forget the essential fact that, underneath the level of physical appearances and separate forms, you are one with all that is.”
In The Power of Now, Tolle implores us to, “Break the old pattern of preset-moment denial and present-moment resistance. Make it your practice to withdraw attention from past and future whenever they are not needed.”
I found myself in no rush to leave the transfer station, in no hurry to reach the many distant points on our list. That shift in consciousness proved useful. As it happened, the next destination on my husband’s list was clear across the Island, on the rainy side, and the speed limits on the one road available varied from 45 mph to 25mph. The posted changes were frequent, and seemingly random. A recipe for aggravation? Only if you weren’t driving in the Now. The view out the window was lush and verdant; life in spectacular display. That road dared you to care to be anywhere but where you were. It was a darn uppity road.
As there is no photograph of the Transfer Station, the place where we found the woman with the key to Heaven, I will supply no photograph of the restaurant where we encountered the woman with the Key to Hell.
The woman with the Key to Hell may have dressed better the woman with the Key to Heaven. But my heart didn’t leap at the sight of her. Surely, she held a more prestigious position, at a far more prestigious place. Or so you would think, if you were unaware that every place is sacred.
The hostess took her time acknowledging our presence. She fluffed a few papers on the lectern before her. Looked to the right of us, and to the left of us, without appearing to have spotted us, although we were the only people standing in the entrance.
When she ran out of ways to avoid looking at us,
it was clear that she saw three dirty people who had sloshed through ocean water, and over lava rocks. She surely didn’t see three expressions of the Divine. It is true we three were not at all attired for dinner at, say, The Four Seasons. But this restaurant was not The Four Seasons. This restaurant was located at the top of a volcano on an island where acceptable nightlife footwear is a pair of zoris, or flip-flops. Not that you’d ever see a local eating there. No, this restaurant’s clientele consisted entirely of the marooned—those of us dressing out of suitcases and backpacks. Our little family had eaten there many a time in the past, dressed as casually, or worse.
Having run out of alternatives, the restaurant hostess finally deigned to greet us. She did so mechanically, using the same word as the transfer station agent, but without so much as a fake smile on her face.
“Aloha.”
Here’s what Hawaii’s last ruler, Queen Lili’uokalani, had to say on the subject of Aloha:

More than a greeting, it is a blessing. To be ONLY used with sincerity: “‘Aloha’ could not be thoughtlessly or indiscriminately spoken, for it carried its own power. No Hawaiian could greet another with ‘Aloha’ unless he felt it in his own heart. If he felt anger or hate in his heart, he had to cleanse himself before he said ‘Aloha’.”
Did our hostess have anger or hate in her heart? I doubt her feeling was as vehement as that. She went to extreme pains to continue to treat us as if we were invisible by asking, “How many of you are there?” As though it wasn’t plain to see.
My husband helpfully suggested, “Three.”
She pursed her lips. “I’ll check and see if there’s room.” Without another word, she turned her back on us and disappeared inside the restaurant. She was gone long enough for us to start discussing a Plan B. As our hostess was insinuating, this was indeed the best restaurant for miles. But that was only because it was the only restaurant for miles.
My husband and I had just agreed to start back for the cottage when our hostess returned. She sighed, exasperated. “I can squeeze you in.”
We followed our hostess inside the serving area, a vast room with all but two tables empty. Just as our hostess had found us invisible, we found her crowd of patrons invisible. Clearly, she’d manufactured the seating problem.
Tolle asks, “Why make anything into a problem? Isn’t life challenging enough as it is? The mind unconsciously loves problems because they give you an identity of sorts. This is normal, and it is insane.”
Later, he reflects, “The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgment.”
Indeed, I feel a little guilty singling out this one hostess. She is not the exception. Her behavior is almost the rule. Some people, some very insecure people, actually prefer to eat out in an establishment that snubs them. Think of the Groucho Marx joke, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”
I’d like to think there was more going in that restaurant than I was aware of. Perhaps the hostess was doing a remarkable job remaining calm, as the cook had just keeled over and died in the kitchen. Indeed, that explanation would also explain the quality of the food we would be served.
Oh, gentle reader, in my judgments, I carry the Key to the Hell, and in my observations, the Key to Heaven. I can almost hear those keys jingling, day in and day out, with every sentence that I write. I didn’t need to travel to find two women to illustrate the options. I can look no further than myself.
Similarly, I can assure you, Gentle Reader, that you don’t need to go to Hawaii to experience Aloha, or to India to encounter Namaste. Eckhart Tolle would advise you to tear up your bucket list, and stay right where you are. And while you are there, you could do worse than reading his simple book, The Power of Now. It won’t change your life. It will change how you live it.
Thanks for reading!
Aloha.
For more about the joy available to all, watch this talk by Srikumar Rao.

Visualization

No matter how gracefully I walk into a neurologist’s office for an evaluation, the dreaded heel-to-toe test invariably punctures my façade.

As soon as I place one heel directly in front of the other foot, I start to sway. My arms float up, like a gymnast…a gymnast on the Titanic. I tilt toward the left. I regain my balance…for one brief hopeful moment. I tilt toward the right. My legs start to buckle. Then twist.

It’s all very suspenseful.

Inside my atrophied little brain, I’m reminding myself of all these tricks I’ve been taught at yoga. I press into all four corners of my front foot. I root down into my tail-bone. I lengthen my spine. Oh yes. I breathe.

I lift my back foot. Gently swing it around my front foot. Start to set it down…

Oops.

Not again.

I tilt toward the right. A little too far. I break my fall…by breaking out of heel-to-toe.

Inside my atrophied little brain, I’m thinking that losing my balance is all my fault. I wasn’t…yogic enough. I didn’t make the right mind-body connection. Of course! Mind-body connection! Why didn’t I think of it sooner? What I should have done was visualize myself walking down the hallway. Visualization. That’s the ticket.

I request another try.

This request typically inspires a panic.

“Oh, no, no, no. That’s fine. You don’t have to do that one over. I’ve seen enough.” And I wind up feeling like an out-of-work actor who has just asked for a re-try on a crappy audition.

The first time I took the heel-to-toe test, I made a lame joke. “I guess my tightrope walking days are done.” The joke fell flat. My stand-up comedian days were dead-on-arrival. Fine. I don’t want to play the role of the wisecracking patient with multiple sclerosis. I don’t want to be in that sitcom. Or even on that channel. I’d rather be on the yoga channel, floating two feet above the gleaming wooden floor without even noticing, a tiny, enigmatic smile on my placid face.

Yeah, right.

Has my practice of yoga been based on unrealistic expectations? Or has my practice of yoga been the only reason I can balance at all? Without yoga, would I be in a wheelchair by now?

I cannot say. I don’t have a control group; a clone or a twin sister with multiple sclerosis who thinks yoga is a complete waste of time.

What I can say is that my expectations for my balance are consistently higher than my performance in the heel-to-toe test.

My performance in my normal daily routine can be fairly convincing. Contrary to what my blog posts may have you believe, I pass for a relatively fit healthy woman at least 90% of the time. In public. Before 8 pm. But still. I’ve got a good façade going. I’m fond of it. I don’t want that façade punctured. Which is why I don’t like the heel-to-toe test. Not one bit.

I never thought I could ever meet a person who could make my objections to the dreaded heel-to-toe test seem petty. That was before I met Dr. X.

I wasn’t supposed to be meeting Dr. X in the first place. My appointment was with Dr. Y. It so happened that Dr. Y was running behind, so she sent in a resident: a black man in a wheelchair. To see me: a white woman who felt irked every time she was asked to take the dreaded…never mind.

When Dr. X had me take the dreaded heel-to-toe test, I failed it, as usual. But this time, failing the heel-to-toe test felt fairly privileged. At least I wasn’t stuck in a wheelchair. Without a doubt, Dr. X would gladly trade places with me in a flash.

Or would he? Was Dr. X’s life really all that bad? Is mobility, or lack thereof, the decisive factor in anyone’s quality of life?

As we chatted, I came to see that Dr. X’s life was actually pretty good. He was nearly done with medical school. He was on the verge of a lucrative career. He had a job lined up for him in his home state, where he could live near his beloved family of origin. His upcoming move wasn’t all he was looking forward to; he was getting married in a few weeks. His honeymoon plans included snorkeling in the Caribbean.

My atrophied little brain thought it appropriate to mention a book I’d just read, The Body Has a Mind of Its Own. I enthused about the data showing that visualization could improve sports performance, and shared my plans to visualize walking down my staircase without using the banister.

Dr. X’s response? “Use the banister.”

I take it Dr. X doesn’t visualize leaping out of his wheelchair. Or passing heel-to-toe tests. Dr. X is more focused on what his brain and his body can actually do. I’ll be the first to concede, his brain and his body can do quite a lot. So much for visualization. Maybe there’s something to be said for looking around, and seeing the world clearly. The world is a beautiful place, from any perspective. I bet the world looks spectacularly beautiful while snorkeling in the Caribbean.