Pain Lessons

13 Jul 2017

You can’t always get what you want.

So said the great musical poet, Mick Jagger in the Rolling Stones classic song.

How do you respond when you don’t get what you want?

How do you respond to obstacles, or what best-selling author, Seth Godin, called “the dip?”* When you hit a roadblock (which could be an illness or any tough situation), you have choices. Do you ignore the problem, go around it, push through it, surrender to it?

These past few weeks, I’ve had a health issue that has seriously cramped my style. And by style, I mean it has made it impossible for me to get much done.

I am a doer and tend to judge the success of my day by how much I accomplish.

At the beginning of the summer, I made a long list of tasks I wanted to accomplish during the warm weather and while I was less occupied with teaching. But time got away, and I’m not sure where the summer went. As a result, as the summer started to wind down, there were extra expectations I put on myself for one last push before school starts.

And then I got a foot infection. Well that’s what I thought I had when I first published this article in 2015. It turned out to be a broken foot, which I walked on for six weeks until it was accurately diagnosed. Then I walked in a boot for another seven weeks.

Not only did it swell up, hurt and make me limp around. It also made me incredibly tired, and feeling like I had the flu. It’s been a real drag—for what seems like a long time.

Then this year I had back surgery. I was again facing a summer when I had so much to accomplish. As the summer winds down, my to-do list is still very long.

In both instances, I realized I could choose my response.

I could do the usual and stress about what I hadn’t accomplished. I could get angry at the physical limitations. There were various emotional states and thoughts I could engage in.

However, through this, I found myself mostly able to let expectations go and do what I could from my chair.

After hearing the Rolling Stones song again this week, I looked up the words:

You can’t always get what you want.

You can’t always get what you want.

You can’t always get what you want.

But if you try sometimes

Well, you just might find

You get what you need

What did I need? Well I suppose I needed to slow down; I do have a tendency to overdo it. I guess I also needed to let others help me. Maybe you can relate.

Suddenly my friends volunteered to give help I needed. An out-of-town guest helped clean my house. Friends offered to buy groceries. And a neighbor even offered to mow my grass!

I hope I passed the test of these challenges and am becoming a better person for it. And I’m grateful that others stepped in to help with what I needed.

You can’t always get what you want.

But if you try sometimes

Well, you just might find

You get what you need

*See the article, I Quit, where I wrote about Seth Godin’s little book, The Dip.

Royalty-free image by Asif Akbar; retrieved from




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