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  • jeffreybegg


The place we find ourselves at some point.

What is drydock?  It’s what ships do when they need major repairs.  It works like this:  A ship gets built, and it’s new and fresh and looks great and sails fast.  Off it goes on it’s mission - delivering cargo, rescuing souls, mapping the ocean floor.  After a few years, little things go wrong and need fixing.  No problem; the ship carries on, and the crew does ‘repairs at sea.’  That’s the life of a young ship.

There comes a time when a ship has been in the water too long, and it needs major repairs.  Things that can’t be done on the fly.  The ship has to move in to drydock.  You’ve seen what that looks like - the whole ship is out of water, and out of commission while the workers strip away the barnacles, and refit the keel.

Can you see the metaphor here?  Are you feeling like you’ve been put in drydock by some injury? 

Here’s how that works.

When we’re in our teens and twenties, we go hard and have fun, and our little issues along the way don’t really impact us that much.  That ankle sprain heals up well without much effort.  The sore back goes away on it’s own.  Maybe you need a little rehab along the way but it probably doesn’t interfere with your life too much.  Repairs at sea.

Fast forward to your 40s or 50s.  Some people (not everyone) have been out at sea too long without properly caring for the ship.  You might be a busy Mom, working, feeding the family and parenting the kids.  No time for yourself.  You might be an active guy, playing lots of sports, and those recurrent injuries maybe didn’t actually heal all that well after all.  Or maybe you’re just not that busy, and not that active, and all the sedentariness is catching up to you.

Then something big hits you.  Severe back pain.  Terrible hip pain.  A sore neck that just never goes away.  A shoulder that is so painful you can't do your hair.  That ‘time off’ from housework, or the gym is stretching out into weeks, or longer.  Now you start to panic, and you see your health care provider and start the process of finding out what’s wrong.  And in the end, what you come to realize is that there is no serious disease, no serious injury, just muscles, bones and joints that need a refit.  You’ve got to check yourself in to drydock.

I’ve helped a lot of people through this time of their life.  It can last a few months, several months, or even 2 years.  Here are a couple of things I can tell you about what to expect:

Tips for how to handle drydock
  • You have to be honest with yourself and admit that you need to get serious.  Pretending that it will all be fine if you just take a little more time, and a little more Advil may be a doomed strategy.

  • You’ll need to reconcile with the fact that you won’t be able to do some of the things you planned in the coming months.  The 10K road race; the rebuilding of the deck; the tennis league.  Get serious and say no.

  • Remember that drydock is temporary.  You’re not saying no to these activities forever.  Just for a time.

  • Find your key health care practitioner to guide you through.  You may need your doctor for medical things, and your rehab provider for activity advice, exercise and hands-on treatment. (And find someone with lots of experience. Simple injuries can be treated by anyone. Tricky things need a clinician who's been around the block.)

  • Adjust to the new speed of life.  Maybe you won’t be as active as you’d like, so find some other things to take pleasure in.  Remember, it’s just for a time.

  • If someone demonstrates to you that you have some deficit (you’re too weak, you can’t balance well, you’re too stiff, or you don’t know how to move properly) don’t be discouraged.  These are exactly the things that lead to injury in the first place.  Fixing these things is your way forward.

Remember, up until 100 years ago, people got old in their 40s and died in their 60s.  We’re a new generation.  We’ll probably last into our 80s, and beyond.  One of the ways to make sure that your lifespan is full of health and fitness all the way to the end is to recognize when you’re one of those people on their way in to drydock. 

However long it takes, once you come out with your refit, you’ll be set up for smoother sailing for the next 40 to 50 years of your journey.

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