“Don’t look at where you’ve been, look at how far you’ve come”.
At the time my very patient physiotherapist uttered those words, she had received a litany of complaints from me and valiantly tried to counter them with ever so much patience and understanding.
I’d had a near fatal car accident that resulted in a coma and two month stay in a critical care unit, serious injury ward, and recovery where I met a great many health professionals including a wonderful physiotherapist. Claudia had led me through two years of recovery, but then came a critical point when, in the midst of depressing frustration, I began a chorus of “I used to be able to”, followed by active verbs: run, be a quick thinker, react well, drive confidently, read for long periods, concentrate, and more.
Claudia listened with understanding for a time, trying to dissuade me from dismissing the progress that had been made, hearing me squash any praise she offered, and trying to buffer my frustrations with sympathy, to no avail. Finally, she leaned forward, looked me sternly in the eye, and like a kindly teacher who has had enough of student’s spitball comments and self-centeredness, she focused not on the present, but on the moment of impact, where the lifechanging accident began, and swept me into the present. Things will never be the same, she said, and I was left speechless with the impact of her words. She seized that chance to point out I was, at the time of our conversation, learning to retain memory, improving mobility, reaching out for answers as to what to do with my life and what was its purpose. She focused on the progress the medical community offered, the choices I could make due to my health improving, and the people that had taken me to the point where I had a future. This lesson, to look at the progress from a point where it began has stayed with me in recognizing the source of disappointments and success, and changed my perception of how to define those words. The lesson “don’t look at where you’ve been, look at how far you’ve come” says it’s the direction we travel, not the location, that governs our journey.