Many people with Parkinson's are encouraged to participate in Rock Steady Boxing (and yoga, dancing, active hobbies). The point of this is to increase strength, decrease rigidity, gain balance, achieve confidence, and meet friends. People come from a wide variety of places and backgrounds to participate in hitting the bags. At no point in this endeavor are people encouraged to go medieval on one another, let alone reenact Mike Tyson’s dinner reservation with Evander Holyfield. While taking fist to leather relieves stress and frustration (an added bonus), it’s not meant to mimic hurting another person. It’s meant to give us a path away from sadness by putting us in control of our own set of interactions with Parkinson’s.
First and foremost, at all too many points in the lives of those people who have it, Parkinson’s is a cheap-shot “heel” from pro wrestling, who doesn’t play its game fair. For others, PD plays the role of the superior heavyweight champion. Knowing what we are up against allows us to prepare our fight against its.
Take Randall “Tex” Cobb, who went fifteen rounds with Larry Holmes. He lost by decision, but he never went down. To me, he is the ultimate “Won’t Back Down” metaphor.
We see this in injured runners like Derek Redmond or softball players like Sara Tucholsky.
I saw this when my wife pushed herself 2 miles through the desert after an ACLinjury. All of these people were aided by others, but isn’t that life? We need other people. What’s more, if they can, I can (or at least come close).
1. To understand the Tex Cobb Blues, we must learn that there are no trigger warnings in life. Parkinson’s symptoms will make you and yours cry. We can choose how to approach them, but things like incontinence, cognitive issues, and loss of independence are coming for many of us. We need to be ready for them. There’s no rug to hide under when the freezing hits town. If we follow Tex's advice, we train to hit back and take the pain.
2. In between the rounds of our life, we can go for hugs, high fives, and encouragement. We need love, respect, and appreciation. Our caregivers are huddled as a team to keep us moving. Their empathy is a great thing. People need to be in our corner rooting for us. We need to be in our corner. If we can balance the need for strength and the ability to let out our emotion, we'll be OK.
3. We need to fight this fight round by round. This means, our game is to focus on today instead of worrying about tomorrow. I can’t say if the aliens from Independence Day are coming tomorrow or not, but I can say today is a nice day, so I should smile and enjoy it. Remember, the best revenge is living well.
4. Remember that line in Caddyshack where the judge tells the grandson, “You’ll get nothing and like it?” Well, that’s how PD talks to us, except it's not funny when PD does it (goll dang, Ted Knight and Rodney Dangerfield were great in that movie). We can’t ask it to be gentler since it’s not listening. It’s coming to take our hobbies away. It doesn’t bargain. It just does. Thus, if you can find interest in playing cards instead of swimming, do so. It’s all about how we see the hand we’re dealt.
5. When I went to Basic Training, the first thing they asked us was, “Who has promises in writing from a recruiter?” If you didn’t, you were out of luck. Just like in Disney’s Up, we have our Adventure Book. What we do with it when life gives us lemons is up to us. Thus, I want to go with my wife to Bora Bora someday, but there is no guarantee. I wasn’t promised a rose garden in writing, so maybe I need to go out of my way to enjoy the petunias, daffodils, mums, and irises that I find along the way.
6. Not every round is going to be pretty. In fact, there comes a point where we're going to hate and resent it all. There will come a time when we’re not going to listen to any more medical advice because we're sick of being diagnosed with some other co-morbid condition or be told that we need yet another medicine that will affect our mental / cognitive / behavioral life in the name of controlling some other symptom or condition. Here, there comes a point when we need to vent safely (scream at an inanimate object, hit a punching bag, journal, etc.). That's OK. It needs to come out. Sometimes, we’ll be like the crew in Apollo 13, stripping off sensors to exert authority as we refuse a test or procedure. For Jim Lovell's moon landing crew, that makes sense. They're stranded in space, unsure if they'll land. Who gives a hoot about vital signs when they have to get through lottery odds to have a shot at re-entry. While the team of doctors at Houston freaked out, Ed Harris' team leader let them vent. It was a very human understanding. Get it out, and get on with life. Like them, we get sick of being prodded and poked and analyzed objectively and subjectively. We see the final conclusion, so we choose to do things by expressing our own dignity. Many times, it's just momentary frustration; however, sometimes, it’s just refusing to be another medical condition in an endless stream of conditions. Remember, it’s not quitting if we’re committed to what we believe in, even if it’s only parts of the whole. That said, before quitting, ask your doctors for advice. We can't just pull ourselves off of some meds.
7. If you’ve got energy left, then it’s possible to win the match. Muhammad Ali didn’t win his fight with Sonny Liston until the end. Our cure isn’t coming this month, but we need to hold on for when it does. Until then, we’ve got endless potential. This, to me, is the story of Camus' Sisyphus. If there's a possibility, there's hope. Set yourself up for a chance to win. Just like in NASCAR, a racer can lead the most laps, but the only lap that counts is the final one. For this, Trevor Bayne will always be a past Daytona champion.
8. Remember, even if you’re giving Parkinson’s a what for and you’re wondering why badthings happen to good people, then just remember Samuel Beckett was right. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail Again. Fail better.” There is always hope. Don't lose faith in your philosophy / theology. Find meaning in the suffering. For me, that's sharing my story. Like Cobb, I'm taking the hits, but I'm still standing. I don't like the other choice.
9. What’s more, there’s still a lot of love to give and receive. If you can still express and feel love, then you’re still alive, no matter who is winning the fight.
10. In the end, it’s not about being tough 24/7. Nobody can play that game. However, by confronting the reality of what we’re up against, we’ll know how to fight it better. Remember, if you need help, there are plenty of people who are willing to help you (in real life, online, and around the corner. Keep believing! I'd like to think that's what Cobb felt when he transitioned from boxer to actor in Nicholas Cage's Raising Arizona.
Keep your guard up and swing back whenever you can!