There are plenty of funny lines in The Princess Bride that continue to make me howl. In particular, there’s the one where Miracle Max (Billy Crystal) bids farewell to our intrepid travelers saying, “Have fun storming the castle!” His wife Valerie whispers, “Think it’ll work?” He shrugs, responding, “It would take a miracle.”
Max knows what he is talking about. For every battering ram charging across our drawbridges, there are inevitably people on the other side of the gate bracing for the impact.
The English language is an equally difficult moat. Time and time again, you learn one word only to discover the same word has many meanings – none of which have much to do with the others.
Though ‘brace’ is a self-proclaimed noun, I would point your attention to its’ equally talented cousin, the verb. My friends at the Oxford Dictionary define ‘brace” as “mak[ing] (a structure) stronger or firmer with wood, iron, or other forms of support:”
Defending yourself in siege warfare involved lots of practice moving components around into specific configurations. Same kind of mindset can be found in practitioners of origami. In my experience, the unsung ones who magically span both the practice and the art are the physical therapists in charge of my return to being functional. One of the weapons in their arsenal? The lowly athletic bandage.
To wrap an ankle well is deceptive. I clearly remember the frustration of learning to get it right. There is a well-defined sequence of figure-eights and circling motions that brought me the added support I need to brace the fused mass once called my foot.
Anyone who bears a scar knows, even after you heal, the battle leaves traces you simply have to deal with. It’s the ‘new normal’. So for me, if I anticipate I’m going to walk a lot that day? Brace up. A day on the convention floor or an afternoon of tennis? Brace for it. Point is, I am not doing anything the residents of any castle or for that matter, what the citizens of Florida or North Carolina did as Hurricane Matthew approached their shores. You apply what you know and brace for it!
After all this time relearning how to ambulate, you’d think I would know better. But truth be told, I didn’t do better.
After first week or two of my new gig, my ankle was issuing similar storm warnings. After work, Rick and I would be in the grocery store with me limping along behind him doing my poor impression of Festus on Gun Smoke, “Coming Marshall Dillon”. The shopping cart had become my walker. Pain is the body’s way of saying ‘pay attention’. So I did. It was time to pull out a time-tested tactic and ‘brace for it’. ACE bandage, here I come.
Granted, the realization of what I already knew was belated, but having learned my lessons well back in the old physical therapy days, I knew what needed to happen so I added a new routine to my morning ritual. Monday came and a little after 6:30 each morning thereafter, I begin ‘suiting up’, retracing familiar wrapping paths of circles and figure-eights I’d learned way back then.
There. Done. And it helped. The ankle pain was better, but it still wasn’t very good. Unaware of my new deployment of the bandage, I was still hearing comments like “Why don’t you get an ankle brace?”
Firm in my beliefs, I’d respond, “I’m fine. I’ve got this (pointing to my wrapped ankle). I’ve been here before. The ACE works just fine”. So despite the stubborn evidence to the contrary, I clung to knowing what I knew. I had been taught by some of the best. Wrapping had served me well for years. It had always worked before. I knew what I was doing. Back off!
With the limp insistent on reminding me I was neither 19 nor invincible, I begrudgingly gave in to those all around me. We went to the store where I pulled out the crowbar I use when opening my wallet and plopped down $13 for an ankle brace. But I must be true and confess in the back of my mind, I harbored a secret thought that this wasn’t going to work. On the up-side, it was small price to pay for the satisfaction of shutting up my fan base with evidence I’d been right all along. That’s worth something, right?
Pulling the light weight contraption of four straps, a sewn panel and two embedded struts running up the side out of its’ box, I spent a good 30-minutes trying to figure out how to put the darn thing on.
Then, in a burst of brilliance, I gave up my man-card and read the instructions.
The routine was all different. Putting it on the next morning didn’t feel the same. Where is the familiar rigidity? It was so flimsy. Down deep I knew I was going to be in pain at the end of the day, but like I said, at least I’d be able to prove my point and get back to what I knew.
So at the end of Day One, I was a little puzzled at the improvement. “It was a fluke.”
Day Two? “Not a trend yet…”
Day Three? “This really is better.”
To make a long story short, I was confronted with the realization I had been wrong.
Kinesiology has come a long way in the last 40+ years. Thousands of really smart people have labored hard to bring their best amalgams of motion, medicine and mechanics together in order to claim a quality of life for all of us laboring under constraints beyond our control.
The lesson learned turned out to have nothing to do with my ankle.
For spending as much time and effort on allegedly being evolved and informed, here I was, having to admit to myself the only thing hurting now was my pride. Huh?
I was so cock sure I knew what to do because it had worked before. What I had actually been bracing for was the new tactic not being sufficient to meet a recurring issue. Why change?
It’s what we humans do when we hear ‘incoming!’. We brace for impact. But this week, I’m also wondering if it isn’t in that same breath we also display a fatal flaw, telling ourselves, “I’ve got this”. Truth is, we need each other to move outside the box of what used to work and apply new information to old situations that don’t exist anymore (except in our own minds).
Lean on your experience this week and make it a strategic choice to have fun storming your own castle. Challenge what you think is innate Truth in overcoming whatever your limp is.
Will it work? My humble counsel is to allow yourself the option of being pleasantly surprised. Why? Because miracles happen every day. I don’t know about you, but sometimes all a guy like me really needs to do is to listen when someone says “I love you” and push into a new way of approaching pain. Ironic in that for having run all the way around the castle, what I knew to be true turned out to be so. All I needed was figuring out a better way to brace for it.
In the spirit of public service and with my apologies to Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, I urge you to join me and 1,257,129 of my closest friends who have watched LuckyTV‘s brilliant satire of Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton singing “Time of my Life” (Official). Bracing for the last several weeks before the presidential election, I say we could all use a smile…
DONN CONNER FENDLER
(August 29, 1926 – October 9, 2016)
“July 1939. The world teetered on the brink of war as Hitler menaced Poland. The 11 millionth visitor passed through the turnstiles of the New York World’s Fair. Baseball fans still reeled after Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man” speech at Yankee Stadium.
But many Americans could think only of Donn Fendler, a 12-year-old boy lost on Mount Katahdin in Maine, the object of a frantic search and rescue operation that dragged on for nine days, monopolizing the radio airwaves and newspaper headlines.
Thousands of mothers sent prayers by Western Union to the boy’s mother. Boy Scouts joined the search, along with workers from the Millinocket paper mill. The New York State Police dispatched two of their best bloodhounds by air.
Hearts sank when Donn’s footprints disappeared at the edge of a sheer 400-foot precipice called Saddle Slip. “I’m still trying to make myself believe there’s a faint thread of hope,” his despondent father, Donald, told The Boston Globe.
Spirits lifted when new footprints appeared near the mountain’s base two days later.
Finally, on the ninth day, a miracle.
“Stripped naked by eight days of fearful battling with the Maine wilderness on the slopes of mile-high Mount Katahdin, Donn Fendler came back to civilization this afternoon — wan, cruelly bitten and scratched, delirious with joy at hearing a human voice again,” The Globe reported on July 26, under the headline “Boy Found in Maine Wilds.” The national ordeal was over.
Donn Fendler died on Sunday in Bangor, Me., his son, Dennis, said. Mr. Fendler was 90.”
SOURCES: National Public Radio (NPR), By WILLIAM GRIMES, OCT. 11, 2016 in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/12/us/donn-fendler-who-was-lost-in-wilds-of-maine-as-a-boy-dies-at-90.html?_r=0 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donn_Fendler.
The holidays are coming. I don’t usually ‘sell’ stuff, but thousands of school kids and their teachers can’t be wrong so for no other reason than the greater good, read Donn’s book. Give one to a young mind you love. Fendlers is one of the unheralded American classics. You can get it on Amazon and a host of other onsite sources and formats for as little as $5 or $6.
Banner Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission.
Have Fun Storming the Castle: http://www.geekadelphia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Miracle-Max-and-Valerie.jpg; Crashing the Gates: This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Pearson Scott Foresman. This applies worldwide https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Battering_ram_(PSF).png ; Wrapping an Ankle: https://cotradeco.com/posts/2399-medical-information-how-to-wrap-an-ankle-with-an-ace-bandage-kayti-brosnan-amp-ehow; Pharmacy Solutions: http://katharineandryan.blogspot.com/2013/03/flu-who.html; My Ankle Brace: http://www.bta-mall.com/product_detail.php?id=SKUB01CY3DHC8
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