Personal Use and Choices Post-Injury

Posted by Jeanne Barrett on March 20, 2009 in Uncategorized

As a typically energetic and very independently mobile person, the situation in which I currently find myself requires that I apply Alexander principles in daily choices for activity in an entirely new way.  The activities in which I daily engage demand a constant awareness of my entire use of self.

A question which I often have asked my students is:  “if you truly cannot use yourself well in a vigorous  activity, then do you really need to do that activity?”.  We bring our current level of use to any activity, and strengthen that level of use with every activity.  If our use is pretty good, then a vigorous activity strengthens our pretty good use.  If our use is poor, then we strengthen poor use in a vigorous activity.  It takes time and attention to change our use so that daily activities, even undemanding ones, strengthen our good use.

Thankfully, I can use myself well in the demanding activity of teaching.  Simple daily tasks such as dressing myself, playing with my cat, cooking, now demand every ounce of good use that I can muster.  I have perfected getting into and out of a car (a rather balletic project), and I have become a master of stairs, with great attention and care.  I have to decide, daily, given levels of pain and strength, which activities are beyond my current use potential, and which I can manage on my own.  So much that was formerly very easy is beyond my capability now.  Walking to work is not an option, as using myself well for a distance of more than a few city blocks is nearly impossible.  Rides to and from my office are a daily necessity.  Doing the laundry is possible but far from ideal. I can’t bathe without assistance. These are just three examples that my illustrate daily choices.

It is deeply challenging to be dependent and to ask for help.  As Alexander teachers, we need to be aware of this challenge with respect to our injured and recovering students, and to ourselves.  I notice myself contracting when I even think of what I can’t do with good use and what help I need.  My habit is to push through my limitations and just do the thing, but end-gaining now costs me more than I can pay.  I have to consciously choose where I need assistance, and how to gracefully request it, with good use considered for all concerned.  Applying the principle of what I can do with good use helps me to choose requests for assistance, and hopefully informs my communication of need with clarity and respect for myself and for my kind helpers.