by Karen Eden
Years ago, while working as a TV reporter in Pittsburgh, PA, I was sent out to cover a story about a wildlife refuge not too far off from the city.
The former wildlife specialist I interviewed seemed to have a heart for the unruly animals who wouldn’t conform to zoo and circus life. He also adopted the animals that people from around the country had mistakenly taken in as pets at one time or another.
I’ll never forget his words to me.
“I don’t care how tamed you think an animal from the wild may now be. They are always going to be wired to be wild and you must always keep that in mind,” he told me.
With that, he brought out one of his latest orphaned, unwanted animals. It was a bobcat … with a sinus issue. I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. This poor bobcat was consistently blowing his nose. Yet, he of course didn’t have the ability to grab or ask for a tissue.
“What can you do about it?” I asked the wildlife specialist. “Nothing,” he replied. “He’ll learn to live with it.”
Having sinus issues in western Pennsylvania is not uncommon for many of its older residents. They grew up around the fallout of steel mills and other industrial factories. But I never thought that animals would also have to endure such issues. This poor little guy stole my heart.
Now, years later, I often think of that wildlife specialist’s words: “He’ll learn to live with it.” Like many of you reading this, I am reminded how those words can apply to us martial artists. That is, every time when I finish training, and my knees or back seem to no longer be able to recover the way that they once used to.
Adaptation is an incredible survival tool. There are some things that just can’t be “undone.” And I have discovered that the sooner you can learn to adapt, the sooner you’ll be able to live more abundantly.
To me, adapting to what is on your path is all about rolling with the changes. Change can be difficult, because it interrupts the pattern of your comfort zone. Yet, very few things in life will ever stay the same.
We see the changes in our students — from white belt to green and, eventually, to black belt. We know, as instructors, for this change not to happen is a detriment to both ourselves and our students. Martial arts teaches change and how to roll with it.
After 28 years of teaching and training in martial arts, I still try to do something every day, even if it’s just yoga. My chiropractor said to me, “I don’t know how you can even walk, with your back the way it is.” My reply to him was that I’ve learned to live with it.
I’ve been snapped, crackled and popped by more chiropractors than I care to mention. I’ve resorted to taking ibuprofen sometimes daily, knowing that it’s not good for my organs. I often ask myself, “Do I want to die of chronic pain or organ failure?” It seems to be a question I never have an answer for.
The bottom line is, I’ve been training for three decades, and it’s taken a toll. It’s a daily reminder that I, too, am human.
The wildlife specialist in western Pennsylvania definitely has his work cut out. He harbors these animals until they can be taught to fend for themselves again in the wild. My new little friend, the bobcat with a sinus problem, was no different, and I hope that he made it.
I’ve had to learn to live with many “sinus problems” in my own life. Learning to roll with the changes is something that has served me well.
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