skip to Main Content

The Magnificent Mr. O

Every so often, I get the opportunity to enjoy a meal or a cup of coffee with former patients and clients.  Not only do I like to see how they are doing but it feels like I am visiting with an old friend. optimism-palette-300x293 Today I saw the Magnificent Mr. O  (due to privacy laws I can’t reveal his name but the “O” stands for optimism) who clearly has had more than his share of trials in life.  In his late 20’s, he was diagnosed with a lymphoma requiring surgery and radiation to his neck. The resulting scar tissue caused his carotid artery to narrow so at the age of 44, he suffered a massive stroke leaving the left side of his body paralyzed and his doctors skeptical that he would ever walk again. Along with that came cognitive deficits that impaired his ability to return to his job as a top executive in a large company.   After taking not one but two major hits in his life, it would be understandable  for this man to give up and accept his limitations.  But the prospect of being unable to walk or return to meaningful work was far more frightening to him than the effort and attitude it would take get better….

When I last worked with Mr. O, not only had he learned to walk  again, he was preparing to return to his job as an executive.  No one would have predicted this, given the level of his initial disability but he proved everyone wrong.  We should have known he would surpass our expectations because whatever goal we set for him in rehab therapy, he would accomplish twice as well and in half the time. For example, I remember when physical therapy gave him the goal to walk around the block at least one time during the weekend.  When we returned the following Monday, he had taken several 2 mile walks!  There were countless times when he did more than we asked him to do and there was joy in accepting the challenge.  Although he didn’t particularly like the predicament that he was in, he did appear more alive when he had summon his greatest resources to solve the problem.

That is what I call the face of optimism!  Optimism is not denying the disappointments, upheavals, and tragedies in life. Such a notion makes me think of the famous scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail when King Arthur lops off the body parts of the Black Knight in a duo and Black Knight treats it like a mere scratches and flesh wounds:

ARTHUR and BLACK KNIGHT: Aaah!, hiyaah!, etc.

[ARTHUR chops the BLACK KNIGHT’s left arm off]

ARTHUR: Now stand aside, worthy adversary.

BLACK KNIGHT: ‘Tis but a scratch.

ARTHUR: A scratch? Your arm’s off!

BLACK KNIGHT: No, it isn’t.

ARTHUR: Well, what’s that, then?

BLACK KNIGHT: I’ve had worse…

It is not an original thought to point out that optimism isn’t about sticking your head in the sand. This has been well-articulated in many excellent books including Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman.  In this book, Seligman offers several concrete strategies to reframe and re-energize your mind and spirit to take on life’s challenges.  In fact, I highly recommend it!  However, a mere book cannot capture the spirit I am describing when I speak of the Magnificent Mr. O and his brand of optimism.  This man has a personal energy that defies any catastrophe to bring him down.  Challenges energize him and when he has to accept a less than optimal outcome, he adapts and finds a way to be grateful anyway. For example, his left arm and hand have contractures rendering this limb virtually useless. What does Mr. O have to say about this?  “It’s all good. It holds my wedding ring!”

It is this type of energy that inspires me to remember that letting go of preconceived ideas of what is good and what isn’t is the key to a fulfilling existence. Or to paraphrase Mr. O, “I couldn’t buy a ride like this. It’s all been good. God has always given me the strength to handle it.

I mentioned at the beginning of this story that Mr. O had taken 2 major hits in his life,  cancer and a stroke.  Well guess what.  Last fall, not even at age 50,he was hit by a truck that shattered his femur and pelvis. He spent several months in bed and in therapy recovering from the injury. I asked him, “How on earth did you handle yet another setback?”  He answered, “I read, prayed, and learned that I had to let go of my fears.”  Hear ye! Keep your eye out for the Magnificent Mr. O! He has some projects percolating in the back of his mind and I can say with great certainty, his greatest accomplishments lie ahead!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. He sounds like a great man. I wish Lee had his mentality. I see Lee as not understanding he no longer has a drive to accomplish goals. He tells me he is the same as he was before the arrest so why am I doing therapy. How do we turn that around so he feels challenged and a sense of accomplishment on each of his assignments and just not another thing he has to do. I am still doing a lot of cluing even though he knows he has homework, not all the time but a lot of reminding. Would you think Magnificent Mr O would have a notion on how to help Lee find his mojo?

  2. I guess I am mr.O unless Ann knows 2 of us with that story.My experience in business has taught me that large transformatoin can be acheived by a colletoin of small projects. I have used this experience to tie the mundane task of daily therapy to larger more compeling goals as example I know if I want to walk I must be able to stand. prior to my stroke I traveled the world delivering speeches on business improvement this was something that I had great passoin for, so I used it to motivate my therapy realizing I had to stand to walk and walk to travel .
    My breakthrough came in allowing myself to BELEIVE I could do big things again and then using this to motivate the smaller more mundane goals that I would have to acheive to accomplish my greater goals. I have used this approach in my own personal recovery{more than once} and in my work improving businesses.For me allowing myself to dream big in all I do is the key. I think its hard to get excited about rising every morning to do 1000’s of repetitoins of tiny ankle or leg movements but when I connect it to a way to a larger and exciting end it gets me moving. I wish you gods blessing in your journey. I know that for those who are supporting those in recovery its a very tough go, as there is cautoin in not raising hopes to high. for me I say Id rather set my hopes high and fail than live in the muck of complacency. since my stroke I have delivered speeeches in 5 counties and most of the major US cities and it all came from many, many days of 1,000s repitoins of those small movements while always dreaming of those larger goals. Iknow tht if I can do it so can others and although Ann described me as Magnificent Im just an average Joe so I would encourage all to dream big and do what you have to do to make it happen!
    all the best on your journey!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top