How do you “Hide Your Goat?” How do you chase away and ignore the things or the people who are weighing you down?
One of the most beautiful people I have ever known is Mary, an old college classmate who I recently saw at the YMCA. No, she is not the Hollywood kind of beauty that is false and fleeting and doctored with Photoshop. Mary has a variant of Parkinson’s disease, and because of her medications, the muscles in her neck cause her head to droop. A medical engineer of some type came up with a homemade, hand-engineered brace made of Velcro and molded plastic that brings Mary’s head almost to the point where it is possible for her to look you straight in the eye.
The neck problems are partially the result of the medications she must take to control the Parkinson’s disease. She can cut way back on the medication to improve her “droop,” but then the tremors kick in again. It is a delicate balance. Sometimes the tremors are under control, and sometimes she has problems taking a series of steps.
Dry Your Eyes
To see Mary in the gym with her neck supported by plastic and Velcro and her hands shaking with tremors can create a sense of sadness within any one of us who has just one ounce of empathy within our souls. Goats can sometimes do that to us. However, Mary’s Goat won’t be there. She never takes it to the gymnasium.
Mary, you see, won’t be found weeping at her plight in a hidden corner of the YMCA. She won’t be sitting on a reclining bicycle watching a sad soap opera and holding pity parties. Look at the very center of the basketball court where the Y’s music seems the loudest. There, most mornings at six a.m., Mary will be putting her feet, legs and body through an intricate dance routine. She is making her body do things it probably doesn’t want to do.
It doesn’t stop there. When she can, she does free weights or kettle bells, then it’s on to the treadmill, where Mary walks as much as she can as fast as she can. Mary smiles and sweats and makes others laugh, too. Indeed, she is surprisingly cheerful, and she never, ever feels sorry for herself. I might also add that Mary talks freely about her condition, and the YMCA members offer whatever support they can provide, but no one dwells on her challenge – or her Goat – nor will she let them.
Choices Make Us
Mary focuses on such things as the Steelers, her church, her grandchildren and her favorite restaurants. She is active in local politics, and she keeps in close touch with those in her former profession. Mary was an R.N. and, ironically, her specialty was working with patients who had brain injuries. Of anyone I can think of, Mary realistically knows her Goat better than most. She looks at her Goat with medical detachment as well as humor and a sense of disdain.
It is almost as if Mary is saying, “I feel sorry for you, Goat, because you have me for a patient, and I’m a lousy patient.”
Your challenge does not have to be physical. It can be co-workers who are trying their best to undermine you, a rude neighbor or an obnoxious relative who lives to drain you of self-worth. Whatever your particular “Goat,” it can be dealt with and hidden. It does not have to define you.
Ultimately, I believe that Mary’s dance is not one of pity, but a dance of joy. She is inspiring every time her body hits the gymnasium “dance floor.” Everyone around her is blessed, for they are witnessing incredible bravery and incredible grace, not to mention some amazing moves. So, instead of sitting around and feeling sorry for yourself, take your Goat dancing!