When the Only Way Forward Is to Go Backward

“How are your legs doing?’ another friend asks, knowing that my (knock on wood) final procedures have now been completed.

I find it difficult to answer. The increase in pain and swelling that follows the procedures has now faded, but I am still months away from any improvement.

Because the only way to move the functioning of my legs forward is first to take a step (or several) backward.

The medical term for my diagnosis is venus insufficiency, which basically means that the veins that are responsible for carrying blood back to the heart from my legs aren’t doing their job. Veins rely on a series of valves which close tightly to prevent blood from flowing back down. My valves, instead of being secure doors slamming shut are slack and droopy curtains that do nothing to aid my blood in its battle against gravity to return to the heart. The result? Swollen, painful and tired legs.

The current pathways are faulty and cannot be repaired. There is no amount of exercise or lifestyle change that will provoke my veins to function as they should. The only solution is to remove the malfunctioning vessels and then to allow the body to grow new and healthy routes.

In the short-term, the problem is made worse. After all, minimally functioning veins are better than no veins at all. The swelling is more prominent, the pain and fatigue more pronounced. But in time, improvement is slowly found and optimal functioning is reached.

Backwards to go forwards.


Sometimes relationships develop their own faulty pathways. A suboptimal way of interacting or relating that is laid down out of habit or inattention. As a result, flow is interrupted and there is a backlog of negativity, leading to pain and the swelling of critical feelings.

And sometimes no amount of attention and exercises can modify those malfunctioning patterns. And the best thing to do is to strip them away and to start fresh, relaying new and ideally, healthier, connections.

Backwards to go forwards.

It seems a bit counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But then again, how much of our suffering in life comes not from our situations, but from our resistance to them? Maybe instead of fighting against an obstacle, we can be better served by finding an alternate course.

Much like a zipper whose teeth are misaligned has to be backed up before it can continue on, a relationship on the wrong path has to be reversed and straightened before continuing. To attempt forward progress without proper alignment only serves to jam the zipper. Perhaps causing irreversible damage.

Instead, a deliberate and careful reversal of course along with careful attention can change the outcome, bringing the two halves together. And in alignment.

Backwards to go forwards.

Going backwards feels unnatural. Often it can be painful. We grow accustomed to the pathways we have developed and even malfunctioning connections feel better than the temporary absence of attachments.

It’s easy to panic, to lose faith in the intention and the process. To think that a step back is permanent and doomed to become an unstoppable landslide.

Which is why is so important to hold a long view. To accept some discomfort today in the belief that it will lead to a better tomorrow. To focus more on the rebuilding than on the dismantling. To trust that new pathways can be forged and with them, more understanding and compassion.

To believe that sometimes the only way forward is to go backward.

And to be grateful for the opportunity to try again.

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14 thoughts on “When the Only Way Forward Is to Go Backward

      1. I just know my kids called my ex when I was sick and he came over and tried to work his way back into our lives (while we were separated but not divorced, and he was dating others of course). I also have a girlfriend that during her divorce her ex came over when she was sick to care for her, so it could happen.

    1. I hope it didn’t take 4 years to feel better!!😁 Glad it helped you!!

      I’m hurting right now after really overdoing it during fall break. Apparently running 30 miles and hiking 15 in a week isn’t good when you’re still healing. Whoops! Lesson learned (again). Healing can’t be rushed.

      1. Being active is the way to heal. I found standing in one place for a long time isn’t good at all. Just rest when your body tells you to. It gets better! 🙂

  1. Great post again. I hope you feel better soon. The lessons you draw here ring so true and taking the long view is definitely something I need to try and focus on more as a way of dealing with disappointments.

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