The rope-a-dope is a boxing fighting style commonly associated with Muhammad Ali in his 1974 Rumble in the Jungle match against George Foreman.
In competitive situations other than boxing, rope-a-dope is used to describe strategies in which one party purposely puts itself in what appears to be a losing position, attempting thereby to become the eventual victor.
The one symptom that seems to be a constant for anyone with MS is chronic fatigue. I’m still learning how to deal with this. A broken nights sleep is a regular occurrence. After work I get home and comatose on the couch sometimes before I even have a dinner. Then it’s a struggle to motivate myself to do anything for the rest of the night. I go to bed and could wake up at 4am and not start falling back asleep until it’s actually time to get up. Even, on days when I’m on the go for the whole day and don’t get to rest until late at night I find myself waking up at all hours. I’m finished college now (get my final results next week) but going to lectures after work I found myself dozing off almost straight away. Lectures began at 5.30pm and by 6pm I’m in the bathroom splashing water on my face to keep me awake. One night I let such a big yawn that the lecturer just stopped and looked at me with those dagger eyes that say “how dare you disrespect me”. I just apologised but it was a boring lecture to be fair.
When I first met with the neurology nurse in January 2015 she told me I was under attack and that I had to fight the fatigue. Exercise was recommended as my way to fight back. Easier said than done when your energy levels, as well as your confidence in your own mobility, are bordering on non-existent. I’m still learning how to deal with fatigue but exercising and learning about nutrition certainly help. I posted recently a blog called “It Started at the Beginning” which is a link to a couple of blogs I wrote without telling anybody before I start using WordPress. In one of the blogs I talk about being like a Muhammad Ali of MS. Even now that seems like a crazy comparison. Although in the last few days since his passing it makes more sense to me. Ali is someone that anyone can relate to in one way or another. One of the many reasons that make him The Greatest.
When I really feel fatigued I compare myself to Ali against the ropes. Fatigue hits me like George Foreman or Joe Frazier and my body just has to learn how to deal with it. Sometimes I lay there knowing full well that I have to fight back but I need to be sensible. I think to myself Take the blows, there’s only so long this can last and when fatigue finally subsides I’ll be back off the ropes fighting stronger than before. Fatigue’s not wearing me down, I’m wearing it down. I’m well aware that this particular symptom may never go away. In my head I make light of it but on the outside I am shattered and can barely string a sentence together. I’m best left on my own until it passes.
And then as wrecked as I am, I find myself laughing in my head at stupid thoughts. I was pretty good at french in school and, although I remember very little of it now, I’ll be lying on the couch or bed or wherever thinking Je suis fatigué; this does not mean I am an overweight homosexual. To me this is hilarious. My friend Claire, knowing too well what I’m like, tagged me on a random photo on Facebook a while back of a guy who said he couldn’t start a school presentation on whooping cough because he was laughing so hard at the first slide which was a picture of Whoopi Goldberg coughing. This is too funny to me. Even now I know people reading this will be thinking that’s not that funny. And that makes me laugh even more. These are the things that keep me going when fatigue has me against the ropes.
Last week in particular I felt really fatigued and it lasted for a few days. It had such a gloomy affect despite the beautiful weather. I couldn’t snap out of the horrible negative feelings that come with fatigue. I was stupidly thinking I’m tired and the whole world can just feck off until I’m not tired. I’ve never been good at getting up in the mornings but the walk to work usually puts a little spring in my step. I walk by a canal every morning with ducks, swans, pigeons, seagulls and god knows what else. I’m fascinated by it all. There’s always a Heron on its own lording over the other birds making sure they’re behaving themselves. He’s like a T-Rex of the canal.
Across from the birds and the canal is a primary school and the kids are generally in the schoolyard most mornings with their teachers playing different games before their schoolday starts. In my “Chimneys, Rain and Hope” blog I talk about the same little shortcut on my route to work where I seen a young girl taking full advantage of a rainy morning when I was feeling sorry for myself. I always think back to that regardless of the weather. Fatigue tried, and for a couple of mornings succeeded, in diminishing my appreciation for this slight 2 minute diversion on route to work.
But I still think of Ali and the rope-a-dope. I’m coming back stronger and I’m flooring fatigue. In my case it is only fleeting and it’s a fight that I am up for. All the punishment that fatigue has inflicted on me pales in comparison to what I can achieve when I’m the one in control. Yes I have to lean against the ropes sometimes and allow it to overpower me for a period but once I’m in control that’s when I take advantage. Fatigue will slow me down sometimes but just like a slingshot the more it pulls me back the quicker off the mark I’ll be when it let’s go.
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.”
RIP Muhammad Ali