Monday, August 1, 2011

A Restricted Life - Part 2

As much as I hate not being able to do many of the things that I love, I work on being in a place of acceptance with those restrictions. I try to accept that for this period in my life, there are many things I can't do. I also have worked to find appreciation in other activities that I can perform. I can pet my cats, watch a DVD with my boyfriend in bed, go to the movies with a friend, meditate, read for short periods of time, and write this blog.

Acceptance and gratitude are major players in the management of my chronic illnesses.  Acceptance does not mean resignation - I still fight to get better all of the time. It just means being okay with where you're at right now.  As Buddhist author Pema Chodron writes in Talking to Ourselves, "It isn't the things that are happening to us that cause us to suffer, it's what we say to ourselves about the things that are happening." If I spend every minute of the day angry about the pain and my restrictions, all I do is cause more pain. Pain begets pain.

Gratitude doesn't take my headache away, but it keeps me from wallowing in the pain and increasing my suffering. I can be grateful for what I do have - a roof over my head, disability and Medicare, a wonderful boyfriend and caregiver, and some friends and family that help the best way that they can. It also involves looking at some of the wonderful things that have happened in my life because of my illness. I got to leave a job that made me miserable, I have met amazing women through support groups that make my life better just by being in their presence, I have developed deeper empathy and compassion for others, I have been able to explore other interests I never had time for before, and I have learned that I can be a human "being" and not a human "doing."

If I seem nonchalant about this practice, please believe that it's the hardest thing I've ever undertaken. It's hard to feel accepting or grateful stuck in a dark room most of the time curled up in bed with pain. Some days I can't get to that peaceful place; some days I can. When someone first told me I should be accepting and grateful of my life as a sick person, I kind of wanted to smack them. The phrase "Attitude of gratitude" made me throw up a little in my mouth. I wanted to scream, "What is good about being sick? Couldn't I have learned these lessons in another, less life-altering way?" But then I realized, this is my life whether I like it or not.  Why not make it easier by learning to accept that for today, I am sick. I might not always be sick, but for today I am and that's ok.

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