Today was one of those days when my body decided to be my enemy and leave me in some pretty excruciating pain. To add to it, a call from the doctor’s office revealed that, although not life threatening, they found the reason for my pain and wanted me to come in so they could do something about it. Unfortunately, I’m out of province and will have to wait a week. The confirmed knowledge that this pain certainly wasn’t anything natural and it was unlikely that I was just making a big deal about it in my mind or being a ‘wuss’ made it even less easy to deal with it – a debilitating mental factor was added.
It started in the early morning hours and throughout the day has come and gone with its level of intensity. At one point, lying on the couch, trying to find the exact position that would lessen the discomfort enough that I didn’t feel like moaning, I found myself growing increasingly frustrated with the fact that here I am visiting my family – my two nephews playing happily in the next room, my niece in the chair beside me, ready and willing to have some fun, – and here I am, miserable, missing an opportunity to make some memories.
After a few more minutes I decided enough was enough and I was going to enjoy my time here – my body be damned! I called the kids over, asking if they wanted to play Twister and was answered with some jumping, a bit of twirling, and all around excitement. And the excitement was justified! Of course there were a few times throughout the game when the pain reached a level that my mental resolve couldn’t distract me from, but for the most part the act of focusing my mind away from the pain, and onto my laughing family and the game at hand, was enough to give me some real relief. The contortions we got twisted up in may have been painful to hold – but it was a pain laced with fun that let me tell you, is 100% worth it.
Thinking about this afterward, I reflected on the power of the mind. How often we choose to let pains in our lives – be they physical, emotional, social, whatever – overwhelm us and steal from the joy and good times we could be experiencing despite their existence. Yes, sometimes they’re honestly too intense to overcome with mental effort, but a lot of the time – if we put ourselves in the right mindset – we can.
I know I do this with pain sometimes. Rather than force myself to just suck it up and go about my day, I let it colour everything I do (or don’t do because of it). Even worse, and less justifiable, is the way we let those other things: a frustrating day, a disappointment at the hand of a friend or loved one, or any of the million of other reasons we may have for being down, steal from our opportunity to live our days as if they were something precious, meant to be cherished and enjoyed.
My mother just interrupted me as I was writing the above paragraph – my initial inner reaction was slight annoyance and I almost asked if she could just wait a few minutes until I finished this as I could tell it was going to be a bit of a long story. There wasn’t a specific point, it was just something she wanted to share with me. But out of the few things she talked about, she mentioned a young, vivacious woman she met recently with three small children. The woman was just diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
As my mother was talking, it reminded me that no matter what we’re going through – what pain, what frustration, what heartache – there’s always going to be someone out there who has it worse than us. That doesn’t mean what we’re going through isn’t important or legitimate, but it may be a thought that can help us realize there are times, many times, when we can choose to not let those ‘things’ rule us or the way we spend our moments. We can be thankful for the good we do have and focus, instead, on that.
The rays of happiness, like those of light, are colorless when unbroken.
Henry W. Longfellow