Since becoming chronically ill over 30 years ago, I’ve held the idea that wishing for better health wasn’t a good place to go. It seemed like a slippery slope that could land me face down in the self-pity mud. Instead, I’ve put my energy toward using distraction to keep me out of the pit and acceptance to create balance. Lovely when it works.
According to family lore, my first words were “more”. I was always in a state of wanting. If and when I’d get “it”, I’d be onto the next thing. If I didn’t get it, I mourned big time, drama queen that I was. In 3rd grade, it was a blue, straw purse with a plastic yellow flower . It was class secretary in junior high school and the cheer leading squad in high school. I remember each event clearly, which is more than I can say for the things I wished for and got!
This wouldn’t seem to indicate that I’d manage well when faced with real loss, my health. But at age 29, blind in one eye and unable to get out of bed (diagnosis: multiple sclerosis), I experienced a different me. I accepted disease without a struggle. I didn’t find myself wishing it weren’t so.
For several years, I’d been doing Vipassana meditation several hours daily, working hard on the notion of “let go”. According to new research, meditating can change your brain. Hard to say if that was what did it for me. But clearly a major shift in my approach to life was occurring.
Of course, I’m human and I’ve had my times of envy, anger, guilt, fear and loneliness over the years. Yet, I’ve always been able to talk myself back from that space. Maybe it took my body’s dis-integration to allow me to integrate all the parts of who I was more fully. I could put my mind on what I had rather than what I didn’t. Over the years, I became very ill and then, fortunately, much better.
But a bad fall last August set off new chronic pain. A few weeks later, I happened to develop a new chronic condition in my eye. It became harder to maintain my balance and resilience. Distraction and acceptance, my go-to places, weren’t working as they had. I sensed my deep frustration that I was healing so slowly, anger that new health issues were cropping up and deep disappointment that I couldn’t get back to the health baseline I’d finally achieved.
Then a few weeks ago, while “Focusing” (a practice I’m trained in and do weekly with a partner), I noticed something. I sensed a wishing and it felt good. “I wish I could do …” felt very different from wishing that things were different. It felt expansive and freeing.
So I thought I’d share my list of ” some of the things I wish I could do” with you. I wish I could:
- dance at parties without worry that I’ll fall,
- take a jazz dance class and have my feet move as they should,
- exercise hard enough I could sweat,
- ski, golf and snow shoe,
- cook for more than an hour at a time without needing a rest,
- garden on a hot summer day,
- walk more than two miles,
- carry babies without pain.
Do you have a “wish I could” list? Try it out.
The terrific resource, How to Cope With Pain, is running a contest. A blog, poem — anything you want to submit and share. Check it out!