Happiness in the face of physical misery
A while ago, I wrote a post about how tearing my ACL has taught me to be be a better person, which touched briefly on happiness. Then today I read a fantastic article by Leo Babauta on how to be happy in the face of physical misery. His misery stemmed from a bout of poison oak, which while miserable will resolve itself pretty quickly compared to a torn ACL. The concepts he shared, however, apply equally to more difficult injuries and are worth sharing:
His first step is to “let go.” Specifically, he needed to let go of the ideas of himself as healthy and comfortable and the expectation that life should be without physical discomfort. The reason we need to let go of these ideas and expectations, he said, is that holding onto those ideas is more painful than the injury itself. This was like a gong going off in my head. Before surgery, I wept uncontrollably several time a day because I wanted my life to be a certain way and I really, REALLY struggled to accept the reality of the new, incapacitated me. I had lost control and felt frustration, anger, depression and stress. Lots of stress. The key to letting go, is figuring out what you’re holding onto that’s causing you pain.
His second step is to “accept what is.” Again, for the control freak in me, this was extremely difficult. I felt like accepting was giving up, and I that’s not what I do. On the other hand, once I could accept that reality wasn’t matching up with my fantasy/ideal of what life should be, I could act based on a place of peace. Recovery is progressing at a rate that my body is ready for, and I’ve embraced my limitations as the rest that my body has been calling out for.
His final step is to “act with gratitude and compassion.” Miserable people focus on what should be, not on all the things we should be grateful for: being alive, being able to walk, being able to love, being loved, having friends, having a job I love … the list is endless. No matter where you are in your recovery, seize the awesome life you have and do something good with it. That’s gratitude and that will make you feel better!