Last week when I was immobilized from an emotional neck injury that required me mostly to lay on my back, to move slowly with great attention and to embrace how painful living in a body can be, I learned a few things that I feel determined to hold onto now that my body is fully functional. The first and most important lesson is the utter and complete sense of gratitude I have for all the millions of ways that our bodies work for us. Often, it is injury and physical limitation that shows us how much freedom of movement we take for granted. We don’t realize how well we felt until we are sick. Pain is a funny thing. When you are in it, you can’t remember ever feeling well, and when it is over, you can’t remember how intense it was.
Remembering your pain can either make you afraid of what might come next or unbelievably grateful. Truly, turning my head feels like grace today. The other corollary truth to what we take for granted is that most bad things happen fast, and ironically, building the good is a slow and steady process. Yet, it is also true that even though it takes no time to become weak, rebuilding strength is a process. However, the longer you are working at building strength, the better you can weather the inevitable declines of illness and injury.
The second thing that came clear in the stillness of not turning my head is that there is a huge abyss between striving and the willingness to keep showing up. It is so easy to slip into a mind set that encourages us to push through, to make things happen. As if we have the control to make things happen anyway. It is folly and fantasy that is fed by the urgency to prove our worth through what we accomplish and the never ending imaginary growth cycle that dictates an ever increasing market share of everything.
I don’t disagree that at the end of the day, we are what we do with the hours we have, but there is a balance, too. When we have the courage to show up for life as it is, a willingness to not only bear witness but emotionally experience the disappointments and discomfort of life’s events as they occur, something else happens. Life takes care of itself. The wins that you aspire to materialize in their own time, the losses taken in stride are never catastrophic. Life actually works if you let it.
In summary, be grateful and show up. That’s it. One good way to practice feeling gratitude is to imagine that whatever you didn’t feel grateful for today will be gone tomorrow. Now turn your head, look up. Are you grateful yet?