What Used To Be
I often hear about other people who have struggles in their lives and they often sound something like ‘Before x happened I could run for 15 km without even getting my heartbeat up’ or ‘Having x condition means I can’t play with my kids anymore’ or worse still ‘My kids are missing a mom/dad because of my health problem’. All these things seem so true at the time that people say them. I am in no way saying that people should not be able to vent and get out their frustrations. It is a part of healing to let those feelings out. What we do with those feelings can really make a difference, though.
I had a similar frame of mind when after months of having a tremendously painful headache, as a result of a Spontaneous Spinal CSF Leak, I thought there was nothing to do but lament and rant (believe me…I did my fair share)!
A New Perspective
It hit me one day though that in my daily life, I also found positives in every aspect of my day. I had nurtured a daily practice of honouring my feelings of disappointment but focusing on the great occasions of each day. Was it possible to do that now? When all I could do was lie in bed and force myself not to cry?
Well, the answer is, it was entirely possible and here is what I did…
6 Steps to Getting Past What Used To Be
1. I decided that I had to deal with what I had at hand. Like my daily practice of honouring my feelings, there was no use focusing on what happened yesterday because it was over…done…finished. No sense dwelling on the terrible day I had, it was time to move on (that was my ‘what used to be’).
“If you have a problem that can be fixed, then there is no use in worrying. If you have a problem that cannot be fixed, then there is no use in worrying.” – Buddhist proverb
2. Then, I made a point of avoiding the idea of tomorrow, too. I know this sounds odd but worrying about future suffering can cause serious harm to my well-being in sickness and in health. I can take a moment and look to the future (a quick glance) but there is nothing to be gained by lamenting and worrying about things that are completely out of my control…so, I stopped thinking about this party I missed, that outing I had wanted to go on, this place I wanted to visit.
(This was huge for me, it was my year of turning 50 years old and I had promised myself a yoga retreat, a weekend getaway with friends, a party with family in the summer, and three summer concerts that were ‘must-sees’ from a lifetime of waiting…all these plans had to go out the window).
3. I stopped comparing my present self to my past self (or even the future self I thought I was on track to being). Being healthy presents its own challenges with aging, and gaining or losing weight, with wrinkles and folds where you never knew they would be, and with any number of body issues I might have. I had to let all those ‘ideals’ that I had of myself and leave them off the proverbial table. I lost tons of weight at one point only to take steroids and bring the weight right back and add a whole bunch more. What used to be of my toned and trim figure became atrophied and I had to just accept it. My value would in no way be defined by the year I spent in bed, so why on earth would I worry about what size my body was?
4. It was finding the one thing I knew I could do consistently that allowed me to built upon it. I went out in my garden every day for about ten minutes from about 6 AM each day. I could spend a few minutes outdoors before the sun came around the house and made it too difficult to be out in the sunlight (CSF leaks often produce severe light sensitivity). But with just 10 minutes a day, I could find a tiny bit of solace by being outside admiring the flowers as they blossomed and grew and changed each day (you can read more about my flower meditation if you like).
5. After finding something I could do each day, I added to it to make it meaningful. I realized that my being outside still had a very ‘me’ focus, so I made sure to make it more meaningful. I decided to set a daily meditation intention on one flower each morning and to ask the Universe to help one other person other than myself. This did many things: it took the focus off of me and my headache pain; it meant I was present when talking with friends to find who I wanted to send my energy to; and it meant that I had a mission each day that was completely separate from the other minutes I would spend for the rest of the day.
6. Once I gained the momentum of living with meaning, I took more opportunities to focus on what I could give to the world around me and minimize the deep regrets I was feeling. I knew I was not being a ‘good wife’ or a ‘good dog owner’, or a ‘good friend’ but how could I be? Those things I wanted to have in my life were impossible and I knew, under normal circumstances, I would always strive to do my best. I had to let those ideals go (also…thrown into the ‘what used to be’ pile).
Where could I focus my energy to make a difference and to help myself direct my focus on the positive? How could I be of help to others? Find something that you can do to help others and you will be amazed at how much it actually helps you. I have no idea how it really works but trust me when I tell you it does. Helping others just feels good!
Opening The Doors
Getting beyond the point where I compared what used to be to my current situation is when the doors opened for me to change my internal settings. I realized how limiting is was for me to continue to believe that there was nothing good about what was happening to me. Our own thoughts can present some of the most devastating obstacles to our own growth and desperation spreads those thoughts like weeds in a garden.
No one had any idea that it would take more than a year to be treated for my condition. I am so thankful that I didn’t spend all that time focusing on the things that were bringing my spirits down. By focusing on little tiny positive increments each day, I was able to make a difficult situation bearable and found parts of me that I barely knew were there.
I am the sum of all my life lessons and that is surely SOMETHING WONDERFUL!
Love Ingrid x
P.S. I would love to hear about how you struggle with what used to be. Feel free to leave a comment about a personal struggle you’ve had and any of the strategies and techniques you’ve used to get beyond those feelings and onto a happier state of mind.
#loveiseverywhere #csfleaks #spinalcsfleak #today #somethingwonderful