For the last couple days I’ve been recuperating from a mean sinus infection (apparently wheat is just as bad for the sinuses -and waistline- as cheese. Who knew?) I started the year with a juice fast, then a vegan fast and was feeling great. So great I decided to cut my major vice- cheese- from my diet. What I didn’t realize was whole wheat bread had become my new over-indulgence.
Which means I didn’t see this coming. While I was initially frustrated and a little disappointed by my body’s refusal to get up and go when I commanded, I realized pretty quickly that my body could be stuck but my mind and spirit didn’t have to be. So I grabbed a good book, stocked up on home remedy ingredients and tissue, snuggled up in my PJ’s with my dog and got busy resting.
Yes, I could have taken a bunch of medicine and struggled through all the day’s earlier commitments. But as I prayed and reflected, that drive- To show I could soldier through, to prove I could always be depended on no matter what it cost me, wasn’t healthy. I realized this was a chance to put me first, something too few of us are willing to do sometimes. Ultimately, everything suffers because of that.
Eventually the same approval-seeking behavior that drives unhealthy ambition will also lead to an emptiness nothing can fill.
At the end of the day, there are infinite reasons to convince yourself to push harder, go farther, do more, be more. But really, there is only ever one reason to do any of those things: When you’re compelled by a God-given sense of purpose, which will never feel like martyrdom.
When you look at it from that perspective, maybe a day or two on bed rest is exactly what the doctor ordered.
So here are a few things that stood out during this time:
1- You can always choose joy. Yes, you may have to stop focusing on all the things distracting you from choosing it, but you can. And as soon as you do, peace fills your world instead of emotional chaos. Being at peace is where you can be the most powerful: Whenever your emotions take control, you’re literally no longer thinking straight. A sound mind, a peaceful mind is powerful, and getting there is a matter of saying nothing will stop your joy.
You can start by grinning. Like a really big, crazy grin. You might cry a little. Or laugh.
But eventually the smile in your spirit will stay.
2- We all need comfort. My dog Sputnik helped remind me of this fact. When I got sick he glued himself to me, following my every step, modeling what it means to just be there for someone. It’s hard to remember sometimes but just your presence, whether you say or do the right thing or not, can strengthen and encourage others. Whenever you can, be there. Lots of things may get in the way but don’t ever let a misunderstanding of how important your presence is be one of them.
Sometimes, holding a hand, holding the space, holding your silence is really holding a loved one’s heart. Comfort others. Everyone needs to feel comforted, and when they need it most will probably never ask.
3- Every moment is available for you to use. I totally fell for the temptation to wallow in my illness, grumpy and fussy and shut off from the world (in my state that was a good thing). But when I remembered I can choose to be joyful no matter how my body feels, all of a sudden the depressing mist that was trying to settle over me lifted. I could see clearly above the fog of sickness that my sense of humor was intact, I could still read, write and even sing a little bit. Use whatever you can at any given moment to make an impact, no matter how big or small.
Just because certain faculties or tools aren’t available to you, doesn’t mean your life is any less meaningful. Find the meaning in what is going on and move forward in it. Never let circumstance dim your light.
I also learned that, well… Occasionally, and only occasionally, not being able to smell is a good thing. Sometimes. Rarely. But sometimes. I’ll just leave it at that.
Anyway, the book I curled up with was Purpose Awakening Discovering the Epic Idea That Motivated Your Birth by Touré Roberts.
A quote: ” The hardest thing for us to do is to see ourselves truthfully. Each of us has an idea of the type of person we are, but there is a difference between who we think we are and what our life is truly speaking to those around us. That’s why it’s important to always have truth-tellers around you. Truth-tellers are people who love you enough to tell you the truth about yourself. They have nothing to gain from you and only desire to see you do well in life. They have no risk in telling youthe truth, and because you both know this, you trust what they say and take it to heart.
But the greatest truth-teller about who we really are is the environment God places us in when we leave our father’s house.”
You will not be disappointed.