Monday, July 7, 2014

All the King's Horses & All the King's Men

One thing I wish people understood about me is that when I freak out about something, it's not some phantom that my mind has created, some imaginary boogieman, no... If I'm freaking out it's because this is something I've experienced before, some major trauma, where I can see where I'm headed and I'm desperately trying to avoid that fate. I've come by my pessimism and cynicism honestly: that is, I'm not cynical about doctors because it's cool to be cynical about doctors. No, I'm cynical about doctors because I have been let down, betrayed, and permanently injured by doctors. I had youthful optimism once. Now, I am no longer a youth, I am a middle-aged woman and I've been around the block enough times to know that optimism is rarely well-founded.

So what's a girl to do? I could let my cynicism and pessimism turn to bitterness and bile, choosing to see myself as a victim... Or, I can look at things from "the other side of the chessboard." What this means is abandoning my point of view, and looking at my situation from my opponent's point-of-view. In chess it's a way to practice by oneself by literally turning the chessboard around, and playing the game from your opponent's side. In this way, you can see what they're seeing, and get some insight into not only their moves, but how they perceive your moves.

For example, I have a neighbor who is openly hostile towards me for some unknown reason. He's rude, a bully, and is spiteful in so many ways. Now, I could either choose to see myself as his victim, as his attacks are squarely aimed at me... Or, I could view things from his point of view, and that is, all I have to do is show up and his day is ruined. He gets so upset just by my presence, that the one with the power in this equation is actually ME! He's given me power over him to an enormous degree. He's not attacking because he believes he's stronger than me. He's attacking me because he feels weaker than me! I'm not the victim here at all. He is, and he's doing it all to himself. I don't need to do a thing...

So even though no matter what I do I will hurt, and even though I cannot live where I want with the type of people I love... Even though I'm not strong enough to take care of myself, and there are ways in which I cannot be helped at all... Even though I have to accept less from my body, that doesn't mean I have to accept less for my life!! I can learn to live happily at this new pace. I can find new things to enjoy and bring joy into my life. I can make new friends, of quality, who also share my newfound quality of life.

Because I didn't always know what brought me happiness. That was something I had to discover over time. When I was a teenager and was under a period of profound transformation, I had to find new ways of coping, because what I did as a child to cope no longer sufficed. And I had to find new coping mechanisms in college, because my teenaged ways not longer met muster. This happened again after college, and again after 27... I was working diligently towards an entire new set when my life was disrupted by illness. So if I'm completely honest with myself, this type of discontent with my coping mechanisms is not something caused by my illness, it is a regular, normal process throughout my life as I grow and change. The illness limits my choices, to be sure... But my choices would also be limited (in different ways) if I had children. The facts are different, but the feelings are the same. Knowing what makes me happy is an ongoing process, and if I just relax, eventually I'll discover something that will fill me with joy & help me cope.

Yes, the illness changed me in ways I don't like. But life changes everyone in ways they don't like. Everyone experiences pain, despair, heartache, and profound loss. No one is immune. No. One. There is no special reason why I should feel sorry for myself. This isn't a competition for who's got it worst, nor is there any reward for being the most pitiful. I can hang on to my anger, blaming my illness for all my misfortune (which is an easy case to make), or I can realize that everyone deals with misfortune and traumatic loss. This just happened to be mine.

If I'm able to realize that holding on to mediocre I am denying myself the opportunity to find better, then it makes letting go of what doesn't work in my life, and finding the patience to wait for what does... Then the losses aren just losses, but welcomed relief as they are replaced with something better.

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