Live your best life. It sounds like a cliche, a slogan or a talk show host's catch phase; or at least that's all I thought of it. That is until my recent surgery when I was recovering. I realized early on that I am very fortunate, once again, to be walking. So here I am at this phase of my life feeling like I've been there before. I have. I have had to learn to walk four times in my life. I can consider myself a slow learner, or a lucky woman who has escaped a wheel chair three times now. I feel grateful for the opportunity to continue to be able to walk. It is a lot of work and it hasn't been easy, but giving up is not really an option when you see what hard work has gotten me.
The first time it happened to me was after my spinal cord surgery in 2002. I had been warned that paralysis was possible. I signed the papers with a positive attitude and didn't give it another thought, because that wasn't going to happen to me. That was until I woke and and couldn't feel half of my body. If it wasn't for a fast reacting team of doctors, rehab and hard wok I would have been in my custom wheel chair for life and not the short three months that I was. I can say it was short now but believe me it was an eternity at the time.
My next experience happened quite unexpectedly after my second surgery this year, I woke up from my surgery and while I lay alone in the recovery room I went to move my feet and they didn't move. I felt a hot tear slide down my cheek and swallowed hard thinking this time it may be permanent. That was a long difficult night and you can find the blog about it here.Put link for that blog
That ended with a five week stay in a Toronto rehab centre and thankfully ended with me being able to walk again.
The third time was this past August after my surgery. It seemed as though things were going well when I started to lose feeling in my legs once again. It was another long night of harried phone calls, neurosurgeons testing through the night and an emergency MRI and finally a series of steroids that helped. Rehabilitation in Toronto was recommended once again. This time I felt very strongly about going home and knew I had a physiotherapist who could help me here.
I have repeated all of this to tell you that living your best life is not just a cliche or slogan. It really is something we should all strive for. It wasn't until my legs were "taken" once again that I really began to see that whatever happened, I had to do my very best, to be my best.
That's easily said, believe me, it is much harder to do. I'd see the sun rise most mornings without a wink of sleep and be in pain almost 100 percent of the time. When the physiotherapist came to my room at the rehab at 9am I wasn't in the mood to be my best self. I had remembered a saying I had heard "fake it till you make it" and I did. I smiled and asked her about her weekends, children anything but complain about myself and situation. Of course I was honest and clear about my symptoms so that she could help me but I was careful not to repeat over and over again what I knew she already knew.
That's not to say I didn't complain, just ask my family. I did because we all have to but there is a limit to how helpful venting is. Even in this blog there are many details left unsaid because if all you do is complain then people stop listening. They have to, to save their own sanity.
While it's important to have people you can really vent with, it is just as important to give them a chance to do the same. It doesn't matter if you think their life is perfect in comparison to yours, they still need to let off steam.
I've been to a few chronic pain groups in the last 13 years. I didn't last. Except for the last one, it was mediation for chronic pain. The difference was we didn't formally talk about our pain and disease. We talked about solutions.
The others were so depressing. Most people came to vent. When you have people in a room like that it is very heavy if all you do is talk about what's wrong. I was having enough trouble dealing with my own pain but to hear so much about their pain over and over again, it felt oppressive.
I'm as empathic as most, my friends may even say I'm more so; but if you aren't solution focussed I'm likely to bow out. It's true some like to bury themselves in their misery and that is not anything I can be a part of. Seeing a light at the end of the tunnel is a must. Even if you don't know how in the world you are going to get there, acknowledging it is there does help.
I remember calling my friend one day and saying right up front, today I feel sorry for myself, tomorrow I will be okay. She laughed and told me I had a right to feel sorry for myself and listened to all my many complaints, then we laughed.
So what I'm carefully saying here is be careful. Be careful of two things; number one how much negativity you spew out into the world without a thought of a solution, and number two, be careful of how many people around you are spreading negativity at you without any interest in a solution. We need to listen to each other, consult and offer some constructive ways of dealing with the negative in our lives. It's also true sometimes we just need to be heard but if that is all you or a friend is ever looking for then you are sucking someone dry and imposing on their goodwill. That's why it's important to have a good hard look at yourself, your friends and family, think about who and what you choose to have in your life.
There's one more thing to say on this subject and that is we all fall on hard times and there are times in our lives when we can't see the forest for the trees, that's okay. In those times cut yourself or your friend a break, but just be careful it isn't going on forever.
So back to "living your best life" it comes down to finding what you can do and doing it and not dwelling too much on what you can't. Be the best version of who you are right now, don't wait for some epic event. Live today, enjoy today and be grateful every day for something.