If your challenge with your health–or your career, or your relationship(s)–was here to teach you something, what would it be? Stop and ask that question for a brief moment. What arises within you as an answer?
While this lesson likely has different specifics for each person, I invite you to consider that at the highest level, the lesson is about gaining a different perspective.
A Personal Perspective Shift
There was a time in my life where I was very unhappy with how I looked. It was probably rooted in grade school years, where the taunt: “short, fat, and ugly” followed me through the hallways. Sadly, I used to reply: “I may be short and ugly, but I’m not fat!” In my 30s, when under extreme stress and feeling like there was no way out of a life I’d created but hated, an internal chant of “fat and disgusting” lodged itself into my head. I dieted, I over-exercised. Nothing could make me feel better about my body. Something in my mind almost prevented it.
A few short years later, when my work and home life had completely changed and I was happier, I became physically ill. For two years I ran around to all sorts of doctors, trying to find the cause of my pain. For two years, all my tests came back normal, or even better: “unremarkable.” I remember that my body hurt so badly, I couldn’t even walk around the block to get the mail (a mere half mile). Once I got a diagnosis of chronic Lyme, I was able to take measures to improve my health and my body responded. The pain subsided.
The other day, my partner asked how I felt about my body. (He and I have been together since the tail end of my “fat and disgusting” phase.) My first reply was, “what?” It seemed like such a strange question! He noted that he hadn’t heard me complain about it in a while. I said something like, “I don’t know. I’m not in pain. It functions well, and I think I look just fine.”
A few days ago, a former student and Facebook friend posted about having walked a mile for the first time in 7 months (post knee surgery). I congratulated her, and remembered how that felt for me too. To this day, when I’m able to walk down to the Farmer’s Market, or walk up the stairs to my apartment without issue, I have moments of overwhelming gratitude for what my body is able to do. I truly appreciate my body, and I honestly don’t have any issues with how I look.
My question is: would this level of appreciation have happened without having gone through a health crisis?
I’d like to think that I would have come around to this perspective. But what I think might have happened, sans illness, is that I would have potentially gotten to a level of acceptance. Don’t get me wrong: that would have been great. But it’s different than deep appreciation and gratitude for those little things the human body does every day (you know, like walking!).
Though on a much smaller scale, it reminded me of this book I read years ago, called Chasing Daylight. (If you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend.) Or about people who have experienced death and been returned to life. They all have one thing in common: as a result of their challenges, they transform. They return to their live with a completely different perspective: one I’m not sure would ever be possible without facing such intense challenge.
What do you think?
Have you experienced a health (or other) challenge intense enough to have changed your perspective or outlook on life?
If so, would you trade it for not having that new insight, attitude, or perspective now? Do you think you could have gotten there without the experience? Why or why not?
If not, could you potentially be in the midst of such a transformation now? While it may be very hard, can you explore the idea that there may be a higher purpose for your suffering right now?