A few weeks ago, I was on a bike ride with a weekly cycling group. It is a leisurely ride each Tuesday and I’m enjoying getting to know some of the regulars. One of the cyclists was telling me about her husband who also has a blood disorder similar to mine, treatable but not likely to be cured. So we had shared some of the highs and lows. But I was taken aback when she posed the question, “How are you dealing with this?” as in, on an emotional level.
Certainly a fair question and not at all too personal for someone like me who is quite the open book about her disease. What surprised me was that I didn’t know how to answer, at least right then. No one had asked me that in a very long time, so I didn’t know what to say. It’s not because people don’t care. I just think my friends and family don’t need to ask. They know I’m okay. What I said was something along the lines of how I’m doing very well.
The rest of the ride I just kept thinking, how do you tell someone who asks a question like this, that you are the happiest you have ever been in your life?
Because if you ask how I’m dealing with this, the answer is “I’m not”. Not because I’m in denial, but because there isn’t anything to deal with. I’ve accepted that this has had an impact on my life and in some ways, it is now part of who I am. But even though I’ve expressed some fears and concerns in previous posts, the fact is, this stuff doesn’t get to take up very much space in my head.
Forced to take a hard look at my life, I came up ways to ‘deal with this’ way back that first week. I looked at why I was here on earth, what I was supposed to do with the rest of my life, and how I was going to get the rain to stop so the sun would come out again.
One of the factors that I recognized as important to happiness and contentment was the ability to live in the present. We often talk about this, but how do we make it really happen?
It certainly doesn’t happen on its own. And it’s always a work in progress.
I’ve come up with a few ideas that seem to be helping me. Some are pretty obvious. Some maybe not so much.
One of the first things I think of is a common cliche. “To stop and smell the roses.” Stop. Smell. Taste. Hear. See. Feel. The five senses. I take the time to feel the sun on my skin when it’s cold and I’ve just warmed up. I like to make my ice cream cones last a long time. Sometimes when I have my compression socks on, it makes my feet feel tingly, in a good way. I ponder on it for a moment, before the moment goes by. I guess that concept is pretty obvious but can be overlooked on a busy day. And aren’t they all busy?
One little trick that has become a favorite of mine is this: If you aren’t having any kind of disaster going on, it’s a pretty good day for that reason alone. When I am having an ordinary day and there doesn’t seem to be anything to be really excited about, I remind myself that excitement can work the other way. I look back on a day in April, two years ago, when I’m pretty sure I accidentally tossed an entire key ring of clients’ keys in the trash. A trash can that was picked up by the waste company just before I figured out what had happened. It was a bad day. Everything was eventually resolved, and not a single pet visit was missed, but my stress level reached an all time high. Now when I even think about the present moment being the slightest bit boring, I remind myself of that day, and my day becomes instantly better! No disasters! It’s a GREAT day. And I can live in the moment of my great day.
It helps to have an activity in which you can lose yourself. Do you like to ski? Is riding your bike down a steep hill going really fast what does it for you? Maybe reading a book? A key is finding what allows your mind to stop worrying about what will happen tomorrow or how you will pay your bills, and do it as much as you can! Seriously, that’s what you need to be doing whenever it’s feasible, assuming you are a productive member of society most of the time. And even if it isn’t something that is always completely fun every moment you are doing it (running comes to mind here), if it is something that moves you toward a goal, it can be a very satisfying moment.
I’ve added something new to my tool box for losing myself in the moment…I got kayaks for me and Howard for our anniversary!
I mentioned before about finding your purpose in life. We all have one. But not everyone knows they have one, or what it is. If you can figure out what it is, you might be able to do something simple every day to fulfill that purpose. It’s another amazing way to live in the present, because it’s a reminder that the quality of our life is more important than the quantity. It’s one way I deal with the possibility that my life may not be as long I had originally ‘planned’. But it’s going to be a good life, that I know. Because it already is.
And then there is finding the joy in every day. Yes, there is something. There is always something good. It might be small, but it’s there. Focus on it, think about it. Allow yourself to recognize it. And be happy about it. Maybe someone let you merge in, in traffic. Or someone said they like your shoes. Sometimes it’s just expressing gratitude for what you have. I’ve read several studies that say gratitude increases serotonin levels in your brain. It’s the little things. Focus on the little and the big will take care of itself.
The same goes for beauty. I like to surround myself with it. That’s easy right now, as I am up at Lake Tahoe as I write this. But there is beauty everywhere and if you can’t surround yourself with it, you can almost always find a small piece of it somewhere. On my run in Tahoe, I picked up a pine cone, one of several million along the road. It was just really perfect. I like to go out in my backyard at night and turn on our strings of lights that hang over the patio. Because it’s beautiful.
(Yes, there’s a cat. There’s always a cat.)
So, there’s more….but I’ve talked enough about living in ‘today’ , and if I go on any longer, it will be tomorrow by the time you have finished reading. Take care now!