Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dealing with What Is

A man in a wheelchair – can’t be more than 42 – tells me it was a car accident. Someone hit him from behind at a red light. And now he can’t feel his legs below the knee.

I think most of us take our mobility and good health for granted. It’s hard enough to age in this youth-oriented society without losing our autonomy as well. No one wants to be that man.

Some would say our destinies are mapped out before we’re even born. We may be slated for fame or riches, a difficult childhood or a series of failed relationships so that we can have that experience. The purpose, always, is to learn and grow.

Whenever we feel trapped in our limitations, what really helps, I find, is to appreciate the parts of our lives that still work. If we picture our basic needs as sections of a pie – e.g. finance, personal relationships, health, career and family – many of us have at least one or two missing pieces. Maybe we have a great romantic partnership, a thriving family life and good health – but we are unhappy at work and in debt. Or we have successful careers, along with broken family ties and on-going problems with our children. Some people have a serious health condition which is a life-long concern.

Those of us who seem to “have it all” are in the minority. Even if we are satisfied with all aspects of our lives, things can change. It’s best not to long for a perfect life, but to acknowledge what we already have. To savour it.

I carry around with me a small gratitude journal. Every day I jot down three things that I am grateful for – whether it’s lunch with a close friend, the smell of freshly-mown grass or the pleasure of a leisurely walk. No matter what happens to me tomorrow, I am absorbing the benefits of today.

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