When I used to take my golden retriever to our local nursing home I quickly noticed who the most popular residents were. They were the people whom always had a smile on their face, were pleasant to talk to and who chatted about things other than their health or how horrible their room was. These were not special people – they had aches and pains like everyone else; they sold their homes, gave many personal possessions away and moved into a less-than-desired place like everyone else but their attitudes set them apart. Nurses enjoyed them, other residents admired them and people like me respected them. It was their attitude that set them apart. They seemed to take every situation – good or bad – and found some piece of good within it all. I quickly realized that I wanted to have that kind of outlook when I was at that stage of my life. I didn’t want to be the person who finds fault with every little thing, who complains about every person they run into; who holds onto a bitterness that spreads like a cancer. I have lived with people like that for a good part of my life and it wasn’t who I wanted to be.
I stopped volunteering at the nursing home when my dog died but the lessons I learned there have stuck with me. It’s not easy to keep a positive outlook when I have chronic pain. I’ve recently come to the realization that I’ve suffered from some form of pain since the age of 16. I don’t know what it’s like to wake up pain-free, and that can take its toll so I get it. But honestly, it’s becoming easier to maintain a positive outlook the more I practice it. Nothing has taught me that more than dealing with neck/shoulder pain for the last 6 months but every night before I go to bed I am thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given since this happened. I can still use my left hand to paint and have gained a new skill that I never would have had reason to attempt otherwise.
So, an update. I am still having issues and there are days when I can’t set foot in my studio – even to paint with my non-dominant hand, due to the pain that radiates from my neck down my arm. But I am learning to redirect that energy towards other things that I CAN do. Yoga is one of those beautiful things in life that waits for me to come back to it, just like an old, dear friend. It doesn’t matter that I can’t currently hold plank. or Downward facing Dog – it’s just glad to see me taking care of my body the best I can, and even though my upper body may be regressing somewhat, my lower body is still strong and powerful.
This week I nailed bound half lotus tip-toe pose and I am grateful; when my pain resolves itself I know that I’ll appreciate painting in a way that I never have before. These are the mantras I play over in my head and it makes all the difference in the world. Of course I still have down days – I’m human; but I won’t let them define me.