I am constantly reminded that in addition to the inevitability of death and taxes there is one more element of life that we cannot avoid, and that is change. As human beings there is a natural desire to have consistency in our lives, to have things remain steady, unchanging, and stable. This belief is probably responsible for more suffering in the world than anything else. Why, because it sets us up for failure. As hard as we try we will never be able to have complete control over all of the aspects of every day living. I have been reminded of this so much lately that it literally has made me ill. First my pain therapy dog just dropped dead, then there is the incredibly challenging family issues dealing with an ailing father, and now my darling daughter’s close friend was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident this week. It finally became too much and I had to be treated for stomach problems and chest pain. An afternoon getting my heart checked at the emergency room after getting a negative EKG reading was the icing on the cake, as they say. It was then that I knew something had to change and I knew that the biggest obstacle I was facing was myself. I thought that I had become pretty proficient at accepting life’s little bumps and curves in the road - I guess I needed a refresher course.
Perhaps the hardest area of change to accept graciously is that of loss. Loss is something that has a habit of sneaking up on us and quite literally derailing us. Whether it is the loss of a loved one or the loss of things that come with chronic pain or other tragic events, are we ever prepared enough? My daughter is currently taking Hospice training, something that I did several years ago, and so I have been reminded of the valuable life lessons the course had taught me about loss. As we age or begin having daily chronic pain, we suffer most from the sense of loss of who we were, and how we once lived. It is very much a process of giving up the very things we cherished most as we lose more and more control over everything. It really is a frightening and difficult process. But there are things that we can do that help ease this process.
I think the first is a shift in how we view our own circumstances. Life really is a journey, a beautiful flowing journey that we can influence with our choices but can never completely control. There are always going to be unexpected events that will surprise us. Accepting that fact makes it a little easier. A good visualization for this would be to see your life as a little boat on a river. Sure you can use your oars to paddle upriver and make the going harder, but if you let the current carry you along it will be a lot easier.
The next important shift is to know deep in your heart that you are not alone in this journey. Every one suffers sooner or later on their journeys; it is simply a fact of life. But there is comfort in knowing and accepting that we are not alone in our suffering. Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself, you know, a big case of poor me, I know it is time to go find someone worse off than me and reach out to help them. It is my surefire cure for the poor me. Lately I have been visiting my father-in-law at the Dementia/Alzheimer facility that he now lives in. It always reminds me that my life could be much worse, and in fact, it has been shown that helping others releases powerful chemicals that improve our own wellbeing and health.
Another powerful shift is letting go of yesterday. I know this is a hard one, but by letting go of who you were yesterday, or what happened to you, and starting each day new and fresh you become available to have a brand new experience every day. Let me give you an example. I love to take walks. It is my form of exercise and I use it to help my physical and mental health. But after my dog died I was having a hard time going back outside and walking without him. He played such a big part in distracting me from my pain as I loved watching his joy and enthusiasm over every little thing that he encountered and he was just a big old goof ball. He was my angel. But the sun was shining and for once it wasn’t as cold as it had been and so I forced myself to go out. I chose a new route up on the road so it would be a little easier without him. Much to my surprise by the second and third day I was thinking less of him and I began noticing things around me that were new. He always scared all the wildlife away long before I got near anything, so I was ecstatic when I came upon a huge gathering of hundreds of birds screaming and cawing a really loud cacophony of noise right over my head. I joyfully stood under the trees and just experienced this with all my being. I knew immediately that I needed to share this fact with you. A new day, a different perspective is waiting for us to have new experiences, if we stop holding on to the “who” we were and the “what” we had before.
My final reminder that always helps with the trials of life is a simple fact and that is, there is an infinite supply of love in this world. When we experience a severe loss whether it is a cherished love one, or a way of living, or even a thing, remember that if you keep putting love out there you will have it come back to you ten fold. I know you can never replace the exact thing you just lost but love never dies, you just have to open your heart again to see it is always there. It truly is the only thing that never changes.
So try and lean back in your boat and enjoy the ride along with everyone else, see each day new by letting go of yesterday and always know you are surrounded by infinite love. My dog Willy reminded me to live this way everyday. I guess I had to remember how to do this on my own without him and now I am reminding you.