There are times when it is easier to focus on what’s not working in our lives than what does work. And, once the “not working” mindset has taken hold, it’s difficult not to live precariously from one challenge to the next in a downward emotional spiral. I have been reminded of this fact during a recent flare-up of back pain, a condition I’ve endured off and on since my mid-thirties.
Pain and it’s cousins—reduced mobility, side-effects of medication, and loss of mental acuity—can easily become the center of one’s existence, and the temptations to feel isolated, sorry for oneself, helpless, and angry seem overwhelming at times. I know, because I’ve succumbed to all of these in turn or all at once, depending on the level of my pain and my resulting sense of limitation.
It’s at times like these that all of the other “not working” things in my life seem to pop up like rabbits out of their holes, vying for my attention and making me feel even worse. It’s a fascinating fact that when we focus on something, we see more of it everywhere. As a mundane example, after I bought my red Prius, I suddently saw red Priuses everywhere, where I had not noticed them before. The same phenomenon is in effect when we focus on the negative.
But how, when something like pain or illness or a family catastrophe intrudes into your life, are you supposed to avoid focusing on the negative? When every step is a knife slicing into you, how do you count your blessings? By remembering you have a choice.
I may not be able to choose my pain, but I can choose how I will perceive the pain in the context of my life. If I let it, it can become my life. Or I can place it within a larger perspective by focusing on what is working for me. Focusing on the positive is a form of gratitude practice, and gratitude, while it may not reduce physical pain, is a known antidote to depression and other forms of emotional pain.
I have discovered that if I focus on one positive aspect of my life, I can find another … and another … until the pain, though still present, is reduced in stature and power. And I find a great deal to be happy about:
- In general, I am rarely ill and enjoy excellent health.
- I have great relationships with my loved ones and family members.
- I am part of a wonderful, supportive network of writers and artists.
- The new anthology I co-edited with Kate Farrell and Linda Joy Myers, Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the ’60s & ’70s is getting a lot of positive attention. We have had several extremely successful launch events.
- And my memoir, Not the Mother I Remember, after nearly 7 years of labor, is in its final stages of production and is scheduled for release in January.
I could go on, but I will save the rest for my personal journal.
How about you? What’s working in your life today?