On Christmas day I drove to my sister’s care home in Essex. It’s about an hour and a quarter from where I live and she lives there as it is a specialist epilepsy centre. My sister has brain damage and has severe epilepsy. She is non-verbal and requires 24/7 care. I spent the morning opening her Christmas presents with her, which largely translates into me being excited about opening her presents, and her trying to eat the paper. Knowing that this is a trait, this year instead of trying to stop it, I embraced it and had bought her rice paper which she could both shred and eat without harm!
Then I drove back to Hertfordshire to be with my Mum and her family, for what will have been my Mum’s last Christmas. My Mum has a rare brain disease called bvFTD. It’s a bit like motor neurone disease to give you some idea. I fed my Mum her pureed food (she can’t have solids anymore), came home and had a bag of salt and vinegar crips.
And when I thought back and reflected, I realised that it was just another Wednesday. It wasn’t anything more – but most importantly it wasn’t anything less than that. I didn’t feel sorry for myself (I had suspect beforehand that I might!) I didn’t feel at all like I’d missed out on anything else or anything better. As Wednesday’s go, it was pretty inoffensive!
I can 100% without question, tell you that some time ago (old me) would have ‘used’ this set of circumstances to bathe in self pity.
Don’t get me wrong, the situation is still sad and somewhat tiring, but it makes it much more digestible to know that:
a) I chose to be there
b) I did the right thing. The remembering me will be proud I decided to do the things I did that day.
c) The next time I have a Christmas dinner it will taste SOOOOO good!
The start to the new decade was not too dissimilar. I’ve let go of expecting the challenges of one year to vanish like magic because we’ve entered into the next. It was another Wednesday. As it happens it was a really lovely Wednesday but it was a lovely Wednesday whilst simultaneously having all of the other uncomfortable bits from 2019 following along.
Some time ago, I would have felt a sense of resentment at having a lovely day with other stuff being on my mind. I would have felt frustrated that whilst others were celebrating and I was ‘on call’ for whichever member of my family might require my support with a last minute hospital trip.
Instead, I allowed myself to be present in where I was and what I was doing at that moment in time. It prevented my thoughts from being distracted and fragmented and meant I could enjoy what was available to me in that moment instead.
Sometimes, happiness and peace comes not from the absence of problems or good fortune and nor should it. When we rely on life to serve up the ideal ingredients, we are rolling a dice because what life serves up is largely outside of our control. The bit we can take ownership for and feel empowered by, is our reaction to it and the meaning we give it. You can learn more about this in “The psychology of Good Luck” which is written below in the left column.
It’s easy to assume that there are both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ emotions and of course, we would want to spend our time in the positive emotions rather than the negative feelings. However there is some weight to having an open mind about allowing yourself to experience the full spectrum of emotions available to you.
When life is causing you to feel uncomfortable emotions, it can sometimes feel as if the mediocre is acceptable, meaning that you miss out on a whole suite of positive feelings.
When things are always bright, you lose the opportunity to appreciate it because there is never any shade. Both light and shade are equally as important (but is doesn’t mean you need to spend equal time in both).
You can find out more about this subject in the video above in the left column.
And just because I have refrained from saying it so far, Happy New Year (and Happy Wednesday ;-)).