There are events that happen in our lives that present us with opportunities for transformation and growth, often without our awareness. Medical crises certainly qualify as one of those events. I can speak from personal experience on this.
Fear – A Natural Response
During a good part of the last two-plus years, I have worked hard to keep my fears in check as my husband has struggled with a debilitating disease that has required three hospitalizations to date, (with another one within the next 3 months). Fear about whether or not he would recover. Fear about how different life would be if he didn’t get better. Fear about what our lives would be like if he had to continue requiring surgeries. Fear about how we would survive with minimal income – would we lose our house, how would we pay bills, would I ever find a full-time job. You get the picture.
It’s easy to say, as I have done on many occasions, that this type of “project-into-the-future” fear does you no good. It does not give you any answers. It does not make you feel better. And it can be pretty destructive. But the reality is that, when you are faced with unknown waters, fear can be a natural response.
HOWEVER, I have learned some things about the awfulness of living in fear:
- When I live in fear, I feel trapped. I don’t want to do anything but run away, but I can’t.
- When I live in fear, I feel hopeless. I don’t see or feel anything but the fear, and my life feels almost one-dimensional and surreal.
- And when I live in fear, life looks and feels gray. I don’t experience any of the positive aspects of my life that are going on RIGHT NOW. I feel no joy.
Fear – A Catalyst For Change
Fortunately, fear has been a catalyst for change for me. I hated feeling awful all the time. I knew that something had to change, and that change had to be about how I was experiencing life. I can tell you that this wasn’t an “Aha” epiphany moment for me, but happened over a period of time as I realized that I needed and desired that change.
My husband has been the embodiment of living in the present moment, amazing when you consider the medical issues that he has been dealing with. It has not always been easy for him, either. I have embraced this way of being as best as I can, and when I struggle, my husband is often my inspiration to bring myself back to the present. This is definitely a life-long journey of letting go of the judgments of the past and worries about the future, and instead experiencing the joy that is in the moment in front of you, right now. This echoes the Buddhist philosophy about being grateful, not only for what you have, but for the difficulties in your life.
Gratitude and the Joy of Being Present
So my growth has been, and continues to be, awareness of and gratitude for the joy of being present. Of appreciating sitting next to my husband as we watch a TV show we both enjoy. Of traveling to a nearby town to sit by a river together and enjoy the breeze and peacefulness. Of trying new recipes together that we both can eat. Of supporting each other with love and kindness as we try to navigate the murky waters of the medical establishment. And consciously experiencing whatever is happening in my life without judgment, even if it is painful and sad. And of just being.