I recently read the bio of a successful woman who says she spends her days quietly writing, helping others, drinking tea, taking long walks and snuggling her pets.
“That sounds like a dream. I wish I had a life like that,” I thought to myself, feeling a wee bit jealous of this random woman from the Internet whom I’ve never met but apparently has a thriving business and immaculate hair.
But then I remembered something… that actually IS my life. (Nearly word for word.)
Until that moment though, I had never really considered MY life to be the stuff of which dreams are made. Mainly because it’s not the life I wanted for myself.
The life I would have chosen is likely similar to the one you may have dreamed for yourself…
· One in which I am wildly successful, travel the world and have wonderful adventures;
· One where I adeptly balance home and work and am an amazing parent and loving spouse who still finds time to give back to her community;
· One in which my personal and professional failures are fleeting and inconsequential, but still deeply educational;
· One where my social skills are always on point and my body is always trim, healthy and well coiffed.
As we get older, things happen in most of our lives that make us think, “Oh, hey. That magical fantasy future I imagined is probably not going to be a reality. I’m not going to get to have everything I want,” and adjust accordingly.
But, in general, we still assume for most of the coin toss of our lives, things are going to primarily come up “heads.”
But sometime they don’t.
Sometimes life barfs a whole lot of “tails” on you all at once, and you have to look at that magical fantasy future and start saying goodbye to huge chunks of it, (so many chunks it may make your heart hurt and your stomach ache.)
Dream Life: Take Two
For me, that thing was chronic pain. It became part of my life over a decade ago and quickly assumed the role of the world’s bitchiest project manager, dictating how many hours I could work, how long I could be upright and how much stress my body could handle.
Pain forced me to make a lot of adjustments to my magical fantasy — the biggest of which was to let go of a life filled with “IFs.”
You know that kind of life? It’s the kind where you say, “My life would be amazing…
…IF my spouse loved me more.”
…IF my kids were doing better in school.”
…IF I lost 20 pounds.”
…IF I could land my dream job.”
IF one little tweak could be made, one little goal could be achieved, THEN (and only then) would everything be great and you’d be really, truly happy.
If I played the IF game in my life, every sentence of mine would end with “IF I didn’t have chronic pain.” And, since I have pain every day (and it may never go away), that would mean NOTHING in my life would ever get to be amazing.
And that’s simply a big, fat load of bullshit.
Embracing Your Ands
Even when all of your best-laid plans go up in flames, you still have an opportunity to roast some marshmallows.
You do that by accepting the imperfect, unexpected, unwanted shifts in your life as much as your planned and perfect ones. (Because sometimes, those shifts are the very thing you need to become the person you want to be.)
And you remember that, even at your lowest, there is always someone else out there who has fallen lower. People with circumstances far worse than yours would kill to have your “bad” days.
It’s not an easy thing to do. I still have bio envy from time to time and get caught up in the comparison game on Facebook. But, in general, by changing how I think about the bad stuff, I’ve become more content with my lot in life — certainly more so than the people around me obsessed with their IF coin tosses with fate.
I live a life full of “ANDs…”
…I do creative, fulfilling work and have chronic pain.
…I have a loving family and snuggly dogs and chronic pain.
…I go for long walks, drink lots of tea and have chronic pain.
And I am learning it’s a beautiful life — not in spite of my pain, but because of it.
Interested in this topic? Please follow me on Medium to read more posts about chronic pain and my new book, Chronic Pain Recovery: A Practical Guide to Putting Your Life Back Together After Everything Has Fallen Apart, now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Google Play and Kobo.