When it comes to colds and other minor health disturbances I’ve always taken the approach of “ignore it and it will eventually go away.” This works for me. Now, I may not be the epitome of health – at my most recent physical exam my cholesterol levels were a tad high (the good cholesterol, Mom, the GOOD kind), and my first thought was definitely “hmm… I really should switch to red wine.” Regardless, my ignore-it tactic has served me well over the years. So, I get veryveryvery annoyed when my body won’t let me utilize the ignore-it tactic. In the past few weeks I developed bronchitis and a sinus infection that just refused to be ignored, so for a few days I tried antibiotics that made me feel horrible and a cough medicine that turned me into the walking dead. I noticed myself getting a wee-bit better so I ditched the meds and went back to the ignoring-it tactic, but it really wasn't working at all and today I woke up feeling worse than ever. So now I’m fresh back from the doctor once again with an ear infection to add to the lineup and a new batch of meds. It’s an amazing reminder of how much I don’t appreciate my body until it’s broken in some way – until the feeling of normal is gone.
This has got me thinking about how we do this in so many other categories of our life, too – that whole “don’t appreciate it until it’s gone” thing. We let go of a relationship and then after its gone start to realize, “oh, wait… I actually liked him/her.” We switch jobs because we’re sure there must be something better, only to find the same complications and annoyances in our new job along with a strange nostalgia for the old one. We snap at our children and march them to the school bus and then fight back loving tears in thinking about how much we miss them. It’s a constant Go Away! Come Back! tug-o-war.
In short, we’re crazy, people. We just don’t fully appreciate what we have when we have it. And, really, we know this. Across the ages people have reminded us of this. I mean, c’mon – the band Cinderella told us this back in 1988. Why don’t we listen to you, Cinderella?
I think it’s in our DNA to be slightly forgetful of how appreciative we should be about our health/job/relationship/living circumstances/fill-in-your-own-miscellany . Or, rather, we are appreciative, but we’re restless – or appreciative, but critical – or thankful just in a forgetful sort of way. Consider Thanksgiving, coming up next week… I know for myself, when asked about what I’m thankful for I usually defer to “oh, my family… yes, oh I’m so happy we’re together.” Which is true! It’s so true! But we often fall into that vague level of appreciation, rather than honing in on what it is, exactly. To be genuinely appreciative of ourselves and our lives, that’s really a whole different sack of potatoes. That kind of appreciation, it turns out, is a muscle that needs to be flexed; a practice that needs to be pro-actively sought after. On Sunday I hosted a Pre-Thanksgiving dinner and there were a couple of “I’m thankful fors…” that really hit that mark, and those packed an emotional wallop that my well-intentioned and genuine “I love my family” just did not.
So, today, I am reminding myself to be appreciative of my body even in its currently very annoying state of unrest – because, after all, my heart is still beating, my lungs are still taking in the air I need, and my arms still effectively hug my kids tight.
Stop for a moment. Look around you. Look past the dust, the cracks, the quirks, the imperfections. Don’t see what’s missing, see what’s present.
What can you see with newly-appreciative eyes?
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