It Happens in the Blink of an Eye
"And there it is. Whack! Boom! It feels like a punch to the face. A kick to the stomach. Like I have had the wind knocked out of me and am doubled over, straining for breath.
In the blink of an eye, my life has just changed trajectory.
My head starts spinning. That feeling of sheer terror envelops me in its darkness once again."
An excerpt from my book, A Year of Medical Thinking, 2014 which chronicles my year of baby loss and diagnosis of breast cancer.
It’s a bit of a theme in my life if I’m honest; a life lesson that keeps popping up time and time again. This I know for sure: this happens to almost everybody at some stage in their/your life - something will happen, an event, a misfortune, tragedy and or twist of fate. The global pandemic is a perfect example of just such a thing. All of a sudden, one’s whole life is turned upside down. What is known as the ‘presumptive world’ in psychological parlance is thrown into turmoil. This is especially true when a loved one dies, or the loss of a baby, or a diagnosis of a terminal or life-threatening disease.
These moments in life pivot our sense of reality into sharp relief and we grasp at something, anything, with which to help us make sense of it all.
Sometimes we find sense and meaning, sometimes we need to create that ourselves. Sometimes it is random happenstance, such as a freak incident where a shark jumps onto a boat and attacks the seafarers, or a group of young teens walking to the nearby shop late one afternoon get mowed down by a careless driver.
Whatever the situation, all of a sudden, the little things we take for granted in life become imbued with incredible significance. Little things, like being able to walk feely, to watch a beautiful sunset, to listen to birdsong at the crack of dawn, or being able to enjoy a meal with our loved ones.
The Simple Things We Take for Granted
Recently, I found myself contemplating those simple, taken-for-granted things in a whole new light once again. One day, I was enjoying a meal with family, the next day, I found myself unable to eat properly.
Suddenly, my whole world turned upside down again. Eating is something we often take for granted. As a perpetual dieter who squandered many years on anorexia nervosa when younger, I was well acquainted with deprivation around food. But that was voluntary. Involuntary deprivation is a whole other proposition. All of a sudden, to find myself in a continual state of hunger and yet being unable to deal with that in the simplest of ways, i.e. getting something to eat, put my mental state into a tailspin. Food everywhere, but I can’t eat it. Feeling starving hungry, yet unable to do anything about it. Energy levels going through the floor.
All of a sudden, I had an entirely different understanding of something I had never really thought that much about before. Most people don’t. Even if you are a chronic dieter like me, there is always the fact that eating food is possible. Even if you don’t have enough to eat, you are still able to eat. It has been enlightening and introduced to me a hidden world of difficulty around consuming food that I literally had no idea existed. I knew a little bit about it -when my brother had a stroke, this became a problem. But even still, my understanding was limited.
My appreciation for the simple pleasure of an ordinary meal, being able to eat if I wanted, of food shopping, of cooking, all took on a whole new meaning. As did my compassion for anybody who is afflicted by the limitation of being unable to eat normally.
Interestingly, prior to this, I had been working on a Gratitude project to claw back some semblance of normality after this crazy year and some personal challenges. When this new challenge arrived to taunt me with its life lessons, I felt really pushed to find something to feel grateful about.
But then, I did it anyway.
I made the conscious choice to stick to my plan and work my personal Gratitude challenge.
Now, I have no idea where this is headed. I have deliberately disconnected to any idea of an outcome besides the fact that I have a strong faith in the body’s capacity for wellness in some form or another.
But do you know what?
Gratitude is literally saving my sanity right now. It allows me to switch my focus away from what troubles me to something that is comforting or something that I love, that I cherish, that lightens my mood. Apart from anything else, this is an awesome distraction from being hungry from time to time. I have to be honest, not all of the time. But enough to give me a break every now and again.
Chatting about all thing’s gratitude with Mum, a psychoanalyst, she reminded me that tapping into gratitude is something that is often used in professional practice and is something that has been a staple way before it became trendy. And I recall when interviewing New York Times best Selling author Marci Shimoff a couple of years ago for my latest book that gratitude was a big thing for her too. In fact, in her Love for No Reason and Happy for No Reason, the practice of gratitude is a central theme, fuelling our innate capacity for love and happiness. Whilst I was a little sceptical at first, I have found that there is indeed much truth to what Marci, Mum and many others say about finding gratitude.
Does gratitude make the trauma go away? Does it solve complex problems? Will it bring back a loved one or undo the catastrophe of a terrible incident? No. Not necessarily at all. But what it can do is help us to create a shift in our mental and emotional state that is conducive to improved wellbeing, a better outlook, the possibility for healing, and even a moment’s peace.
And if a moment’s reprieve is as good as it gets, then I’m all for it. Because it’s those precious moments that coalesce into the fabric of our lives.
And I for one am grateful for that!
Will you join me in taking the 30-Day Gratitude Challenge? Let’s unite in focussing on those precious moments of our lives that deserve the best of us in showing up to greet our days with gratitude and grace! You never know, it might be just what the planet needs after the beating she and humanity has taken during this crazy year!
A Gratitude Challenge
For more on The 30 Day Gratitude Project, click the link below. PS - I'm taking the challenge to Social - why not join me there? Use #30DayGratitudeChallenge and let me know how you go!
© Copyright SK Reid 2020