“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” -Maya Angelou
2020 is a year everyone wants to be over, but will 2021 be any better? I have been told that life doesn’t get better, it gets different. I think life does just gets different. New problems, new changes. The only thing we can count on is that everything changes.
I have been thinking about what I have learned this year. I’m also dealing with chronic illness and pain. I’ve had a laundry list of things wrong with my body (digestion issues, insomnia, back issues, hormone imbalances, anxiety, depression, low thyroid….to name a few.) Wishing to feel good does no good. I used to run marathons. It’s true. I loved running and running in races! I felt alive, happy, and excited to run outside. My favorite thing was trail running and now I’m lucky to walk a mile without feeling dizzy. It feels like there is very little I can control. Everyone has something they struggle with right?
A while ago I read a book by Tara Brach called Radical Acceptance. She’s a psychologist and meditation teacher who is very realistic about life. One of my favorite meditations is her “saying yes to life” meditation. We can accept our reality without being apathetic. Tara talks about allowing life to be just as it is, having self-compassion, and let go of wanting things to be different. We can feel what we feel and find some contentment where we are. It’s not saying everything is unicorns and rainbows. It’s seeing what is hard, feeling the pain, and letting it go. Acceptance.
Suffering and pain are normal. We are busy avoiding pain and hurting, but everyone is going to feel pain in life. I heard a teacher tell me, “If life were fair, we’d all be fairies!.” We can’t expect to be “rewarded” because we eat well, exercise, try to sleep enough. Sickness will come anyway. I think we can do our best and still have very painful things to deal with. Things out of our control.
What we can do with limited choices is think about what we value, what we still can do. What gives you meaning? For me photography helps me focus away from my physical pain and focus on beautiful things I see through my camera. I love to see happy families connecting and newborns bringing families hope. I have to choose to see the good around me. I see the good and bad and try to focus on the good. Another psychologist, Rick Hansen, talks about seeing the good amidst the negativity bias. It’s easy to stay down and heavy with all the problems around us. It’s harder to really appreciate and savor the good. We can learn to be more resilient.
Our summer vacation was cancelled, but we went hiking around the trail I used to run on. We liked getting out and it wasn't an expensive trip, but it was something! I'm looking for the sunshine and happy times. Of course I had my camera close by too. I had fun photographing my family.
I’ve learned that small things really matter. I love my slow walks around the block, photographing flowers, bees, shadows, talking with family and neighbors, family dinners, having fresh food, warm blankets, a car that works. Now that my life has slowed I am more grateful for the small things in life. Life is bunch of little moments that add up to days, months, then years.