You can’t choose what happens to you,
but you can choose how you respond.
Recently, Faith McCord observed that “(W)e choose happiness – a quieter, deeper, different kind – despite and because of poor health.”
Having lived with myotonic dystrophy for years, I can attest to the veracity of her statement. Chronic illness demands an awareness not only of our bodies but our disposition, as well. Suffering puts everything in perspective.
Suffering Changes Our Reality: So much of what we think or feel is metamorphosed not only by what happens to us but by how we interpret those events. Have you ever experienced something so intense that you felt as if you were observing life rather than living it? Our senses become heightened. There is a similar experience for those who suffer. Over time, we become more real.
A good example of this is in the children’s book The Velveteen Rabbit:
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse.”It doesn’t happen all at once. . .It takes a long time.”
Facing chronic illness drains the superfluous sentiments from our lives. Over time, we start to care about what matters. Reality is redefined. There is a realness that we did not feel before. Acquiring things is not as important as having basic necessities: health care, medical equipment, and physical and emotional support. We learn the value of friendship and love.
A Mystery of Suffering: We learn something else, too: Happiness is not happy feelings. There is the “quieter, deeper, different kind.” For those of us who have had to endure hardship develop a maturity. The deep cut to our heart, the anguish felt to the core of our being opened us, and we became real. We are wiser.
Recent events in the United States, Brussels, France, Somalia, and Afghanistan have changed reality for the world. There are no safe places. We have been exposed to a sudden, permanent transformation. The chronically ill have had a permanent transformation, as well.
Of course, the psychological impact of terrorism has a unique niche. However, suffering demands attention. We cannot ignore our pain, our depression, or our anxiety. Solutions need to be found.
In trying times, we can choose to grow more real. In the easy times, we can choose to enjoy. In all times, we can choose happiness; the quieter, deeper, different kind of happiness.
Faith McCord is the author of the site Oscar Dandelion WordPress (click to view her blog).