Friday, April 8, 2011


“No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged
from the kingdom of night.”
                             - Elie Weisel (Holocause survivor and Nobel Laureate)

Gratitude is an attitude (AA saying)...  Gratitude can lower stress, contribute to a happier life, and even make you feel more loved. Just search for the word "gratitude" on the net, and you can see a wealth of expressions and thoughts on the subject - almost all overwhelmingly positive. That's the kind of input that I want in my life. In the midst of the pain and problems, something as simple as an attitude change is actually incredibly hard. During my first round of back issues (as a teenager I had a spinal fusion), I learned this lesson about attitude: "I can choose to either be miserable and make everyone around me miserable, or I can grasp as much happiness as I can manage, and live my life as best I can." There is evidence that just making the muscles in your face form into a smile (even if you don't feel it) can help you be happier.

Several years ago, I read a survey that I wish I had kept. The responses were so amazing, that I want to have proof in front of me that they're real. I have to admit that they might not be. So, I'll pass this on, with the caveat that I can't prove it's a true story.
Cancer patients were asked in a survey "If you could live your life over, would you choose to have cancer again?" (This seems to me a strange question to ask...) The answer, by large majority, was YES. Not because they wanted cancer, but because of what the cancer forced them to change about their lives. Because of the cancer, they reset their priorities. They became grateful for every moment of life. They loved their families and friends more fiercely and more vocally and more often. They were better people because they had endured cancer.

Also, I had a neighbor who died from breast cancer. During her battle with the disease, her husband had a necklace made for her with the letters: DTBWCED. The letters were their code words to each other: "Doing the best we can every day." Wow. 
I wish I could say I was a better person because of chronic pain. I don't know if that's true. But, pain has done some of the same things for me as for the cancer patients. I have reset my priorities. I have become more grateful for life (especially for pain-less living). I spend more time with my family than ever before. I have more compassion for people in pain. I'm DTBWCED, and letting that be enough.

I'll leave this list at the positive things that chronic pain has wrought in my life. (Don't worry, the negative things will come out in time.)

What I've learned: As corny as it sounds, when things are worst, counting my blessings and cultivating an attitude of gratitude really do help.

P.S. I got a reply to yesterday's post that is so appropriate for today's topic:
"There's nothing glamorous about chronic pain. Those of us who live without it need to count our
blessings." - Angela (thanks for the insight)

1 comment:

  1. Well I discovered this as well - when things are the worst, count your blessings. I started my blog to focus on the positive stuff because I was feeling down and overwhelmed by my life as a caregiver. And it worked.