Last week I wrote about life throwing unwelcome surprises our way and the lessons we can learn from pain. Minutes after posting it my cell phone rang. The news I received was gut wrenching, affecting someone close to me. The irony of the timing could not have sent a louder message. Writing about how difficult circumstances can teach positive life lessons doesn’t mean that the fear, grief, or worry of actually going through a tough situation is somehow easier. It isn’t.
How did I respond to the sudden nasty curveball? Did I use it as an opportunity to respond in the ways I had suggested when facing pain – like reconsider my priorities, compare downward instead of upward, or practice gratitude?
Actually I did, though not right away. In the immediate aftermath of the phone call my body reacted to the fear and stress in all the usual ways. My heart rate went up, my breath turned shallow and the center of my solar plexus felt like it had turned to sludge. My brain surged into problem solving mode as I reviewed the potentially alarming ramifications of this news. I called a family member to discuss the situation and gain perspective. I researched possible solutions. I went for a bike ride to destress.
Ultimately, however, I realized that I was jumping the start on worrying. Certainly there existed the possibility of a poor outcome for my friend but there was also good reason for hope. The worst that could happen might never present itself. In the meantime I could choose to be grateful for the significant resources available to help address my friend’s particular issue. I could ‘compare downward,’ allowing me to recognize there were much worse things that could have occurred. I could also ensure that my priorities regarding this relationship aligned with my availability to truly support this person through actions not just words.
So yes, I took my own advice and for me it did help. I hope it does the same for you.