I clearly remember the day I decided that something had to change. I couldn’t let my circumstances determine how I felt anymore. I realised that I could possibly, and would most likely, stay in the same physical and neurological condition I was in for the rest of my life. I felt that I had no control or power over my physical health at that time. Only time would tell if I would ever overcome it and regain my memory, stamina, energy and so forth.
However, I realised that there is one thing that I will always be in control of and I think it is that one thing that made the big difference for me. I will always be able to choose my attitude. I will always be able to look for a positive outcome or learn something positive from every situation. I even think I learn much more from seemingly impossible situations than from situations that have more obvious learning points.
The day it all changed
That day I suddenly started crying. Normally, I keep my head up and go by the Danish saying: “Hæng ikke med hovedet, hvis du står i lort til halsen” (Don’t let your head hang if you have shit reaching your neck). But this day I couldn’t help it. I cried and cried. I cuddled up in my big duvey in my huge armchair and just sat there crying. I heard my sister enter the apartment and all she could see was the big duvey in the armchair and my hand reaching out to tell her where I was. She picked me up and got me out of my miserable state.
That day I reached out to everyone I thought of as my friends. I told them to help me. I told them that I was feeling so down because of this situation and I needed them to stop by and fill me up with energy. I knew I had to actively do something about it and so I did. I only had enough energy to spend about 15-20 minutes with them at the time, but it made a huge difference and it started off a positive spiral of trying to enjoy what I could enjoy instead of getting caught up in the things that were limiting me.
The circle of influence
I often think of a quote by Steve Jobs: “You cannot combine the dots going forward”. This quote is so real for me. While I was studying for my MSc I was introduced to Steven Covey and the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. At that time I read it and used it with the purpose of becoming even more effective than I already was, but later on the theories in the book started to make sense in a much broader way.
One of the things he teaches is that we have a circle of influence and a circle of concern. Whatever is inside our circle of influence is what we should be spending our time on. We may be concerned about other things, but many things are out of our reach. Whatever we do, we will not be able to change it or influence it in any way. This is our circle of concern. Things that would be in the circle of concern, but not on our circle of influence could be things like government decision, natural catastrophes, someone else’s horrible mood, and anything else that we might be able to affect slightly, but have no control over.
We can choose to let outer circumstances affect our attitude, mood and decisions, and spend our time worrying about things we cannot change, OR we can work within our circle of influence and change the way we react.
I am lying there in pain, my brain is not cooperating, my energy level is rock bottom. I am worried about what will happen to me – if I will ever get over this. No doctor can give me any prospect as to when I will be back to normal. If I let outer circumstances affect my attitude this situation will be devastating and unbearable. However, I have a choice. I can choose to keep worrying about all the things I cannot control, or I can start spending my energy on things I CAN control. I can change my thoughts one by one. I can notice beauty around me, look for smiles along my way, eat healthy food that helps me gain energy, invest all my money in treatments and therapy. I can reach out to my friends and let them help me, I can find a low-energy hobby to spend my time on (I chose cupcake baking). There were so many things I could still influence.
Applying it to daily life
Even now, when I am feeling great, I still have a choice. I choose to work within my circle of influence and try my best not to let the things I cannot control and cannot influence affect me.
There is this sweet story from the buddhist tradition about two monks crossing a fierce river. One is the master and the other the apprentice. While crossing the river they meet a young woman who is struggling to cross because of the strong current and the master carries her on his shoulders onto safe land on the other side. The young apprentice is terrified of what the master did, because monks are not supposed to touch women. After an hour when the two monks are walking, the young apprentice dares to ask his master how he could do such a thing, since they are not supposed to touch women. The master says: “I left the young woman on the side of the river an hour ago, it seems that you are still carrying her on your shoulders”.
If you are up for it, I suggest you start noticing how often you carry people or situation with you into other situations. Who do you take with you into your shower, into your sleep. Is your boss or colleague having dinner with you even though you are all alone? Is a situation which is long gone and over with disturbing your sleep?
Practice is key – always
I can assure you it takes a lot of practice! Trust me when I say that I have brought the situation of my accident with me hundreds of times – into my sleep, the shower, my walks, dinner and I could go on. When I started realising this, I noticed that I did it with so many people and so many situations. I still do it. And when I do, I think of the monks or Louise Hay.
“Bowels or poop are an indication of how we live our lives. All of life is: taking life in, assimilating what is good for us, and releasing and letting go of that which we no longer need.
When intake, assimilation, and elimination are all in Divine right order in my body, I feel great. There is nothing that feels like a really good poop. Then we flush and it’s on its way, never to return! This is nature’s way. I do not know of anyone who tries to go into the sewer to retrieve their poop.
If only we could treat all of our life experiences the same way. Intake, assimilation, elimination, and flush! How often do we dig into the garbage of our past, try to bring back a situation so we can rehash it, go over it again — worry some more — and look for a different solution, when it no longer exists in our life?
When I find myself doing this, I say to myself, “Flush, Louise!” and I bring myself back to the now. Now is where the action is.” – Louise Hay
I hope this has been helpful to you somehow and that you feel you have learned from it. Do let me know how you are doing on this and let me know if I can be of any assistance in your practice!
You always have a choice. Try not to get stuck in your circle of concern. Get into the matters that you CAN change. If nothing else, it will make you a much happier person.