The other day I was on the phone with an old, old friend. And I mean “old” like we’ve been friends for too many years to not be able to laugh about really horrible things.
Which is exactly what we were doing.
Actually, we were laughing (and really only somewhat bitterly) about how completely miserable experiences so often turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you.
“Remember…?” she said, choking back another giggle. “Your nasty, nasty ear infection that lasted six months? The one where you were just gushing goo and blood, and we all thought you’re going to die?”
“How could I forget? That was hysterical. Ohmygod. The pain was so bad that I’d wake myself from my own screams,” I said, now laughing so hard that I was flailing around for tissues to wipe the tears.
Oh, hindsight. You are so funny.
Obviously, not all pain = gain. And not all gain comes from pain. But sometimes there’s a connection.
The truth is that I never want to know pain like that again. It was awful and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.
And at the same time, I’m aware that there is a direct connection between that experience of oozing goo from my ear and the one we’re having right now, the one in which you’re reading something I wrote … on my blog.
Because it was that illness that ultimately caused me to realize that I’m a writer.
It was that illness that resulted in me essentially downloading the entire Fluent Self system, which is what led to me launching my business.
It was that illness that introduced me to half the techniques in my repertoire, just because nothing else would work. And so many other things.
My desperation was a matchmaker. Things worked out. Almost suspiciously well.
But back to right now.
It is completely clear to me that I’m going to be ridiculously grateful (at least, at some point in the future) for the past few months of agonizing arm pain.
So if I’m going to end up feeling all appreciative of the thing that totally sucks right now anyway, I might as well take a moment or two to acknowledge all the good stuff that I will be loving later.
Not as a way of negating what is true for me right now. Not as a way of bulldozing through my discomfort and pain.
And definitely not making myself commit to some cheesy gratitude practice for its own sake, because forced compassion? Not very compassionate.
I totally don’t believe in making yourself say thank you. You don’t have to find every silver lining. Or count every blessing. Unless, of course, you feel like it.
For me it’s more about just actively noticing all the things that this pain — and this painful experience — have given me.
And then finding out: If I’m already thinking about the results of this awful experience that I will be so happy about in a month or two … is it possible that I could just be happy about them now? Hmmm. Maybe not.
Okay, so — if I really can’t be happy about them yet (ahhh, that’s more like it) — why not get used to the idea of eventually being happy about them? Yes.
That I can do.
So I’ve been working on my “Things to be insanely grateful for much, much later” list. And I want to share it with you. Not today though.
My teacher has an expression for this (insert heavy Ukrainian accent and serious expression here):
“There is good experience … and then there is useful experience.”
This is one of those sticky philosophical points that is much easier said than internalized. Easier believed than implemented.
And when it doesn’t work for you … and there are certain situations where — in that moment — it just can’t, you have my permission to toss it.
As a general principle, though, I like it.
A lot. It’s kind of like my use of “the good” and “the hard” in the Friday Chicken posts.
Just looking at my own situation here … this ordeal with my arms and not being able to use them? I’m not ready to call it good. But definitely useful.
When I talk about it with my girlfriends in a couple years? Oh, by then it will probably have found its way to the “good”.
Either way, this pain is giving me some seriously great stuff. It’s not the way I’d have liked to receive either the information or the results. It’s the way that it’s happened though.
And I’m ready to (okay, fine, however long it takes) get to the point where I can look back on this as one of the big symbolic turning points. Because really, that’s exactly what it is.
My big, fat “Things to be insanely grateful for much, much later on” list. Coming tomorrow.
COMMENT ZEN for today’s post:
You are more than welcome, as always, to chime in with thoughts, ideas, insights, reactions, similar experiences, and so on. Support is always welcome too.
What I’m NOT looking for: It’s really important to me that gratitude always be a choice and never turn into a “should” for me. So I’m not interested in anything along the lines of “oh good, you’re finally being grateful like you should be and that’s what will make you heal and it’s about time you started attracting sunbeams and rainbows” thing. Thanks!