Sidestepping into Happiness

I was talking to a friend the other day about how this particular set of holidays used to be my annual experience of manic depression. Well, not the actual disease, but perhaps a little bit of insight into what it feels like. Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year and there is nothing about it I don't like. Happy, happy, happy. New Year's Eve, on the other hand, tended to send me into a spiral of self-loathing and wishing to jump off a curb, what with the not-so-subtle social pressure to take stock of the past year and find it wanting so you can come up with a number of resolutions that will magically fix whatever's wrong with you or your life asap. And inevitably, I would find things very wanting, somehow never quite having created the kind of life I’d hoped for. Sure, I accomplished things, but never enough, I wouldn't have found time to pursue my dreams, there was always something missing.

After I got my life back, that changed. And yes, I know that link shows up every New Year's Eve - although it is something of which I am aware and think of with gratitude often - every week, most days even - it carries some extra heft at this time of year. Because when you almost lose your life, life itself becomes enough. Life itself is the dream and having life, very little is missing. I have ambitions, still, I have things I would like to do with this life because without ambitions and something to work towards, things get sort of boring, but in essence, it’s all gravy.

But it’s hard to remember at times. Especially when the pain gets bad or an injury persists – nothing blocks the memory of life itself being enough more than pain above a certain level and you get greedy. You want not just life, but life with manageable pain. And when that doesn’t happen for a while, you lose perspective altogether and start believing things are really, really bad. You sink into it, get lost in it, forget. Become convinced that you’re very fragile, that you can’t do much of anything. You come to think that although you have life, this fragility will block you from living the gift of life the way you’d like to live it – with limitation, sure, nowhere near the place you were before it all went majorly sideways, but with enough ability that you find contentment in your smaller life. The you in the above being me much of this year, increasingly aware that certain aspects of life had closed to me forever, trying hard to let go and move on, but having a rough time accepting the loss.

And then Michele took AB and I to Wards Island and gave me the gift of coming home to water again. We planned the trip carefully to protect my shoulder, deciding to only walk a little way, finding the most direct route to the best place, expecting to be done quickly. But we weren’t. We kept going – well, more like stuttering, because I stopped to take pictures every couple of minutes (more will appear on my Flickr page shortly) – and somehow, wandered over half the islands. Later, I realized I’d been able to do this because of the constant stopping, as it gave my shoulder enough variety and rest that it didn’t seize up.

And that day on Wards Island, I got another gift: the knowledge that although my body’s pretty wrecked, I’m not as fragile after all, that even three years after my first dose of Enbrel, I continue to get stronger, continue regaining things I thought I'd lost forever, continue getting my life back. And that by giving up the known way of doing things, by stepping around, I can find my way to where I thought I couldn't go again. Past boundaries in place for years, not by pushing past and through my limits, but by skirting around them and in so doing, realize they're barely there at all.

It awes me that in this place of pain, within this life much smaller that it once was, I have discovered that existence is limitless, only constrained by mortality and the limits imposed by our ideas of the way things are supposed to be done. That with patience and turning the prism of perspective, you can find your happiness and a new world.

Thank you for reading through it all, thank you for being here. May the coming year see you sidestepping your limits and finding your happiness.

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