Challenges in life are inevitable. How we handle those challenges is what determines our happiness.
Life is HEAVY. We are STRONG.
Life is HEAVY. We are STRONG.
Last week I needed MRI scans of my brain, neck and spine to gather more information as to why I suffer from vertigo and chronic TMJ and neck pain. These 3 scans added to a total of 50 minutes lying completely still in a tiny, closed in and very noisy machine. Am I claustrophobic? Check. Do I have anxiety? That’s two checks! I also have pain in my body that craves constant moving and stretching. And yes, I get vertigo lying down to the point of nausea and sometimes unconsciousness. I was recommended to take something that could help relax all of this, but I chose to rely instead on my mind.
In the days leading up to my appointment, I made sure my mind was enforcing my “invitation only” rule. Keeping the door closed to whatever worries gathered outside. There was simply no use in entertaining any of them. Even imagining what the test would be like or what it may discover had no benefit to me. All I could do was show up and move forward. Whatever it may be. Follow the process and protect my mind.
I anticipated the waiting room would collect a crowd of worries I’d need to deny. It did, but I was prepared to stay focused. Internally encouraging myself, “just do your job.” As I was called back, I was asked to wait on this short and skinny ottoman no bigger than my dog’s bed. A technician went over my information with me, asked what kind of music I would like to listen to, and concluded by letting me know the machine would be the same size as the “couch” I was sitting on. My first instinct was to panic. Noting my curiosity clearly didn’t overpower my anxiety. But panicking would only hurt me more. Instead, I focused on following instructions. I could do this.
I was directed to a dressing room where I changed into scrubs and locked away my personal items. Breathing through my fears and keeping my mind focused on each individual task as I accomplished them. Then I was guided to a serious looking door that I imagined looked similar to the doors of a space ship. As I walked up to the machine, I made sure to take in as little as possible of my surroundings. The less I knew, the better. As I positioned myself onto this moving board that seemed to fit the exact size of my body, it began to feel harder to breathe. I recalled my earlier note on my anxiety overpowering my curiosity, and decided right then and there I would keep my eyes shut until I could leave. I would keep my thoughts positive, and my imagination pleasant. As the board beneath me jerked and began sliding backwards, my heart pounded with all the emotions I had been holding back. But I knew the door to my mind was unbreakable. I breathed, I listened to the music (Dave Matthews Radio, as requested) and I reminded myself I can do anything I set my mind to. My heartbeat steadied. I remembered who I am.
The first 10 or so minutes were some of the most empowering moments of my life. As I lay there with nothing to do but think, I couldn’t help but feel proud. How brave I was to rely on my own ability to motivate positive thoughts. How strong I was to overpower legitimate fears and create a space for myself to meditate. In a situation where I had only one thing in control — my mind — I was able to be my own hero. To comfort myself with affirmations. To create and play out happy thoughts. To continuously feed my confidence and encourage myself to get this job done. Instead of counting down the seconds until my hour of misery was up, I chose to breathe, practice relaxation and send away every worrisome thought that tried to enter my head. I had only one job for the next hour: sit still and relax.
Once the decision was made that this test was necessary for my healing, I chose to do what I could to make this process as easy as possible, and it worked. Pushed aside unnecessary worrying, ignored what was expendable, and focused on each task at hand. If I could face this fear of mine in a productive way, what’s stopping me from continuously choosing a path that gets things done and minimizes struggles? Another challenge taken on and another achievement added to my belt. It almost makes the hard stuff feel worth it.
The truth is, this test might uncover disappointing results. Perhaps surgery, more testing or unpleasant treatment was next. But if my ultimate goal is to be without pain, I will repeat my same process. Eliminate the challenges that aren’t necessary to healing. Life is rarely easy. But life is always what we make of it. I view challenges as opportunities. Moments to prove to myself my capabilities and chances to learn more skills moving forward. With this experience I did both. I feel stronger because of the way I handled myself and I understand more of what it takes to live a little easier. I didn’t just get the job done, I managed my emotions, learned and practiced valuable coping mechanisms, fought for my mind and my body and hey, I even got a blog post out of it!
Lindsay Greenberg, providing perspective on how to live a magical life.