For this post I want to focus on the unexpected gifts I have received as a result of becoming ill and having everything turned upside down. To clarify, I think it's important to continue to find things we can be grateful for in life but this is something quite different. What I refer to here are positive things that have happened purely as a result of dealing with being unwell.
I had a very traumatic childhood and lived amongst some quite horrific day-to-day events. I had to witness things that no child should be subjected to and I was forced to give up the normal care-free childhood and grow up too quickly. And yet, although I wouldn't in a million years want to repeat those experiences, I have always been aware that they brought their own unexpected gifts. I gained a level of maturity and sensitivity much earlier than my peers, I came to appreciate the immense importance of a home environment that is secure and full of love. I realised the damage alcohol abuse can cause and therefore greatly reduced my likelihood of ever having a drinking problem. And I developed a hatred of violence that made me someone who didn't see my fists as ways of resolving anything.
In the same way, getting sick recently has allowed me to receive positive insights that will also hopefully stay with me throughout my life. I have gained an appreciation of the simple pleasures that can lift my spirits. None of those things are related to how much money I have, what type of car I own or whether I have the latest gadgets or designer clothes. My cat wrapping her big bushy tail around me when I'm in pain or feeling down. The sound of raindrops on the window. Being able to walk across the room without being breathless. There are countless other examples but what links them all is that they are essentially free and often taken for granted.
This also extends to my body. The old truism "at least you have your health" really cannot be argued with. I know that now, although I never did before. Now that all those 'automatic' functions we all take for granted have gone haywire in my body I can finally appreciate what a wonderful instrument the human body truly is. For years it served me well, even if I taxed it with various toxins or unhealthy additions. Just think about it for a minute - our temperature, heart beat, breathing, energy supply, brain function, blood flow ... they all just 'work' ... until they don't. Never again will I be so dismissive of good health.
And then there are others in my life. I have always been very comfortable being in my own company, sometimes too much so, and I've been very cautious about allowing people into my world or offering my friendship. I've also always been a little too aware of how I might portray myself to others. Now, my dignity is hanging by a thread. Thankfully, I can still carry out all my 'personal care' needs but it's touch and go sometimes. And so, I am starting to discover the joy of surrounding myself with people who accept me for me. People who don't need me to impress or entertain them. This is also allowing me to develop more compassion for humanity. I have been quite hard and cynical over the years, probably as a result of what I learnt about how unreliable and selfish people could be when I was a child. Now I am beginning to appreciate the beauty in certain individuals much more and to give them, and myself, more of a break. The standards I've set for myself and those around me have always been far too high and now I can be much more forgiving.
The other side of that though is that I have an acceptance that there are people who have been in my life who will naturally drift out of it now I'm not able to partake in socialising etc. I was sad about that at first but now I'm accepting and calm about it. There will also be people who I come to realise are not helpful to my wellbeing now that I have so little energy to spare. Another gift of getting ill is that I no longer feel the need to try to work out and solve everyone's problems for them. I used to do that even if they never asked or wanted me to!
Finally, I have been given the gift of just being who I am. It's ironic that I worked on trying to uncover the real me for years without success and now that I've been struck down the real me has come to the fore naturally. I realise this may all sound rather 'new age' but I don't care. I'll end with a gift that all of us have but don't take advantage of ... the joy of doing and thinking nothing. Sometimes I have no choice but to just disconnect from any type of activity and remove all thoughts. Those periods of staring into space with a glazed expression and a slack jaw are wonderful - try it ;)