Perspective / Gratitude

Today sucks! Ok, I know that’s a strong word and some people don’t like it but that’s how I feel. Tried to go for my normal run but my legs weren’t working quite right. Knees were stiffer than normal, brain was foggy, and a constant pressure in the back of my head. Not to mention the overwhelming fatigue despite 8 hours of sleep the night before. Poor me, right?
“Shut up!” I tell my privileged brain. At least I can run, albeit slower than normal. Shoot, at least I can walk. 6 years ago that was barely the case. That’s when things got bad, real bad. The liquid cement in my joints was unbearable. The pressure in my chest from every intercostal muscle contracting at the same time was suffocating. My wife had to help me put my socks and shoes on because I couldn’t bend my knees enough to do it myself. Don’t even start with going up or down stairs – that was a sight in itself! I had recently been diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis after a simple meniscus repair led to recurrent swelling in my knee for the next 3 months. The spiral down was fast and furious. Initial medical treatment wasn’t working and the stingy insurance company wouldn’t authorize the better meds. Eventually however, they did rescind and allow me to start Humira – which I now call liquid gold. The night of my first injection I bent my right knee around 20 degrees. I was overwhelmed with excitement and relief. For the first time in months my mindset changed. I could see what might again be possible. Once again I could return to moving on my own, who know maybe even running and cycling again!

So I know what the bottom feels like. I went from endurance athlete to a guy who couldn’t beat the average grandma from the parking lot to the restaurant. I guess that’s what it takes to have the proper perspective on life when it seems unfair. In this case my physical abilities were taken away, but the same applies to financial hardship, emotional stressors, or a scary medical diagnosis.Everything must be put into perspective.
My sister worked in a burn camp for children for over a dozen years. One of the children she watched grow up nearly lost all function in both hands because of a serious burn injury. When she was having a bad day she would remind herself – “at least I have hands.” That’s perspective.

You may not live in the house you always dreamed of but you could have been born into a shack in the Andes, or a hut in the Congo, or a communist controlled community in Cuba with no hope to improve your life. Instead you live in a first world country full of opportunity and relative richness. That’s perspective.

Every day I remind myself how grateful I am for my opportunities since medicine has allowed me to return to my new normal.I embrace every chance I have to push myself physically because that is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow. Indeed, gratitude is altitude (literally and figuratively in my case).

  • Acknowledge the past
  • Embrace the present
  • Control your future

What can you do to change your perspective? How can you be more grateful for what you DO have? Or for what you are capable of. How can you share that gratitude with others?