Mindful Mondays: The Painful Beauty of Impermanence
The scariest thing about living with a progressive neurological disease isn’t the pain that I am in today. It is the pain that I fear I will be in tomorrow or the next day. Worrying about the future goes hand and hand with chronic illness. Will I be well enough to continue working? Will I need help with maintaining a household? Can I still go to the gym a year from now? Will I still be walking?
These questions spiral in my mind throughout the day. I do my best to push them away and not to allow them to set up residence in my mind. I have been diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and have been living with this disease for 5 1/2 years. The disease itself is horrifying. It hurts and it impedes on my daily activity and limits what I can do (although I tend to push this line all the time). I know I can handle it on a day to day basis but can I handle it when it becomes more? Angrier, more painful, what if this disease decides to spread again? Will I be able to handle that?
This is what is terrifying for me.
The idea that this can change. That it WILL change.
Impermanence: noun im·per·ma·nence \(ˌ)im-ˈpərm-nən(t)s, -ˈpər-mə-\ Not permanent or enduring. transitory
Everything around us is transient, flowing, and ever changing. Our seasons change, technology changes, relationships change, the state of everyones health will also change. We grow older but we also grow wiser. Some changes are good. Some changes are bad. All in all change is inevitable. The key point is that we cannot allow life to change without us or else it leaves us in a state of panic, sadness, stress and frustration.
We have to be flexible in our lives; acknowledge and move with these changes instead of creating resistance to them. Think about the most beautiful things you have seen in nature. The things that come to my mind are sunsets, sunrises, rainbows, lighting, a whale breeching, dolphins playing around a sailboat, flowers blooming, newborn babies. All of these things are given to us for brief moments. They are gifts. I believe that the reason that we appreciate these beautiful moments is that we don’t see them every day. They don’t last a lifetime.
What if we treated each of our days with the same mindset? Being in the moment. Appreciate what is right in front of us. Enjoying time with loved ones, quality time alone, new relationships, progress that you make in your rehabilitation or fitness program. Any experience that you have is not forever. Cherish it.
It is also important to remember that our experiences are not permanent when we are going through a difficult time. It is my observation that individual’s suffering with chronic illness, pain, and mental illness probably go through more change than the average person. Our bodies change every day, every hour and sometimes within seconds. I can get through a morning with stamina, focus and tolerable pain but be on the floor of my office trying to breathe through painful nerve pain and unable to think due to brain fog in the afternoon.
I never know what my body will do and how it will respond. It makes it difficult to make plans, commit to something or meet long term goals. I have learned to be flexible and not attach myself to certain ideas and perspectives about what defines my health. I found that if I continued to dig my heels in and refuse to accept a backslide in my health that I would suffer more. And who wants to suffer more? Certainly not me.
Here are some ways that you can embrace the idea of impermanence in your life:
- Accept the truth that everything changes. Knowing this will help you adjust to the inevitable changes and improve your quality of life. This also helps prepare you for the change so you will spend less time in shock, unable to move forward.
- Appreciate who you are in this moment instead of focusing on who you use to be. This is a biggie with Chronic Illness and Pain. We grieve the old us so long that we don’t give the new us a chance. I am not saying that we shouldn’t grieve,( it is important) but we can also try to do little things to move forwards each day. (ex. finding something that you are still able to do that brings you happiness and joy)
- Find beauty in moments you have with people. Laughter with a friend, playing with a child, having an intimate moment with your partner.
- Being mindful of what you need in this moment. Listen to you body & providing a safe, non-judgmental environment.Send yourself some compassion if the moment is intolerable. Surround yourself with support of friends, family and things that you may need in the moment.
- Understand that we will not dodge the negative experiences and that those experiences won’t last forever. It can empower you during a time of feeling that you have no control
- Recognize that you are growing stronger from the change.
- Understanding that everything is impermanent allows us to gracefully handle the loss of things that we are attached to in our lives
Some change will always be hard. Some change will be exciting and some change will cause us discomfort. Remember: Just Breathe. When you find yourself in a vacuum unable to ground your sense of being, take a breath. And then another one. And again.
This too shall pass…
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
― Alan W. Watts