I have a dear friend whose grandson is exceptionally bright and observant. Whenever we see each other, I look forward to her “Colton Stories.” The last one went something like this: He started asking his grandparents if they drove on the grass. Whenever they told him no, he would say, “Mama drives on the grass.” Of course, his mom denied it, but they just could not convince him that she didn’t drive on the grass. It took them a while, but they finally figured how why he was so convinced that she did. From his vantage point in his car seat all he could see beside him was grass. He didn’t have sight of the road so he thought it wasn’t there.
My favorite part of the story came at the very end…. My friend was on the way to the mall with Colton and his mom and he pointed out some guardrails that were between their vehicle and the woods beyond. He said, “Ma” (that’s what he calls his grandma), “See those things over there? Those are to keep Mama from driving in the woods.”
How many times are we like that precious little boy, only seeing through the lens of our current circumstances? How many times do we think that this immediate pain is all there is? It can be hard to feel optimistic when we’re suffering, but sometimes we can choose to be optimistic by changing our perspective.
It’s hard to make that shift sometimes, especially when things seem to be going wrong or pain and/or fatigue are getting the best of us, but with some work we can change the way we look at things.
What are some things that can help us shift our perspective?
- Realize that your illness is not who you are. After struggling for a year with the idea that my body had let me down and feeling that my fibromyalgia had become who I was, I realized I was looking at it in a way that was completely unhelpful. Chronic Illness is a huge challenge that affects every part of our lives, but our illnesses are not who we are.
- Concentrate on what you can do rather than what you can’t. It’s easy to get bogged down in thinking about everything our illness keeps us from doing, but I’ve found that if I’m able to think about what I can do rather than what I can’t, and think of the things I can do today that I couldn’t six months ago, it helps me to realize I’m not “driving on the grass” but living my life. This helps make being optimistic about the future possible even when I’m not feeling that way.
- Find small steps you can take toward feeling better. As I talked about in my post The ABC’s Of Remaining Optimistic When You Just Aren’t Feeling It, there’s something called dynamic optimism, which is based on action. Finding those small actions we can take to help us feel better can help us regain that sense of optimism for the future.
- Seek out ways to help others. Helping someone else can often change our perspective more quickly than anything else. We often spend our time feeling guilty about all the things we’re no longer able to do, but there are still many things we can do, and helping others is one of them. This not only distracts us from our pain; it also gives us purpose.
Sometimes a small change in perspective can result in huge benefits to our overall wellbeing. We can’t change our circumstances, but changing the way we view them can allow us to enjoy life and learn to thrive in spite of them.
Have you found this to be true for you? What are some things that helped you when you needed a change of perspective? Please share!