The experience of having ME/CFS may not appear to be a very positive one and if asked if I’d prefer not to have it, I’d have to agree. However I have it, there’s no point in wishing I didn’t and I’m very grateful for all that I’ve learnt from the experience.
One of the most tremendous gifts that it has offered me is that I’ve learnt to appreciate the little things in life. I’ve learnt that it’s really not that hard to be happy if you choose to take responsibility for your own happiness in the here and now, one moment at a time. This is a world away from the adrenalin craving, achievement orientated, endorphin buzzing physicality of the happy life I used to live pre ME/CFS, but it’s a great deal more rewarding.
I can already hear some of your disbelief. How can you possibly take responsibility for your own happiness when your life is limited to lying on the sofa in pain? Well I believe that there are various ways that we can lighten the load of the misery caused by chronic illness, taking one moment at a time and and choosing to make it happier.
1. We can choose not to compare our present state to how we used to be, how we would like to be or how others are.
2. We can choose to let go of the worry about what the symptoms mean for the future or how they relate to the past and just accept that in this moment, it is the way it is. We need to be vigilant of the following types of thoughts and try to let them go whenever they try to invade our minds:
‘I’m such an idiot for overdoing it yesterday’
‘will I ever have a life worth living’
‘It seems like I’m just getting worse and worse’
‘progress is so slow, when will I be better?’
3. We can choose to do whatever we can to relieve our symptoms but when we can do no more we can try to distract ourselves from them.
4. Most importantly we can choose to appreciate any small thing that is available to us in that moment. Some soothing music, a pretty view, a pretty flower, a beautiful painting, the scent of a flower or a herb, the aroma of freshly ground (decaf) coffee, the laughter of a child, an electronic joke, a funny TV program, an easy to read trashy novel, the sound of a bird singing, the feel of you cats fur or the sound of it purring, the empathy expressed by a friend (virtual or present), the taste and texture of enjoyable food, the relaxing smell of an essential oil, a flourishing seedling, the shape of a cloud, the sound of running water, the touch of a loved one, a refreshing, thirst quenching drink etc.
5. If there are no pleasurable experiences available in this moment, we can anticipate the little pleasure that will be next available to us. e.g. ‘It will be lovely to smell that essential oil when I’ve rested enough to get up and light the oil burner’ ‘I can already almost taste the spicy flavour of my next cup of liquorish tea’etc.
6. We can also choose to be grateful for the little things we have: a roof over our heads; a comfy bed/sofa; a soft and cosy blanket; the love and help that we receive from our family and friends; food in our freezer and a microwave oven to heat it up, a TV, the Internet, a music system etc.
None of this is easy, it all take practise and active choice. Neither is it achievable all of the time. In fact it’s very important to allow your emotions expression and room to flow. I occasionally feel lonely when my limitations keep me from sharing activities with my friends, I occasionally feel frustrated when I have another little setback. But by compassionately accepting those feelings, they change and flow and I soon find myself in a position to choose to enjoy the little things again.
Strangely enough I’ve found that the people that I most enjoy spending time with have also learnt how to appreciate the little things (The lucky people didn’t have to have a chronic illness to instigate their learning process!) One thing’s for sure, it’s even better when you can share these little pleasures!
Just outside my window now is an amazing brightly coloured peachy pink azalea. It just seems to eminate light and energy and brings joy with a single glance. What little things do it for you?