Let’s face it, being sick or injured sucks. Bet you never thought you’d see me, Ms. Empowerment, writing something like that, did you? But here’s the thing—does it really have to be that tortuously unpleasant? Can the conditions in our life be less than stellar and still manage to offer some pleasant perks? I’m thinking they can.
I had been on a health streak for the last few years: no colds, no flus, not so much as a lingering sore throat. It was great. No. It was freakin’ phenomenal. In fact, it was so freakin’ phenomenal that, not only did I not want it to end, I had become pigheadedly attached to it not ending. Picture the kid who wakes up sick only to find out that he’ll be missing a field-trip to Disneyland if he stays home from school, and you’ll get the idea. It had become one of those winning streaks that drives people to all manner of silliness and denial in order to preserve it. Think BULL DURHAM. And if you’ve never seen that film, go find it!
Of course, like all streaks, mine had come to an end. I caught a cold. Big deal, right?
Well, it might not have been big, but it was significant. Getting sick gave me an opportunity to do some identity busting.
Every now and again, I like to check in with how I’m perceiving myself and whether or not I’ve become attached to that perception.
For example, there have been times in my life where I have perceived myself as being a talented performer, an insightful teacher, an intuitive mother. Nothing wrong with that. But there have also been times when I have gotten so attached to those ideals that I started mistaking them for who I am.
Semantics? I don’t think so. You see, I think there is an enormous difference between believing myself to be good at something and believing that that something is intrinsic to who I am. Why? Well, consider this. If being an intuitive mother is who I am, then what does that mean when I callously interact with my child? How could I possibly admit the infraction, even to myself, if my identity is bound up with me being this intuitive mother? I mean, Intuitive Mothers don’t callously interact with their children ergo I could not possibly have done such a thing ergo my child has woefully misunderstood the situation. Do you see where I’m going with this?
When we become attached to perceiving ourselves a certain way, we make it near impossible to acknowledge, admit, and therefore change aberrant behavior. Self improvement is hard enough as it is. Why make it any harder?
This is why I like to keep a distinction between how I perceive my behavior to be and who I think I am. I do this by avoiding my attachment to the good stuff and by not perpetuating the bad. In other words, I try to avoid viewing my life as a succession of winning or losing streaks. (And in case you’re wondering, that means whining is off limits!)
So, back to this cold.
Once I finally accepted that I was—in fact—sick, I realized how silly it was that I had adopted this superhuman perception of myself. I mean, humans get sick. Maybe not often, maybe not horribly but, sooner or later, our bodies break down. Not only that—drum roll please—we die.
There it is, folks. The ugly truth. We ain’t none of us immortal or perfect or even—apparently—immune to the common cold.