“If you put yourself in a position where you have to stretch outside your comfort zone, then you are forced to expand your consciousness”~ Les Brown.
I have endless admiration for those who rise above their circumstances. I often sit and wonder if I could be as brave, as strong, as enduring, as those who face severe challenges and find the strength to not only get through them, but grow as a result. In this challenging world, where another set of parents have to cope with the shocking loss of their teenage son and the cruelty of a legal system which makes mockery of the concept of a land of equality and justice for all, I watch the dignity and grace of these parents and weep for them. There is a powerful phrase which can always make you stop and pause: “There, but for the grace of God, go you or I.”
What is it that gives some the strength to turn their personal tragedies and challenges into a cause? Recently I reached out to a couple of people I know who are coping with serious health issues, but seem to have come out of the encounter with a whole new outlook on life. It appears they have transcended, risen above the situation, to gain a new perspective. One replied that she coped by not facing it, not thinking about it, just focused on trying to get as much information as possible to cope with the tasks of the day. One day at a time. In the process she has become an expert on her child’s serious illness, and is now a champion for the cause. She is involved in raising awareness, raising funds, and providing support and information to other parents in the same situation.
When we are in the midst of a crisis it may be difficult to be able to pull back and see the big picture, to see the experience as one which may propel us to the next level of understanding. Yet that is what evolution is all about; facing, coping, adapting and growing. And if we permit ourselves to go through the pain of growth, we may find wonderful opportunities on the other side.
Last weekend I read the story of a young woman who suffered a terrible injury as a young teenager. She was crushed by a car, and underwent an amputation as a result. She is now a young adult, still using crutches (she lives in Jamaica where prostheses are not readily available), but has the most positive outlook on life. She reports that she does not spend her life reliving her tragedy, or being bitter, she says: “Instead I spend my days being thankful and trying to enjoy the rest of my life” (Shanique Samuels).
If we allow ourselves to confront our biggest fears and overcome them, we stand to expand our horizons and our consciousness. Are we stuck in routines, doing things the way we have always done them because we think we cannot change? Do we fall into the trap of feeling sorry for ourselves, thinking our lives would be better if only….if only… It is by looking beyond ourselves and seeing opportunities instead of obstacles, windows to climb through instead of locked doors, that we can expand our horizons and grow.
I am often dismayed by the signs of narrow-mindedness that I see everywhere. We rush to condemn or discount those whose lifestyles are different from our own. We can throw labels on people in a second, and thus find it easier to block out compassion. When the HIV/AIDS epidemic was at its height years ago, I noticed that some nurses would often quietly ask “How did they get it?” This was not a necessary piece of information, it did not change the care that the patient would receive. It was a need for reassurance on the part of the nurse; if the patient contracted the virus through IV drug use, a blood transfusion (in the days before screening removed that fear) or homosexuality, the nurse would be relieved thinking she was safe; she had not indulged in any of those activities. Some see disease as punishment, but do people deserve ill-health? Is that a fair or reasonable way to think?
We need to open our minds and hearts to be more compassionate in the way we see others, and recognize that “There but for the grace of God…” You never know the moment that you will need the compassion and understanding of others. I have found that it is often when I am feeling the most confident that something happens to remind me that I am human. It may be one of my FMM readers quoting my own words back at me! But each time you can stop and laugh at yourself you have the potential to expand your consciousness, to be more healthy in the way you live your life.
This weekend I hope you will take a moment to appreciate the diversity of the world and challenge yourself to try to see something from someone else’s perspective. Dare yourself to take an opposite opinion for a moment, see if in the process you can expand your mind. Margaret Newman, a nurse theorist, states that the goal of nursing is not to prevent people from getting sick but to “…assist them in using the power within as they evolve towards higher levels of consciousness.” I hope that I have in some small way contributed to that goal.
Have a wonderful weekend, family!