I've been trying to get better like it's my job. Mostly because I want to get back to my actual job. I take the moments of more energy and the breaks from the pain to learn more about what I now understand is "post-concussion syndrome" (which can happen to approximately 30% of people who suffer a concussion) to try and figure out what I might be missing, what the secret is to my recovery. Is it drinking coffee? Putting butter in it? Taking magnesium? Lasering my brain? It reminds me of the mindset of a high performance athlete, trying to figure out how to best fuel your body, what supplements to take, the best therapies to try. In the case of the athlete, the goal is to gain an edge over the competition and to perform at their absolute best. In my case, I want to "win" against this cloud that follows me around. In both cases, there's a lot of pressure put on the various forms of success, and any setbacks along the way are both physically and mentally challenging.
"It's always darkest before the dawn" is a line I have always liked from a Florence and the Machine song (aptly named "Shake it off"). Every time I get to an emotional limit I have a meltdown and think some version of "I can't do this anymore". I feel the cold of the floor on my cheek, my chest is constricted, my breath comes out in heaves and little streams flow out of my eyes. My dog, supposed companion, won't come near me when I'm like this (which incidentally was the reason I lay down on the floor in the first place). Oddly, it seems to be that release that opens me up and makes room for a re-start. If you look up cheesy quotes about setbacks you'll find something along the lines of "a setback is just a setup for a comeback". Wait, pep talks and cheesy motivational quotes...? Now we're talking!
Sometimes in those moments I realize that when you aren't so focused on going forward, that it's actually much easier to find enjoyment in where you are. So I guess that's what all this mindfulness stuff has been getting at...who knew? (Answer: everyone but me).
I've become somewhat evangelical about a book I listened to called "The Book of Joy" (also aptly named) that captures a conversation between the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Either I read it at just the right time for it to sink in, or it just really is THAT GOOD. It speaks to the fact that "passing through difficulties" (as the Dalai Lama would say) is all part of our curriculum, and provides us a greater appreciation of joy. That stress and anxiety come from expectation and ambition. Expectation of who we want to be, what we want to achieve, and where we want to go. I'm not saying that those are bad things, but maybe they are when they take a form of the pressure we put on ourselves, and self-judgment.
Another term I hear a lot in the mindfulness world is self-compassion (it's possible that by now my Dad's eyes have rolled right out of their sockets...sorry about that). To me, a simpler way to think of it is: GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK! With whatever physical cue works best: hand on the heart, hug, pat on the back, high five, ...or maybe a double-gun? In my version, it means telling myself that I'm doing a good job, and that the pace of my recovery (slow) isn't a reflection of the effort that I'm putting in (a lot).
I'm considering this a reminder to bring my long-term view a little nearer for a few days at least, and to see what can pop up when I take the time to let it in.