I know. I know. The title of this blog sounds pretty cheesy, trite and perhaps even platitudinous. Stay with me and hopefully the message will be worth the cliche. The idea for this blog came while my husband and I were walking our dog, Abby. She has a pretty serious heart condition called sub-aortic stenosis. My regular readers already know this because I’ve written about her before. She is at risk of sudden death. This is scary of course, but it is also a daily reminder to live life to the fullest and boy does she. She often inspires me and that is point of this post.
We’ve been told that Abby is “exercise intolerant” because of her condition but someone forgot to tell her that! She’s full of life, forever sassy and a buzz with energy. We do limit her exercise because we were told to but sometimes, we can just tell that she needs to burn off a little insanity. The other day we took her for a walk and she loved it. She pranced and frolicked about like any 2 year old dog should but, about half way through the walk she just sat down. She didn’t fuss and she didn’t cry and she wasn’t panting excessively. She just wanted to take a break. She knows her body better than we do and what she can and cannot tolerate. So, we pulled her off the middle of the path and to a shady spot and just hung out with her until she was done resting.
When she got up again there was a spring in her step and she was as frisky as ever. Noticing this, my husband said…”Well, if she can’t be healthy, at least she is happy.” These words spoke to me personally given my own health situation and I looked at him and said…”Hey, thanks for the blog idea.”
While it may be hackneyed to say this, happiness really is a choice. I’ve written about the concept of happiness being a choice ad nauseam, I know. Forgive me, please. But, I do so because it’s easy to forget. It’s easy to fall victim to everyday difficulties thrown our way. It is natural to lose hope when nothing is coming easy. It is way too tempting to find fault in others when we are too afraid to face something within ourselves. For some reason, we as human beings seem hardwired to notice the bad before we appreciate the good. I’m sure there psychological theories galore about this but none of that really matters. All that really matters is to get up every day and make a decision about how you are going to view the world and I’m not talking about through rose colored glasses. I’m talking about being brave enough to stare what isn’t right about your life right in the face and then flipping it off.
We have to acknowledge our challenges in order to make peace with them. Accepting something doesn’t necessarily mean liking it. We have to accept what is out of our control in order to find serenity and we can only find happiness when we have found peace so, we have to be realistic. I think Abby is realistic about her heart condition. She rests when we push too hard and she does it matter of factly, like it is perfectly okay with her that this is her fate. She doesn’t grumble about it. She is unapologetic. She takes it in stride.
I’ve not always taken my sarcoidosis in stride. For me, finding happiness despite this disease, has come in stages. Even so, I still have to make a daily conscious decision to be happy. It’s easier now than it used to be but my constitution is such that happiness isn’t always my first reaction when things are difficult. Gratitude takes practice. So, when I see how my dog lives in the moment and just enjoys her life, however long it may or may not be, I am reminded that how I respond to my own illness is a choice. I can be sour and resentful that it has taken my self confidence, my physical strength and my career, to name a few, or I can embrace that this is the challenge I have been asked to endure. Even while some of us are good at making life look easy, none us escapes hardship. Abby makes it look easy. I want to be like Abby. I want to live like Abby. I want to be happy with my day to day life. I want to be happy in the moment and watching Abby reminds me that I can be, that the choice is mine.
My body may not move with ease and I might struggle for air but, these are things outside my control. What is in my control is really rather simple. It is my attitude. I control how I respond to my disease and I don’t have to feel guilty for the things in my life that have changed because of my sarcoidosis. When I am tired I should rest without regret, knowing that when I am refreshed I am much better able to cope. Living with a chronic illness isn’t my fault. I did not do this to myself and there should be no self reproach for the fact that my body and brain don’t always cooperate. To be happy, I need to accept these things as just part of my reality. I’m gong to learn a lesson from Abby and if I can’t be healthy, I am at least going to be happy!