I had the most wonderful experience yesterday. No, it was not a trip to Paris or a standing ovation after a speech, or even my favorite wonderful experience—a kind word from a friend or stranger. Nope, none of those. My wonderful experience started with a plastic newspaper bag and ended with clean, shiny hair.
Let me back up a bit. One of the things I truly value in life is freedom of movement. I do not like being confined in any way. Even as a child, I was always in motion: riding my bike, skating, playing a game we created in the neighborhood leaping over benches like show horses over jumps. If you want details on how to play in case your kids or grandkids (or you!) are bored this summer, just take two benches from a picnic table, place them side by side and run and jump over them. After everyone has a turn, move the benches apart and repeat. The winner is the person who can jump over the benches when they are farthest apart. I loved this game and excelled (probably why I loved it) because I happen to possess ten miles of long legs. You can imagine, if this game was my idea of a good time as a child, moving is all-important in my world.
Believing God has a keen sense of humor, it is no surprise to me that I would get a chronic illness that affects the joints. Lupus has led to many orthopedic maladies through the years. I have often told my orthopedic surgeons that they should have a frequent flier program of some sort; you know, undergo one spine surgery and throw in the second one for free (if only!). Of course, all of this orthopedic surgery comes with severe movement restrictions. There was clearly no jumping over benches when I had to undergo not one, but two surgeries on both my spine and foot, which left me in casts, braces and “the boot” for what seemed like years. Most recently I’ve had surgery on my dominant right hand and wrist. Once again, I’m left figuring out how to move and perform daily tasks without the freedom of movement that I have normally taken for granted.
Having read many books, given numerous presentations, speeches and webinars on happiness (I prefer happYness), I know that happy people are grateful. I also know that it is sometimes very hard to pull myself up by the bootstraps when I am lying in bed with a huge cast on my foot and wanting nothing more than to simply walk around the block. Trying to practice what I preach, I make it a point to notice and appreciate the small things in my life. So, after 5 days of lying around recouping from the aforementioned hand and wrist surgery, I managed to wash my hair with the help of my husband and lots of plastic wrap and bags. I cannot begin to tell you how good it felt or how incredibly grateful I was. I felt better all over. My mood lifted and I was again ready to go out into the world and participate in the life I love.
My shiny, clean hair once again reminded me of just how important the little things can be to our outlook on life. With stitches in my wrist and elbow, there are still many things I can’t do, but am I ever excited about the things I can do! Focusing on and how to be grateful for the things you can do and letting go of the things you can’t do may well be the best predictor of happiness.
About Cindy Coney: Ambassador of hope and author of The Wild Woman’s Guide to Living with Chronic Illness, Cindy Coney is a nationally acclaimed speaker, trainer, human resilience expert, and philanthropic force. Dedicated to helping both children and adults achieve optimal health and success, Cindy has taught thousands of people to move beyond coping with limitations to recapturing joy and fulfillment in their lives.
Diagnosed with lupus in 1980, Cindy has since driven a race car 124 miles per hour; completed the Chicago Marathon; championed countless nonprofit organizations; presented to the World Lupus Congress as a keynote speaker; and shared her inspiring, empowering story from Belize to Baltimore.
Follow Cindy’s Blog at www.cindyconey.com