Recently, I was holed up, stuck at home for 12 days in intense pain after a tonsillectomy. Because of it, I was forcibly deprived of numerous things: food, water, exercise, and social activities, to name a few. I was definitely, well, going without.
Before the surgery, not entirely realizing what I was getting into, but I had some expectations. It kind of felt like I was preparing for a little vacation—a week or so off work, no social pressures. "This is going to be fun!" I thought. I was however a little bit worried about FOMO as well. I don't always do so well when I'm stuck at home with a cold on a Saturday night—I want to be out having fun with everyone else, obviously.
Pretty much everything I expected about this experience turned out to be wrong though. It was certainly not a vacation... I was a dazed from medications and suffering from pain, not relaxing in any sense. I didn't have an ounce of FOMO either... going out and seeing friends sounded like torture. I didn't necessarily want to be stuck at home, but there was also no other place I'd rather be.
My expectations were way off base, but that left room for the unexpected, and the biggest thing I didn't plan on was how appreciative I would feel when it was all over.
The physical pain brought me to a place of sadness and despair that I had never really felt before. But it's always darkest before the dawn. Feeling so incredibly low meant that the next time I was up it would feel that much higher.
The happiness and appreciation I felt after returning to my normal schedule was unparalleled. I didn't let the little things bother me, I was just happy to be, happy to see my friends, happy for the ability to eat a sandwich. I stopped feeling FOMO. I had, after all, just spent a few weeks stuck in the house "missing out" on things, and guess what, the world didn't end. I become more confident in my decisions. The forced independence created by having to take care of my sick self, bled into every other independent decision I made.
This new perspective of gratefulness I'm feeling is something I want to keep with me, to practice, to reuse again and again in the future. I want to remember this experience for the next time I think life sucks. So here I am, writing it down, building an appreciation memorial.
I'm not suggesting you put yourself through a tortuously painful surgery to gain a new perspective. You actually don't need to, because at some point in life we all encounter physical or emotional pain. It takes you to a dark place and it ain't fun.
But if you choose, you can use the pain to your benefit, use it as a lesson, use it to inspire.
Each up and down in life is an opportunity. With practice, with experience, with mindfulness to understand and process how you feel, you learn how to smooth out the ride.
When you're feeling down, take a moment to remember that it will get better. You know it'll get better because you've been there before. Remember? Write it all down, how you're feeling, all the things that are shitty AND all the things for which you're grateful.
When you're on the other side, when life is good and you're happy, it's also OK to remember that you will feel pain again. That's OK because that's real. Write it all down, all the good things you're feeling, build your own appreciation memorial.
Both the ups and downs of life teach us how to survive. They are a yin and yang—they create balance.
So just be yourself, feel your feels, write it all down, learn from it, and remember to appreciate life, every stupid second of it.