Pulling down on a cable that was attached to a big stack of weights, I turned my head in the middle of the move to respond to my friend who I’d been chatting with. Instantly I felt a sharp pain in my neck and I knew I’d done something wrong. Unable to turn my head, I tried rubbing my neck, hoping that if I rubbed it just right, the pain would subside. It didn’t.
As I continued to rub, I looked around the gym at everyone still exercising and reflected on my own state of being just five minutes prior.
“It’s amazing what one wrong move can make you realize,” I said to my friend. “Before I pulled this muscle I felt great and I didn’t even acknowledge it. I took feeling good completely for granted.”
My pain continued to worsen that day and on the advice of several people, I got myself in to see both a masseuse and a chiropractor.
The next morning I woke up with the same horrible pain in my neck and upper back. With a busy day ahead, I tried to carry on as usual. But everyone could tell I was hurt by the way I turned my whole body just to talk to someone.
In a hurry to feel good again I went for more treatments and did everything I was told: the ointments, the ice, the muscle relaxants.
That night the pain wasn’t in my neck anymore. It was now localized in the exact area where I had pulled a muscle and it felt as though someone had taken a heavy boulder and thrown it directly at that spot on my upper back. Apparently, this was a good sign and I was on the mend.
The pain and discomfort slowed me down: I couldn’t concentrate on my work; I didn’t feel social; I didn’t even feel like relaxing and watching a show. All I wanted to do was go to sleep and wake up feeling like I did before my accident in the gym.
But in my agitated state, I began to feel grateful for my mistake. I knew I was lucky and that my injury would heal, so while in pain,
I decided to embrace the feelings of discomfort and record them for future reference. It seemed so ludicrous to me how much I had taken my own health and well-being for granted, yet again.
It’s not like this is the first time I’ve felt pain. I’ve hurt myself many times before. I’ve also recovered from several surgeries and once endured 36 hours of labour. Looking back, I remember vowing at that time not to take my own health for granted once I felt good again. But, strangely enough, I forgot and did exactly that.
Remembering my own temporary pain hasn’t been enough to keep me in that place of gratitude for feeling good. Perhaps I need something more to remind myself.
I have some very special people in my life who live with constant pain who would love to feel as good as I get to feel almost every day of my life. Perhaps reflecting on their experience will smarten me up.
“How do you cope with chronic pain on a daily basis?” I asked my friend who has suffered with a crippling arthritis for many years.
“With chronic optimism,” he laughed. “But it’s all relative. My situation may seem awful, and it is in many ways, but it could be worse. I’d much rather focus on what’s good in my life rather than dwell on what’s wrong.”
Remembering a time when he also took his own health for granted, my friend has decided to focus on the spirit of his mind instead of the failing of his body.
“I could beat myself up and say I should have been grateful for what I had when I had it,” he explained. “But it’s typical to take our own good fortune for granted. I have learned a lot about myself in recent years and I count my blessings every day now. I decided that I have a lot to be happy about, and that was all it was, a decision.”
When I wake up tomorrow morning I’ve decided to record all my blessings in my gratitude journal. I’ve also decided to be more careful and less chatty at the gym.