I was having a very real conversation the other day with a dear friend about the word can’t. I’m not talking about the can't where you can’t live your life to the fullest or you can’t be successful at your job if you work hard or you can’t have true happiness.
I'm talking about the can’t that you can’t control. The can’t that exists because of the circumstances in your life, the lives of those around you, or your own body.
The can’t that comes from having two jobs, just to survive, and still not having enough money to go spend on those cute pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing. The can’t that comes from not being able to get pregnant after years and years of trying. The can’t that comes from having to take care of someone close to you who can’t take care of themselves. The can’t that comes from being physically incapable of doing certain things that you need/want to do.
Those kinds of cants.
For me, my can’t is pain. It’s impossible to explain five years of pain to someone who has never experienced chronic pain. Five years of nonstop, every single day, in some form or another, ranging in degree, makes you want to put a gun to your head: nerve pain, bone pain, muscle pain, spine pain—whole body pain.
Pain that goes unexplained at every doctor visit, every MRI, every blood test, and nerve test. Pain that gets worse with every protocol that is supposed to help.
My physical can't is that I can’t bend over to pick something up, go dancing with my friends, take trips with my boys, hike, run to the mall to buy a new pair of jeans, go on a run, period. It is physically impossible for me to accomplish those tasks when I am hurting so badly or when my back decides that today would be a good day to lock up and stop working.
I have accepted it for now; the pain. I don’t wake up every morning anymore expecting it to be better or different. I know it will be there and I know I will have to work my day around it. I accept that—in this moment—I am dealing with chronic pain. At the same time, I maintain hope and a belief that it will get better.
Somehow, having this mentality makes it easier on the days when it's hard to do much of anything. Some days, I can accomplish things like laundry and grocery shopping and taking my kids to the trampoline park, the rec center, or going to dinner with my friends. Those days I go to bed feeling rather grateful about all I was able to do. And other days, all I can manage is getting out of bed and showering.
THE BARE MINIMUM.
That's no way to live.
The bare minimum has a way of messing with your head. It makes you feel incapable, insignificant, and worthless. When all you can do in a day is the absolute bare minimum you fight thoughts that say that your boys would be better off without you; that your family would be better off not worrying about you; that your friends would be better off not getting the, "I can't do it, anymore," texts. It’s quite defeating and leads to feelings of inadequacy. Most of the time, I feel utterly useless….if I am being honest.
I am a huge believer in mind over matter. That, if your mind can think it and your heart desires it—you can have it. I also know that in order to make dreams happen you must take action. You can’t sit around waiting for them to happen to you. One of the most frustrating things is not being able to take the steps (physically and figuratively) needed to make your dream life happen.
It's agonizing knowing that my life can never be what I truly want it to be. Not because I don't work hard, or I don't want it enough but, because, my body doesn't work right.
For now, I can’t change my circumstances. I can’t magically make my back heal and my pain go away. Although, dear God, I pray for that every day. For relief. For an answer. For a solution.
What I can do is get up every day, get ready, and live my life to the best of my ability. I can take responsibility for my own happiness and even though I can’t experience life to the degree that I wish I could, I can make the most of every situation I am given; with my kids, with my friends, with my health, with my circumstances. I can be grateful for the things I can do, even on the days when getting out of bed feels like the biggest feat on earth.
I can let go of the idea that my life should be a certain way and learn to love it for what it is. I can continue to take steps towards finding solutions to my pain AND towards building a career that I can do from my couch. I can show my boys that instead of giving up, I show up in every way that I can and I never ever give up.
We have two options in any scenario. We can give into the negative, depressing, woe is me thoughts and be miserable on top of being in pain (and I do that…don’t think that I don’t). OR we can choose to do our best. Despite the pain, despite the circumstances, despite the can’ts (I do that, too). I can choose to be okay with the fact that my best today might be vastly different and maybe not as productive as my best was yesterday. Choosing the latter is not only standing up for myself, it's taking responsibility for my own happiness and not allowing my CANTS to dictate my CANS.
It's also the only way to get out of this crazy thing we call life....alive.