I’m grateful for a better perspective…
This chronic illness journey is always full of ups and downs. Sometimes that’s in a physical sense, and sometimes it’s emotionally. A couple of years ago during one of my more emotional lows, I was really struggling every day with having a hopeful outlook that things were going to get better. I found myself in the habit of having the response, “I’m hanging in there!” I didn’t think much about it, and I used that phrase to myself and others for quite some time. Then one day it hit me that this phrase was actually pulling me down more than I had ever realized. This realization came as I was pondering on the phrase “Press Forward!” I have a heritage of pioneer ancestors who crossed the plains under very difficult circumstances in hopes for a new start and religious freedom. Their journey was long and hard, and they didn’t know for sure how long it would last or what was around the next corner. But they eventually made it! They did this by pressing forward one step at a time, even when it seemed almost unbearable.
I shared this with a friend of mine who has also gone through many years of chronic illness. We talked about the two different phrases, “hang in there” and “Press Forward”, and we compared the images these created.
“Hang in there” brought an image of a pile of quick sand, with us standing in the middle. Above our heads was a branch hanging over the quick sand extending out from a nearby tree. We were grasping the branch with both hands, not sinking in the quick sand, but just “hanging in there” in exhaustion. Not moving forward, not moving backward or going down; not moving at all. Just hanging. I thought of how exhausting it can be to have this illness, and how I was feeling so stuck in the emotions of just dealing with it and thinking of it over and over again. And in doing so, I wasn’t getting anywhere. In fact, I was actually slowly sinking, on an emotional level, without even realizing it.
Then an image came into my mind of “pressing forward”. I thought how the journey with my illness compared in a way to my pioneer ancestors and their journey. Their road was long and hard, yet they had a goal in mind. They used that goal to help them press forward and keep moving one step at a time, even when it was so hard and they wanted to give up. I thought about how hard my illness was and how I didn’t know what was around the next corner or if there was even an end in sight. But could I change my perspective and make the journey a little easier, with a little more purpose? Instead of it being so hard and just hanging there, could I at least move forward one little step at a time, despite how difficult it was? Could I create a place of hope where healing was possible; a place that I could move toward? I determined that I could! And that change of perspective has led me down a whole new path. It’s now a path toward healing, and one that is filled with hope and determination to get well. And all I did was change my phrase; my perspective. I’m no longer “hanging in there”, but I am “PRESSING FORWARD” every moment of every day. I still have plenty of very hard mountains to climb, but when it gets so hard that I just want to give up, I put the vision of “pressing forward” in my mind, and it helps me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, moving forward toward my goal of healing.