My son had surgery on his foot to correct its disfigurement and slow the deforming force as he grows. Last year, he had surgery on the other foot. I don’t know how the kid does it, but he smiles more than he frowns.
At 3:00 AM, being driven insane by an itch he couldn’t reach inside his splint, he Face-timed me. I got the chopstick and ice packs and found him writhing in his bed.For two hours, he tried to satisfy the itch.
I thought maybe the placebo of Tylenol or another dose of Melatonin to make him drowsy would work. I thought the dog, Enzo, smack in the middle of his bed, might comfort him while I rubbed his back. Finally, he asked for the Kindle and said I could sleep next to him while he read.
Enzo growled when I tried to negotiate space (never mind that he didn’t call shotgun and managed to achieve it while being the last to settle in). An hour later, there were no signs of J putting his book down.
I focused on how soft the fuzzy fleece blanket was on my skin and the perfect firmness of the mattress beneath me. I thought about all the people who weren’t in that luxury and how lucky we are.
At seven, with J asleep, I moved into my room and texted his surgeon, who, I’m pretty sure, wears a giant S on a tee underneath his scrub shirt. We conversed as he got ready for his first surgery of the day when I inadvertently fell asleep.
I woke up with a feeling in my heart. In thought form, it said, “The world is full of possibilities,” and “Literally, anything could happen today.” It was far preferable to when I used to wake up with “I can’t believe I said or did that yesterday,” or “I bet so and so figured out that I’m no good and is fixing to reject me.”
I unconsciously practiced that second set of thoughts since I was a toddler and for forty-some-odd years. All that practice conditioned my brain and body into fear and self-doubt. Those emotions flowed like a studied opera singer belts out a song.
But did you notice the thoughts of gratitude that sprung up while laying in bed with J? My brain could and would have turned on the old set of circuits – the self-pitying ones, “Why was this kid dealt such a tough hand,” or the fear and anxiety ones, “How much worse is it going to get,” or the shame and guilt ones “His disorder is my fault.”
You can imagine where that set of thoughts would have landed me for the day (or my life depending on how long I chose to hold onto them).
Instead, gratitude was there, like a synchronistic text from an old friend when you need it most. It was automatic because I’ve spent years practicing that instead of the old bandwagon.
In the beginning, I had to manhandle myself into thoughts of gratitude when all my body wanted to do was complain and bathe in fear.
Eventually, I broke the addiction to the old emotions and rewired my system to the truth: The world is full of possibilities. I am unlimited, Jaden is unlimited, and guess what – so are you!
Do I backtrack sometimes? Of course. It’s not like I was chatting congenially sipping a martini in the hospital waiting area during Jaden’s four-hour surgery.
But, a funny thing happened when I latched onto the gratitude that’s been patiently waiting for me to release the stress of anticipating and getting through the procedure. My brain slipped into a creative state.
This happens when we get out of survival and do the work of un-memorizing unhelpful emotional states and memorizing useful ones.We get access to new ideas, to new possibilities.
I’m not saying it’s easy or happens overnight, but it’s essential to understand that we’re not a slave to our emotions. We’re not doomed to an inevitable reality because of the circumstances in our lives. If you put the work in, it’s possible to change.
TO REVIEW: I felt grateful, I drifted off to sleep, and not coincidentally, I woke up with the itch to write and an idea to create. And, as though I took it right out of Jaden’s splint, he woke up itch-less.
Try it. Or think about trying it. Any change you want to make will start with a new thought, so either way, you’re golden.