Guest Author - Monica J. Foster
It is very difficult to sit back and see your whole world change around you and not be able to do anything about it when you are faced with a sudden disability or a change in your faculties due to an illness or injury. It’s more difficult when people around you boast about the success they are having in their life, when your own life feels out of sorts. Trying to understand that everyone's situation is different and that some people have not been affected by the same circumstances that have changed your own life can be hard. If you’ve been down and feel like everyone is getting ahead but you, here is how to be thankful for what you have.
First, look around you. Sometimes it takes something horrible in your life to happen for you to see what really matters. No matter why you have a disability, you still have good things in your life. Maybe it is your children, spouse or significant other, family, other abilities and strengths, the fact that you still have a roof over your head and food on your table. To help yourself feel better, stop dwelling so much on the bad areas of your life and focus on the good things. Some of those good things can help you turn the bad around
Next, don't take things for granted. Tying your own shoes, writing your name, speaking your mind or directing your care seem like such a simple things. Most people just take for granted these things, but relish it. Some people don't have what you have. Be thankful what you do have. Take a minute to think of a bright future to inspire you forward. No matter what is happening in your life, be thankful for what you can do, that you have dreams. Don't let the things you can't do right now drag you down.
Don't be a drama queen (or king). When life is difficult it’s easy to see which family members and true friends are there for you. Most of the time, the people in your life who really care will listen to your problems and try to have an understanding of what is happening, support you toward a solution. Be advised, they don't want to keep hearing about it, though. They get sick of hearing it just as much as you may get sick of facing your obstacles. If you are constantly complaining about your situation and not appreciating what is, they will call less, make rude comments about your attitude, and stop coming around so much. Allow them the opportunity to share what’s good in their lives and celebrate with them. Ask what you can do to support them. Often, supporting someone else takes your mind off what’s not going right in your life.
Stop with the jealousy. Everyone has thought or said, "I wish I was her (or him).” And what about, “I wish I could do what he (or she) can do”? Maybe at some point you really do wish you were someone else. The grass is not always greener on the other side. And there’s always a person on the other side wishing they had your life!
Stop keeping up with the Jones'. Everyone has different financial situations. Just because the neighbor got a new boat, a new wheelchair, or can afford better adaptive equipment, doesn't mean you have to have exactly the same thing. Be happy for them. Don't let yourself feel like a failure just because you can't have or qualify for everything that other people in your situation have. Not all material things are important in life. Even with these new ‘things’, they may have a horrible family life, a bad relationship or hopeless outlook. Material things will come and go in everyone's life. Qualifying for various programs will come and go. It’s frustrating, but keep fighting and exploring your options. Don’t let up just because it wasn’t ‘your turn’ cutting through the system’s red tape. You’ll have your time. Relationships are what matter most. Build a strong healthy relationship with your family, your kids, friends, co-workers, classmates, your support professionals, if you have them, and your spouse. If you have a good family and community support system, those material things won't matter quite as much. No matter what you do, your family and community will rally together, and everything will be better.
Ask for visitors if you are immobile. Suggest to friends that they save their magazines, the latest comic books and share their DVDs with you. You could make a movie night at home with some friends if it’s hard to get out of the house. Do you cook? Offer to cook dinner for a friend after work. Have a craft night or scrapbooking afternoon with girlfriends. Watch the game and have folks bring over some snacks to share.
If you can get out of the house, take a class at the community center, library, community college or church. You might learn something new, pick up a new hobby, learn a new job skill, and meet a new network of people who share your knowledge and interests. How about learning a new language like French or American Sign Language? What about taking an improve class? Having a disability is all about improvisation and adapting to situations. An improv class will strengthen that skill and make it fun. Even if you’re only out for a little while each day or week, make the most of that time to meet new people, trade kind words with folks at your local market or post office, reconnect with old friends that may share a love of the same activity, or bond with family. You may be able to learn to knit by taking a class with your grandmother or aunt and build up your manual dexterity skills. You might learn to use the computer better so you can work from home. You could connect with people seeking new employees in a class or seminar and work part-time or volunteer while building your resume experience.
Church, sports and social events give you the opportunity to try new things in your worship practice, learn a new sport or renew old traditions, expose you to different music or art, etc. Make the most of your time out. Look online or in the newspaper in the events and clubs section to see what’s new in your community and get out there. It doesn’t have to be disability-focused, but meeting others in your situation is always a great support, too. Wheelchair sports or amputee games and support groups with speakers geared to educate you will help. Don't see a club out there that's active but know people with the same interest? Start up a group!
Talk with your caseworker, physical therapist and support staff (if you have them) to see what they like to do in their spare time. Get suggestions from them where to take you for the afternoon and how to get more involved in your community. You may find something to stimulate you mental, physically and socially all at once.
Be grateful. Be grateful for all the options you have in life. Make a list of things you are grateful for each day. It doesn’t matter how simple or complex – from tying your own shoes, being able to pick out a new outfit, or being able to do one more lap around the mall walking. Make a list of things you’d like to accomplish today or this week and check each one off as you accomplish it. It’s just one more thing to be thankful for in addition to gratitude for what you are able to do, for who’s in your life and who you’ll eventually become as you reach toward a better you.