Reactions: A Thermometer for Our State of Mind.

December 2014 Newsletter

Dr. gloria wright

You may or may not have realized that I’ve missed a couple of months sending a newsletter. “I wasn’t up to it” is putting it mildly. After emergency surgery the end of October, I was “laid up,” as we say in the South. (Details are on my Facebook.)

What has been interesting to me is my reaction to the events. They woke me up when my colonoscopy went awry to tell me that I had to have emergency surgery. My response, “OK, then.” And promptly went back to sleep. They later informed me that they removed 12″ of my intestines to remove a mass (that was non-malignant, thank goodness). My immediate reaction was “oh, that probably saved my life.” Which I do think is true. Had this mass been left unattended, there could have been dire consequences.

Remember, I come from a long line of worry warts and catastrophic thinkers. Here is a typical example of this. My mama was washing a new drip-dry blouse. You weren’t supposed to wring the water out. You hung it up wet to let it drip dry. As she was transporting the blouse from the kitchen sink to the clothesline, she slipped on the wet floor and promptly landed on her bottom, still holding the dripping blouse up. I remember her doomsday reply as if it were yesterday: “Oh, my, I could have killed myself.”

I have spent the last year avidly practicing neuropositivity – managing my thoughts and emotions and literally exercising the act of holding and believing in gratitude, hope, love, peace and joy. My guess is the payoff was that my initial reaction was not one of doomsday, but acceptance and hoping for the best. Staying positive was almost an automatic reaction. I was coming out of being medically put to sleep, so I didn’t have much “think” time and this time positive came to the top.

From the physical therapist to the medical team, it seems that I have astounded most of them with my recovery. After surgery I had to return to the hospital because the incision had become infected so that I then had an open wound that needed to heal from the inside out. On one of my last visits to the surgical team, the nurse changed the packing and then offered to help me up. I told her that I was ok and hopped up and then off the stool beside the table. I noticed that she was looking at me with a quizzical expression. I asked what she was thinking. “Most people with an open wound like yours would have come in in a wheel chair. You just got up and jumped off the stool….”  I haven’t been in a wheelchair since I left the hospital. My guess is that dancing three nights a week and playing Pickleball probably aided the hopping. I heard over and over that they were glad I wasn’t a couch potato. Heed the warning!

Take note of your reactions. When the phone rings, do you model Winnie the Pooh, “Oh, bother.”?

Coping with these challenges, I thought of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning. He was a renowned Austrian Psychiatrist that worked with Holocaust Survivors. I wondered what he learned that might strengthen my resolve to aim for health and stay positive.  Frankl found that meaning came from three possible sources: purposeful work, love, and courage in the face of difficulty. He also advocates that we aspire to goals beyond our reach in hopes that we might land near them. When we aim for mediocre, we are likely to land below that goal. So I wanted to accept what is and do what I could to maneuver through this challenge toward restored good health and walk the journey with gratitude, love, joy and peace and hope. Pretty tall order, but I hate feeling like a victim or singing “poor me.”

So what do you aspire to? What gives your life meaning? Do you purposefully and intentionally monitor your reactions? I would encourage you to!!! And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance. ‘I hope you dance'”!!! (Lee Ann Womack)