When you get the flu, you rest for a week. You lay in bed, drink sprite and eat soup, watch a lot of TV, and in a few days, it’s back to the daily grind. There’s an understanding that the nausea and weakness is temporary. You’ll only be a “sick” person for a little while, and after the affliction is gone, you can go back to being yourself– eating, drinking, working, etc. This is the general public’s knowledge of illness. It’s a temporary hindrance to your way of life. When the illness is chronic, this kind of thinking gets tricky.
I can’t put my life aside for the time it takes to heal. I would be eating chicken soup and watching Netflix for years. Our conceptions of illness as crippling combined with the association of “rest” with “laziness” present a huge conflict in my attempts to live actively while fighting illness. It makes me feel like I’m wasting days waiting until I’m a full, healthy person again. I’m not “wasting” until I’ve considered it “wasted,” in the meantime, I’m fighting, actively and intentionally fighting.
If you wait for the stars to be aligned before we start moving toward our goals, you’re going to spend a lot of time feeling hopeless and bored. The universe will never send you an invitation to your life. We pity ourselves and submit to helplessness much too often. I am in a compromised physical state, but that doesn’t make me submissive or stagnant. The people I admire most are those who succeed even with opposition. The problem is, when we encounter opposition, we generally perceive it as an instant termination of our success. We don’t see it as an opportunity to succeed with elevated persistence and growth. There will be times in our lives when our circumstances are less than desirable. Bad things happen. You are the one who makes the decision– wait for the struggle to subside, or fight it and live.
It has become increasingly apparent to me in the past few years that people choose one of two basic states of awareness throughout their lives. On one hand, we can observe those who are eager to absorb their surroundings– those who are looking for new phenomena around them, then assimilating these newfound concepts into their lives and personal beliefs. On the other hand, there are those who gain enough awareness to achieve functionality, then stop. They subscribe to ignorance and live in complacence. We fluctuate between these extremes as we are greeted by new twists and turns in the greater channels that guide us through an unmapped world.
Awareness is keeps us astute, intentional, productive. When we are aware of our situations, we can choose how to react and function thoughtfully within them. We make our lives happen, rather than allowing life to happen around us. No matter you situation, you can choose to be functional and cultivate your character. As a student, you can choose to be aware, and interact enthusiastically with the new knowledge around you– or you can be ignorant, and robotically complete tasks until you are handed a degree. As a parent, you can be aware of your beautiful opportunity to raise a confident, thriving individual, or you can be ignorant, numbing yourself with unenlightening activity and missing opportunities for growth and betterment for yourself and your child. A thoughtful, focused low-income single mother is much more admirable to me than a selfish, antisocial CEO. Neither identity is necessarily bad; it all depends on the awareness of the individual and his/her commitment to movement and growth.
We too often view success and happiness as a stagnant end of a series of steps. We say “If I lift weights, I’ll have bigger arms, and when I look better, I’ll be happier. Or, “if I get promoted, I’ll have more money, and more money means I’m successful. i.e., I’ll complete step A to get here, then I’ll complete step B to get there, and then I’ll be happy. When we let ourselves fall into these mindsets, we miss success and happiness in the present. We let ourselves think “because I do not yet have those things in my life, I cannot possibly be happy, I cannot possibly be successful.” Our true measures of meaning and functionality in the world come from our awareness of our surroundings, and our ability to proceed thoughtfully within them. Keep your goals, but maintain awareness of your surroundings– don’t just “cope” with your situation until something better comes along, but rather cultivate yourself no matter the circumstances. Be poor AND hardworking. Be sick AND strong. Be depressed AND loved. You will never be in a place in life where there is no beauty around you to be seized. Make yourself aware of it, and never stop moving toward it.