It was supposed to be a small, quick procedure but something went wrong and I woke up in ICU. I visited the pearly gates – my heart had stopped for 3 full minutes.
Spoiler alert – I’m recovering and going to be ticketyboo, just fine.
When your life gets turned upside down, it’s a rare opportunity to truly stop. Like everything. And focus.
Focus on what matters. Focus on what’s important and what’s not.
(And that means filtering out what, in the moment, seems really important but really isn’t.)
I’m choosing to change the lens I look through this experience with.
And I invite you to do so as well, especially when and if:
- Your life is upside down
- Your to-do list is longer than the Great Wall of China
- Your toddler or teen is having a tantrum … for the third time today
- The pressure feels like it’s grinding you down and you can barely stand up.
- Your eyes feel like sandpaper due to lack of sleep
- Your stress level is off the chart
If any of those apply please take a tiny, wee step to change your lens, change your focus. It won’t solve all your problems but I promise it will bring back some of your resilience and let you shift into what’s possible instead of everything feeling impossible.
Bonus. It’s not hard.
It’s all about awareness. Shifting your awareness from all that’s going sideways, upside down and inside out, to what’s in front of your eyes, ears and nose.
Here’s an example.
I vividly remember having tubes down my throat and my nose and a mess of wires attached to me, creating all sorts of beeps and bells from the nearby ICU machines. My hands and feet were tied to the bed (because apparently I had fought said tubes) annnnnd I remember focusing on the feel of the blanket on my feet.
It was the ideal weight and placement. It felt sublime. It created a cozy cocoon over my feet and legs. It felt unbelievably soothing and perfectly perfect.
Looking back at that moment I realize now that a simple shift in focus, from the scary and painful tubes to my blanket, made an enormous difference.
Nothing had changed but my perception and that changed everything.
How do you actually shift your perception? In addition to my blanket incident, here are 10 other examples of things my attention has been caught by since my pearly gates incident. See how many appeal to you and simply replicate them.
- The feel of a slight breeze on my cheek. It feels like a velvet caress.
- The taste of a large grain of salt in a mouthful of food. It exploded in my mouth and made my taste buds dance.
- Music music music – I’m using it to move my body and my spirit. The first time I caught myself post pearly doing a little, cautious dance in the kitchen when the music moved me, was sublime.
- Tapping my toe – it’s such a small but significant thing – to be able to move to a rhythm only I can hear.
- The sky – I look up a lot now. I notice the colours of the sky, of the clouds. From pearly, luminescent gray, syrupy, golden yellow, or startling blue with puffy clouds floating by, the sky is a wondrous piece of art.
- The scent of lavender and peppermint – I’m using them to wake me up and to make me sleepy. And just today I bought some lavender plants with frothy, frilly leaves to plant near where I often sit on my deck.
- Birds – I’m lucky to live in a place where there are lots of trees and birds. I make a point of listening to their symphony.
- Turning over – It’s a marvel to be able to turn over in bed without pain. I appreciate that deeply, both that I can do it and that it doesn’t hurt.
- The sound of water – from taking a shower or bath to the gentle lap of waves hitting the shore of a nearby lake, water is a soothing balm.
- Hugs and holding hands – I will never forget seeing my partner and my kids when I became conscious. Being able to hold their hands and touch their faces was indescribably delicious.
Get rid of your hedonic adaption
Ingrid Fetell Lee, former design director at IDEO, in her book Joyful, the Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, talks about hedonic adaptation. Hedonic adaptation is a term psychologists use to describe our tendency to become dulled to our surroundings. Our senses get blunted and it can ‘spark a kind of desperate materialism. Hungry for novelty, we often throw out functioning objects that have lost their luster and replace them with shiny new versions.’
Conversely, ‘by snapping us out of our habitual thought patterns, a small surprise can reset our joy meters and allow us to see with new eyes,’ says Fetell Lee.
So here’s to you and me snapping out of old habits, seeing with a fresh perspective and gaining more joy.
I’m standing by to listen to how you’ve done just that.