Have you ever broken or sprained your ankle? Have you ever had to deal with any kind of a condition that impeded your ability to walk?
If so, how did you invest your mental energies? Were you mostly negative, mostly positive, or somewhere in between?
Let’s imagine two women. We’ll call one woman, Miss Negative. We’ll call the other woman, Miss Positive. They both broke their left ankle and had to have surgery. The orthopedic surgeon instructed both women, “Don’t put any weight on your left ankle for the first three months.”
Miss Negative complains, “Why did this have to happen? Why did I break my ankle? Woe is me! Until I get over this broken ankle, I am going to hide out in my house. I am helpless. I can’t do anything anymore. I’m not even going to try doing physical therapy. That would be much too painful. My husband will just have to take over. My life is ruined!”
Miss Positive says with a bit of a smile, “Well, this has certainly been a lesson in humility. Let’s figure out what I can learn from this experience and in what ways I can help others. For one thing, I now have a greater sense of compassion for people who limp or use canes, crutches, walkers, or wheelchairs. It takes a lot of courage, patience, and strength. Once I can walk again, I intend to be a lot more grateful and not take it so much for granted. I know that I used to be one of the fastest walkers around. One day, I probably can get there again. In the meantime, I will focus on the things I can do and strive to do better on the things that are currently a challenge.”
Obviously, Miss Positive’s mindset is healthier. She knows that having a give-up attitude will not serve her very well. Instead, she tackles each challenge, literally and figuratively, one step at a time.
Miss Negative turns her left ankle into her enemy. She stares at it balefully and says, “You have ruined my life. I can’t stand you. You had no right to break. I won’t even try walking because I know you will just try to sabotage me all over again.”
Miss Positive compassionately says, “Left ankle, I know you didn’t mean to break. I also know that you are doing your best to heal. We will work together to get better. Between physical therapy, a positive attitude, and the power of prayer, we will get through this together.”
Imagine Miss Negative and Miss Positive both eat lunch at a buffet restaurant. Each of them has a husband who pushes the wheelchair, helps them into and out of the car, and lifts the wheelchair into the trunk and out again once they reach their destination. At the restaurant, each husband fills a plate with food and brings it to his wife at the table.
Miss Negative complains about the service, the food, and how her husband didn’t get things just the way she likes. Her husband does his best to hide his sigh and to enjoy the meal as much as is possible with a wife who is constantly whining and griping.
Miss Positive says to her husband, “I really appreciate you bringing me here. Wasn’t it great that we found a way for me to get out of the house? Isn’t it wonderful that we have the use of this wheelchair for a while until I don’t need it anymore? It’s also lovely that we both can enjoy a meal without having to worry about cooking or cleaning.”
Privately to herself, she says, “Good job, Right Leg. You held me up as I climbed from the couch to the wheelchair, from the wheelchair to the car, and from the car back into the wheelchair. Good job, Rest of my Body. Both of my arms still work. My taste buds work. My marriage, although challenged by this, is getting stronger. There are a lot of good people in this world. Plus, life can still be enjoyed.”
The next time the two women join their husbands at the same restaurant, Miss Negative repeats the same experience.
As for Miss Positive, the physical therapy exercises are paying off. She manages to use her fully-functioning leg to propel the wheelchair rather quickly around the buffet tables so she can select her own food. She even manages to visit the restroom by herself. She states, “Good job, Right Leg. Good job, Arms.”
Miss Positive still has those challenging days where the ankle hurts, she loses her balance, or it feels frustrating that every-day tasks like washing pots and pans and doing laundry take her so much longer to accomplish than before the accident. It then feels rather tempting to default to indulging in a pity party. Every now and then, she allows herself a few minutes to wallow in those feelings of regret. She is, however, aware that happiness is an active choice. She soothes herself the best she can, focuses on the positive aspects of her life, and gets on with her day.
In a matter of a few short weeks, Miss Positive is able to use a rolling walker and drive herself to the places where she needs to go. She can easily lift this walker into and out of the car.
Day by day, she finds more and more things that she can do by herself. She has more and more parts of her body to praise. She is so grateful for the good things in her life and the compassionate people who are very willing to open a door or lend a hand, when necessary.
In time, Miss Positive is able to walk again. It’s slow-doing at first, but she feels as proud as a little child. She knows that before long, she will be walking as smoothly and gracefully as she once did. As for Miss Negative, her broken ankle might atrophy due to her lack of trying.
So, let’s go back to our original premise of bewail your fate versus having a positive mindset. As you can clearly see, there is far more benefit in being optimistic. Miss Positive’s ever-improving health is proof of that.
Other stories in this health challenges series
- Squirrel metaphor: Bewail your fate versus positive mindset
- Broken ankle: Bewail your fate versus positive mindset (see above)
(This and other titles coming soon.)
- Breast cancer: Bewail your fate versus positive mindset
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