One of my students asked in my introductory psychology course if she could shift her perception of homework to make it fun. I explained that if she dreaded her homework and felt that it was a horrible experience, then her perception of it would be dreadful.
However, if she were to view higher education as an opportunity, as an opportunity to learn new information, then yes, she could indeed shift her perception of her homework to be more pleasant. The trick is to see what you will gain (knowledge, better job, sense of accomplishment, etc.) by spending the time doing it, rather than focusing on what you lose (time with family, energy, sleep, etc.).
I find myself shifting my perception of my illness, and the choices I have to make to better manage my symptoms, while still earning a living and enjoying my life. If I were to filter my choices through the lens of what I am unable to do, and focus only on those things, I would certainly be cranky and miserable.
The frustration could even become all-consuming, as I believe it has, at various points in my decade-plus with chronic, progressive illness.
While I am intermittently frustrated in recent months, I feel quite a bit more comfortable in my decisions about what I choose to do and not do.
Sometimes those decisions require a shift in my perception because it isn’t that I don’t want to do whatever it is, but I find that I am able to make them with less effort and more comfort in knowing I am choosing what is best for me, Duke, and my health in the long-term.
Living our lives is a series of compromises and shifting of priorities. When we have to shift priorities and make compromises, we also have to shift our perception of all of that.
If I find myself starting sentences with, “I cannot do…because of my dammed legs…” rather than, “I could do that, but the physical toll would not be worth it in my estimation of what I need” then I know I need to shift my perception. I am grateful for what I am able to do at this point, and it is worth whatever compromises I have to make.
I want to work. I love both of my jobs, and am lucky that I am paid to do what I love to do. I want to be able to do my physical therapy, which will keep me more mobile and active in the long-term with this illness. I want to make sure that Duke has the best quality of life I can give him, as he lives out his last years.
I want to be able to know that I can do all the basics of keeping up the house, the laundry, grocery shopping, etc. It is very important to me. I have to take good care of myself and manage the limited amount of energy I have each day, each week, to make sure that I can meet these priorities.
So, what is the compromise or the trade-off? Often there is not much energy or mobility left after meeting them. Therefore, I am working more, simplifying more, blogging less, am planning ahead more, I am seeing many of you in person less often, I am canceling more and committing less, and making choices to forgo social and other activities that decrease my ability to meet those priorities.
It has taken a while for my own perception of these differences to shift and to find my own level of comfort in it. But, it is certainly nice to be there!