So many of us spend so many sleepless nights focusing on what we’ve lost at the cost of cherishing what we have left. It’s not just our clients, as a consultant and supervisor I have found many many cases of clinicians that have burnt out of life, even if they were functioning in their work. They lose the ability to see that life in not guaranteed, that it is precious and that it can be taken from us in an instant. Recently, I had two things happen that reminded me to check my focus and try to live every day to the fullest.
Helen was our therapeutic animal partner where I work and had been since she was rescued. Though she had been used as a bait dog, violently beaten and left for dead, she had an unending amount of love to give, and give it she did to so many folks in the 6 or so years that we had her. Even when recovering from two surgeries, one to fix damage to her face and remove fibrous debris that was lodged in her skull from past abuse; the other to remove cancer from her body, she reported to work the very next day, refusing to stay home and refusing to use a bed we laid out for her at the office. Barely walking, cone around her neck, large areas shaved and covered in a t shirt, she limped to my office and asked for help getting on the couch. She remained for her shift, giving love and support to those in need. Sadly, she passed in my arms December 22nd after completing a long day of service. Giving till her final breath. Countless cried at the news of her passing. She had not been ill and at 8 years old she was expected to have many years left.
Hours ago I was working on projects between sessions as I always do. It’s nothing to see me working on or working with a farm tractor or large piece of equipment when I have some time between clients. I may also be using a chainsaw or any one of a thousand tools while improving the grounds and buildings. I play plumber, electrician, carpenter, designer, welder etc. at any given moment and am no stranger to a nick or a cut nor the occasional trip to the medical clinic for stiches or other care. When you do as much as I do you will have a mishap, especially when you work 60-80 hours per week and have for years on end. Hours ago, things did not go as planned. It changed me, for how long I cannot say. But it has me reflecting in a way that I have not in some time.
While reworking a circuit panel in our building I had trouble installing a breaker and my hand slipped. For a brief moment I came into contact with the hot (energized with electricity) part of the panel. Every bit of power in that panel should by rights have entered into my body. That panel supplies power to an entire floor, 2600 or so square feet of space yet I was unhurt; not even a shock. I have no explanation for why I am ok, but I am physically fine. After the incident I continued, with my project and finished the panel and went back to clinical duties (I am the director and also have a full case load of clients), few if any knowing what had happened. Inside I felt different though.
That’s how life can often work; here and happy one moment and gone the next, or not… We really have no idea when we will leave this world or how but we all will leave it one day. Instead of focusing on all we have lost, how much more others have as compared to us or all the stuff that we dislike but cannot change, let us instead enjoy every moment that we have. Life is often wasted on those that only see negative, use that energy to make the world better than you found it. Find your reason to smile instead of looking for reasons to become angry.
Ten ways to increase happiness in your life:
- Take time every day to tell those around you how much they mean to you.
- Before posting something on social media ask yourself if it is true, if it is kind and if it is necessary?
- Remember that no tomorrow is guaranteed; work towards living today to the fullest: why waste it on things that do not make you feel fulfilled?
- Go through your china cabinet, hope chest and other keep sake storage and use those special items every day. Why save it forever? Items were made to be used. I personally only use vintage collectible cups, plates and utensils after seeing so many of those keepsakes at auctions, flea markets and rummage sales after the next of kin did not want them.
- Treat yourself today. Saving for a retirement that you may never see does make sense but not if you are unable to live well today. Find a balance and treat yourself well now. Take more trips. Have more experiences while you are young enough to enjoy them.
- Never go to bed angry if you can help it. While we do sometimes need to take space to process our feelings, it is often better to take that limited time and then find closure rather than to let things fester.
- Build a better today as well as a better tomorrow. Sacrifice is part of life for most of us, especially in the early years of adulthood but you need not sacrifice all the time. Find a balance while working for a better tomorrow and take time to enjoy the now. It may only be a few moments a day, an occasional day off or a day trip, but do live for today while working towards a more secure tomorrow.
- Tell people how you feel. So many people regret never telling someone that they feel about them when they had the chance. So many tears mix with words at an otherwise empty cemetery, telling them all they wish they had said. Why wait?
- Get unstuck. Feeling trapped in a dead end job, relationship or other situation? Take steps now to find the situation that you crave. It may be hard but is it any harder than forcing yourself to go through the motions when they do not bring any joy? Work will always have tough times, tough moments but overall it should bring a sense of self satisfaction.
- Be who you are. Why pretend to be something you are not? Why dress the part or walk the walk that means nothing to you? Find balance between societal necessities and individuality. Why do clothes need to match? Who says a professional has to wear a suit in order to be competent? Who says a mechanic can’t wear nice clothes to work? I’ve been known to wear pocket t shirts and shorts to work and never had a client walk out of a session. Depending on your boss’ rules, you should have plenty of room to balance what they are looking for with remaining true to yourself. Embrace it.
The bottom line is that life is to be cherished. Value every moment.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA