Friday, August 29, 2008

The Healing Power of Excitement

I am just astounded by the healing power of excitement.

Last summer, when it was so hard for me to move and I was in so much pain, there were 2 exciting events which involved interacting with many people. First, on June 30, 2007, our gardens were one of the 8 stops on the Amherst Garden Tour. I sat on a chair on the front porch, greeted the 311 visitors to our garden over the course of 6 hours, and was thrilled at the show of enthusiasm and delight, along with the wonderful compliments I received about our "Garden of Eden". And with the thrill and excitement of the day, I felt good in my body that day.

Then at the end of last summer -- Aug. 26, 2007 -- my daughter got married. There were times in the middle of the summer when I wondered what my physical state would be for the wedding. But following my hospital stay at the end of July 2007, I had begun to heal from the many compression fractures in my spine, and was receiving ongoing chemotherapy and physical therapy. By the end of August my dream came true: I WAS ABLE TO DANCE AT MY DAUGHTER'S WEDDING. Not only that, but I helped walk her down the aisle (true, I was also using her for support!), and I danced not one but SIX dances in all at the reception. At the time, dancing consisted of leaning on and holding on to my partner, but I didn't care HOW I danced, just that I was able to stand and move and celebrate!!

After the wedding festivities, when my daughter left town with her husband, she suggested that I have parties and as many celebrations as I could, because she noticed how I lit up when I was excited and when there was something to celebrate. I thought about her words, and took them in deeply when I realized the truth in them. And since my birthday was just 2 weeks away, I decided to have a birthday party! So less that 3 weeks after the wedding and dinner and brunch with over 120 people, I had a pot-luck dinner & birthday party with 25 friends coming over to celebrate my birthday. It was wonderful.

And as the year has gone by, I have continued to notice the healing power of excitement. If a friend comes over to see me, I not only do not notice the pain in my body, it truly isn't there, and I don't need pain medication until after the friend leaves. Or if I spend time with family now, I am so excited about being able to walk that I can walk more than I have typically walked in the last 6 months.

And with the excitement I feel, no matter what the source, when it means that I feel better in my body because of the excitement, that makes me feel emotionally even better, adding to my excitement and joy. So there is a positive feedback loop that gives me enormous amounts of energy. I am grateful, I feel good, I can use my body, and I am heaing.

And amidst all of the excitement, no matter how good I feel I still need to lie down for 2-3 hours in the afternoon to rest my spine, and that is something that I have come to love. I read, I meditate, I make phone calls, and in the good weather I lie down outside in the shade and enjoy the beauty of my "Garden of Eden".

So I have come to not only accept my situation, I EMBRACE IT -- I derive great strength from knowing that I am actively engaged in my healing and curing, and I have deep faith and trust that I am well cared for by the Universe.


MFAB said...

Thank you for your perspective and for sharing, Judy. So many people think of extremely positive emotions/experiences such as excitement and awe as peripheral to every day living. They are seen as bonuses that are passively accepted when bestowed upon us, rather than as vital ends that can be achieved daily if actively pursued or produced. You have reminded me of this. Excitement doesn't have to be the happy exception in life. It is important to note though that regarding creating/producing excitement in one's life on a regular basis, one has to be very creative. This is because human beings habituate relatively quickly to continuous/repetitive stimuli that initially provoke a great deal of emotion (positive or negative). The key, just as in exercising, is to constantly switch it up and add new activities and interactions into the mix. In exercise, this is called "muscle confusion" and it stops the muscles from hitting a plateau due to repetition of and habituation to the same pattern of movement and resistance. In order to maintain consistent excitement in our lives then, we need to prevent our excitatory system from plateauing by using this principle. I guess you could call it "affective confusion"!
Judy, your combination of mindful acceptance of your limitations and abilities, and your proactive creation of joyful moments is truly inspiring. I'm glad you were able to dance at your daughter's wedding. Congratulations! Now go mix it up! :)

Joyous Judy said...

Dear Mfab,

Thank you for your comments! For me, the nature of Life now -- with the range of emotions that I experience throughout a given day -- is such that the experiences are naturally mixed up. And this natural flow of experience contributes enormously to the richness of my life at this point. The sad and sorrowful moments come upon me suddenly, are deeply felt, and then I find a hawk feather at the Sunwheel. Or I face the daily challenges of life in the 21st century, and then I see a beautiful sunset.

And there is significant aspect which contributes to my excitement at this point in my life, and that is the excitement and joy and gratitude that I feel at recovering the physical abilities that I lost when my spine collapsed. Last September for the first time in 4 months I was able to bend down and pick up a piece of paper. In October I was able to take a shower by myself. In December I was able to give up walking with the walker, in January I was able to go snowshoeing, and in February I was able to walk for 30 minutes in the morning. Because of my experience of severe physical limitation and pain, it is enormously exciting to me to recover physical abilities that I previously had. So I regularly mix the excitement with gratitude.

And because meditation and spiritual practice are such a big part of my day and my recovery, I also mix the excitement with stillness and attention.

I have always been open the the beauty of the Universe (I am a photographer also), and I pay attention to the sights around me, large and small. This actively engages me in the Universe, and makes it clear to me that Life really IS what we create. And I am very happy with what I have created.