Archive for March, 2020

When You Can’t Do What You Want

Our two college students returned home for their spring breaks, a little over a week ago. A close family with students 500 miles apart, we had been looking forward to this time since their Christmas break.

Typically, we spend our limited time together visiting our favorite restaurants and meeting with friends and family. COVID-19 changed all of that. Now, we can’t do what we want.

As someone who has lived with physical limitations for most of my life, I have substantial experience not being able to do what I want. This what I’ve learned.

When you can’t do what you want, the first impulse is to complain. That’s understandable, but before long, you’ll figure out that complaining gets you nowhere and usually only leads to more misery. My parents had no tolerance for self-pity or complaining. They saw me suffer through tests and operations, and struggle to do things that my classmates could do. They knew what I was going through wasn’t easy or fair, but they never allowed me to feel sorry for myself. Instead of self-pity and complaining, they taught me that I could be happiest through self-reliance and resilience. If you can’t change it, learn to live with it.

Focus on what you CAN do. No matter who you are, there are things you cannot do. You might not be able to afford a dream house, travel as frequently or extravagantly as you want or star in a rock band, but that shouldn’t stop you from being happy. Hunting has taught me this lesson. Though my limited mobility keeps me from exciting stalks and limits my access to challenging terrain, I’ve found ways to enjoy my passion and even experience success from time to time, by focusing on what I can do.

The same thing is true with our current social limitations. Maybe we can’t go to our favorite restaurants or sporting events or have a huge party with our friends, but we can enjoy a game of cards with our family, take a nap by the fire or cook a gourmet dinner. We might have to be creative to exercise, socialize and work, but there are things we can do.

Appreciate small, simple things. Nothing brings blessings into focus like adversity. Several years ago, after going to the gym and showering, I threw my back out getting dressed. For three days, I couldn’t stand up straight or even tie my shoes and dress myself. I remember lying in bed wanting a shower, and wondering if I would ever be able to shower in the same way again. Eventually, my back healed, and I’ve been fortunate never to experience anything like that since, but I definitely gained an appreciation for showering that I didn’t have before.

The COVID-19 situation should have the same effect and leave us with extreme appreciation. Before things got turned upside down, I appreciated the ability to dine out and freely socialize, but that appreciation has since heightened to unprecedented levels. Plus, I’ve learned to appreciate less obvious blessings.

Last night, unable to visit a favorite wing and pizza restaurant, we ordered take-out from them, and though only one of us went in to retrieve the order, our entire family went on the drive. If things were normal, we would have met friends at the restaurant or, if we ordered take-out, only one of us would have driven there in silence, while the others continued their individual activities. Instead, all of us jumped on the opportunity to get out of the house, and we enjoyed a lively conversation to and from the restaurant.

No, we can’t do what we want, but that shouldn’t keep us from doing what we can, while learning and appreciating what’s truly important.

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