I have an extraordinary life. I have two criteria for determining that:
- I wake every morning before my alarm, energized and looking forward to the day and the adventures it will bring. I love waking up in the morning.
- I go to bed at about the same time every night, relaxed, content and satisfied. I sleep like a baby.
Rinse and repeat.
That’s what goes into living an extraordinary life. Having a zest for living, for being alive, and for eagerly anticipating all that life and the Universe is bringing to me.
I didn’t always live life like that. All too often I was in victim mode, being buffeted around and wondering how to get off this wacky carousel we call life. It wasn’t fun.
Then I went through the survivor mode. I wasn’t feeling victimized, feeling like a permanent and professional victim any more. Instead, I felt like a survivor. I was proud of that. I was proud that I made it through the day and came out the other side alive, and ready to fight again.
What a way to live! Being in survivor mode sucks. Big time. You’re proud of what you’ve overcome and just hanging on to that, thinking that if you can keep on surviving that someday things will change and you won’t have to survive quite so much. That things will get easier.
Somewhere along the way I finally noticed that I wasn’t just surviving any more. I was starting to thrive. The trouble was that surviving became a habit. A deeply ingrained, etched-in-stone operating system in my head. I didn’t know how to break out of those grooves, even though they weren’t playing music I enjoyed any more. It had gotten boring, like a first music lesson where you had to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” over and over again until you got it right. Or blood began pouring from your ears, whichever came first.
Now I’ve gone beyond thriving and I’m into the exquisite freedom of living. Living for myself and on my own terms. Free from the past heartaches, from “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, to quote Shakespeare.
Every time I’ve made that giant step up the emotional ladder I have wondered how I did it. I spent so long in each place praying for more, for different, envisioning what my life would be like if only fill-in-the-blank changed for the better. The funny thing is that when the shift came, I never knew how I did it. It was frustrating because when I hit the next stopping point I’d try to repeat what was obviously a wining process only to come up empty. I had forgotten how I did it before.
When I was in the Army, I was injured while on a mission. My knee had gotten smashed up and had to be rebuilt. After the tissue had healed sufficiently, I started physical therapy to retrain the muscles to respond to my nerve’s commands. The physical therapists started by wheeling my roommate out of the room. I thought that odd. They explained that this was going to be a painful procedure and there was no need to traumatize someone else. Ominous thought.
They placed electrodes around my knees where the nerves attached to the muscles and the bones, then they started cranking up the juice. At first it was just plain weird to see my leg moving on its own without any conscious direction from my mind. Really weird.
Then they cranked up the juice a little more and the pain hit. I screamed and the reason why they took my roommate out became apparent. Over and over it went. Time after time. Electricity. Pain. Leg moved. I sweated and tried not to scream or cry like a baby. Then they’d have me try it on my own. I focused and concentrated and grunted and tried as hard as I could. The leg didn’t move. More electricity. More pain. More attempting on my own. Finally a ray of hope. I could move a little. A teeny, tiny, little movement but a consciously directed one. That’s what counted. My brain was starting to take over. My muscles were learning to listen.
I practiced that little movement all through dinner, all the while I was watching TV that evening. I was determined to master this so that I wouldn’t have to endure that pain again. Over and over I moved that leg, a tiny wiggle but a definite one, until I finally fell asleep out of exhaustion. I was so proud of myself. And relieved.
The next day the therapists came again with their machine of torture. “There’s no need for that”, I proudly exclaimed. “I practiced all night and I’m really good at this.”
“Show us”, they commanded.
And I did… nothing. My leg had already forgotten how to listen to my brain. A few hours of sleep and all that hard work was washed away. I felt defeated and humiliated for bragging like I had. They tried to reassure me that it was normal, explaining nerve fatigue and other technical mumbo jumbo I wasn’t hearing in my pity party head.
Eventually I did learn how to communicate to my leg and it has taken me on some marvelous hikes over the years.
I don’t know how I retrained my head then, and I don’t know how I retrained it through years of victimhood, survivorship, and thriving to make it to living an extraordinary life, but I’m committed to remembering the process so that I can help others do the same thing.
We all have within us the ability to live extraordinary lives. Really, we do. There are a few things we have to learn about taking control of our brains, and our lives, but we can get there. And it’s so much fun when you do. It’s the ultimate freedom, the ultimate high.
Hugs and high fives!