This article is the third of a series of articles entitled “A Shift in Perspective.”
This series of articles began in November with an article titled, “Chronic Medical Conditions and a Shift in Perspective (Part 1).” At that time, I was trying to process and deal with the results of having spent a week in intensive care less than two months prior. My initial thought was that writing about the series of events that occurred in my own life would be a good way to help others deal with similar life issues. The reality is that writing this article better helped me cope with the challenges I faced with the very struggles I was facing at the time.
Without going into great detail, I realized that writing that article took time. It was challenging for me to write. There was an incredible amount of change taking place and the time and energy it took to write that article was considerable – though it didn’t really seem like it at the time. At that time, I was on a medical leave of absence from work.
After much thought and reflection, I decided to take a medical “leave of absence” as a columnist for Brink of Freedom as well. This was a difficult decision to make, as I made a commitment to Josiah Wallingford and all those involved with The Brink of Freedom – especially the readers. I didn’t want to come across as a flake or someone who didn’t hold true to their word.
Josiah assured me that all was well and that my personal health and well-being was of the utmost importance and that I should take as much time as necessary to make the necessary recovery. I am glad I took the time to do so. Taking those three months to regroup and get my life back on track was likely one of the smartest decisions I could have made. It helped to “put things into perspective.”
In March of 2014, I returned to writing with an article titled “*Life* and a Shift in Perspective (Part 2).” Part 1 of the series dealt specifically with chronic medical conditions and how they impact life. Part 2 of the series focused on adversity in general and how we can overcome that adversity in our lives. Whether it is a chronic medical condition, physical ailments, unhealthy relationships, financial burdens – the bottom line is that we all experience some sort of adversity in life that we wish to overcome…thus the change of the name of the series to “*Life* and a Shift in Perspective (Part 2).”
In this article, we discussed “living deliberately,” making our mess our message, and striving towards a healthy and balanced lifestyle, in order to help us gain control in our own life. We read that when we gain control, we become better able to experience the freedom that so many of us long for. Personally, I came to realize that, more often than not, a simple shift in perspective is all we need to get us on the road to freedom. Thus…the final article of a three part series will be titled: “A Shift in Perspective.”
In Part 1 of the series, we read about the Kübler-Ross model. We learned that, the Kübler-Ross model is a written description of a series of emotional stages that is associated with death and dying. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ book, “On Death and Dying” covers what she calls the “five stages of grief.”
I’d like to add to this with a sixth and final step: ACTION.
It is important to recognize and understand that these 5 stages of grief do not happen chronologically. Like life, we experience these different emotional stages in cycles. Like perennial plants, there is a cycle where the emotions grow and “blossom” – so to speak. As the seasons continue, our emotional cycle bears fruit. Sometimes this fruit is beautiful and delicious, other times…it is not. While it is important to experience the emotions we have, we cannot allow our decisions to be based on emotion.
When we acknowledge each stage that Elizabeth Kübler-Ross talks about and learn more about this model, we also begin to realize that this model does not simply apply to death and dying, but it often times applies to all stressful situations to one degree or another. Let’s refer to this stress “adversity.”
When encounter adversity, it often seems to happen at the most inopportune times. When we are running late, we often times lose our keys or lock them inside the car. Sometimes we let one of our bills lapse and we get dinged with a finance charge. Sometimes we leave something in the oven too long and they burn. All too frequently, we seem to be less prepared to deal with adversity than we wish we were.
This is a harsh reality to accept. However, like the Kübler-Ross model, acceptance is the fifth step of the grieving process that we often go through when dealing with adversity on many different levels. The first step in moving forward after the grieving process is action. But…how exactly do we do this?
A friend of mine, Linda Andres, wrote this about taking action: “Action is something that is taken all the way through the process [of grieving], even if that action is authentically accepting your tears or openly asking your questions, or finding a way to diffuse your anger in positive ways. But it has to be more than a word to the person grieving. The word needs to also be around the edges. It just might mean someone else will step up to the plate and help with some of the smaller tasks during the grieving or healing process. I think we short change the process when we key so much into motivating the action of the person in grief that we forget about motivating the action of those who surround that person.”
For me…learning how to take action after all of this was a seemingly slow and laborious process. Prior to ending up in intensive care, approximately six months ago today, I had a very detailed plan in place with regard to my life, the direction I was headed and the time frame required for me to reach my short term goals. Generally speaking, my life seemed to be “dialed-in” right before my visit to the hospital and a week in ICU. Luckily, I have supportive family and friends that have helped me along the way. Luckily, these friends and family helped me with “stepping up to the plate” the way Linda spoke about.
Over the past six months, I have dealt with a fair share of adversity. I’m willing to bet that you’ve dealt with your fair share of adversity, as well. If not within the last six months, then at some point in your life you have likely dealt with your share of adversity. If you’ve been lucky enough to live life without a substantial amount of adversity, that is awesome! However, not to sound like a negative Nancy or a Debbie downer, but Murphy’s Law dictates that the adversity is coming…it is important to prepare accordingly to best deal with it.
Slowly, but surely, we must continue putting one foot in front of the other. We think about and repeat to ourselves all the silly clichés and quotes we have heard and read throughout the years. For me, the most recent motivational and inspirational quote was spoken by Diego Footer during his introduction speech at the first annual Permaculture Voices Conference in March. He said:
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase; you just have to take the first step.”
— Diego Footer
We’ve experienced the five stages of grief. We’ve learned that, regardless of how we plan and how we prepare…life is meant to be lived on life’s terms. We’ve learned that, regardless of the situation behind the adversity, we all deal with it and we can all learn from each other and how we choose to deal with it. We’ve learned that a shift in perspective is essential to effectively dealing with this adversity. This shift in perspective allows us to better observe the ebb and flow of how our plans change…because no matter how well we plan, there are only *two* absolutes in life: death and taxes. Change occurs in life.
Sometimes the change can be overwhelming. When this happens, it is important to remember Diego’s words…and take the first step. Sometimes this step is reaching out and asking for help. This could be to a close friend, family member, pastor or counselor. If you haven’t asked for help and you find someone offering it to you…accept their help. Often times this is the best action we can take when faced with adversity. More will be revealed once we begin to take action.
We will see that once we become receptive and welcoming to the change, we will begin to see the seeds of opportunity that lie within. These seeds of opportunity within the change end up growing into what nourishes our minds, ultimately allowing us to overcome the fear associated with making the change. This desire to make the change – or more specifically, the action required to initiate the change – becomes the driving force behind how we choose to live our lives. We become the change we wish to see in the world.