Thursday, February 13, 2014

Keeping Things in Perspective

A few days after Victor had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, I was waiting with him in the pathology department at PMH, feeling pretty sorry for myself. I was trying to come to terms with his diagnosis and still had no idea what it all meant for us and what his life would be like. I felt that everything was so unfair, that he had been dealt a bad hand in life.

Well, as is often the case at PMH, if you sit around for long enough you'll see all sorts of things that open your eyes and lift you out of your own little world.

Across the waiting room was a small family. Presumably a mother and grandmother with a school-aged boy. The boy was in a wheelchair. The grandmother offered to take him for a walk to pass the time, and assisted him out of his chair. Holding onto her tightly, he managed to walk outside the door before returning.

This boy was not able to walk or speak. His life would never be 'normal'; his life experiences would be a world away from mine, completely different to most people's. But looking at his mother and grandmother, hearing them interact with him and each other, and seeing the family, if only for that brief snippet of time, made me see that this was ok. His mother was not falling apart with grief. The grandmother didn't seem worried out of her mind. They just seemed...normal. This is their life, and they had taken it in their stride.

Now, I don't know that family; nor do I know the boy's diagnosis or anything like that. But my observation of them that day proved to me that there will always be people better or worse off than you are, and no matter what your circumstances, you can make the choice to accept it and find happiness and meaning in that life.

It would be easy for me to immediately jump to the conclusion that the other family had it worse than me. After all, Victor can walk and talk. He's developmentally typical, and people who don't know him would never guess he has a serious medical condition. He can have all the life experiences that you expect young people to have. He can go to school, work, get married, got to university, travel, do whatever he wants.

But at the same time, he does have to work very hard to stay healthy every day. And even with perfect compliance, even with the medical advances we have today, we know that CF is a progressive disease that shortens lives. So depending on what's happening in your own life, it's to be expected that there will be many different perspectives of these situations. It just depends how you look at it.

I also think that due to perspective and the fact that this is a multi-faceted issue, it's not possible to definitively put everyone on the planet on a scale and compare them to each other. You can't say this person has it worse than that person, and this person has it worse than all of you. We all see things differently, and we see the same thing differently at different times. We change and grow and things around us bend and shift. The only constant in life is change.

Above all, something I like to keep in mind is a quote from 'Desiderata' by Max Ehrmann, "...always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself." This little line has helped me realise that I don't own the world's problems, and helped me put my life and whatever challenges I'm currently preoccupied with into perspective.

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