When I was 16 years old, I had to go in for double hip surgery. I had an abnormal bone growth/spur on both hips that was tearing the tissue within the hip joint when I rotated my hip. It was developmental, which basically meant it wasn’t my fault, I was just born with it. It was just the hand I was dealt. At the time I was 100% focused on becoming a professional soccer player and I was sidelined from the activity for a year. It was the hardest year of my life at that point.
I’d had everything I cared about taken away from me. Or at least that is how it seemed to me at the time. It’s funny how quickly our perspective can change when our situation significantly changes. All of a sudden I was so grateful just to be able to walk again without pain a month or so after surgery. Something I had taken for granted, almost as my given right in the time before the injury. The part that I find the most interesting is that even when I know I take certain abilities or situations for granted I struggle to stop taking them for granted. I’m sure I’m not alone with this dilemma or lack of gratitude. Even though I am fully aware that being able to walk isn’t a given, I still don’t wake up every day and look down at my legs with gratitude.
You can’t spend all of your time and energy being gracious about what you have in case it gets taken away. But there’s a sweet spot somewhere in the middle of living in the moment and the awareness for how lucky we are to be living in that moment. If you find it let me know. It’s a spectrum that I think too many of us might float down towards the end of just living in the moment and forgetting our gratitude all too often.
When I missed a year of playing soccer back in 2016 as a 16-year-old, I became hyper-aware of gratitude. I think going through a traumatic, prolonged emotional event like that matures you in the sense of your gratitude-awareness levels. You find yourself wishing you could turn back the clock to a time when, as you were living in that exact moment you didn’t stop to think about it. You only know now how incredible your situation was then. It’s a harsh lesson to learn but hindsight isn’t always a bitch. What is a bitch is when you learn in the harshest ways what gratitude is and then forget to apply those lessons in the future.
I’m spending time this week thinking back to when I was 16 because I find myself back in Australia for more or less the same surgical procedure on both of my hips again. It’s with the same surgeon, in the same hospital, with the same scars almost a decade later. Again I find myself wishing I wasn’t immobilized but now as a 27-year-old, I am much more capable of dealing with the constant change of perspective these obstacles are forcing me to see the world through.
Fortunately, I’ve never had to lose a close family member or go through a life or death situation. I can only assume that would amplify this situation of gratitude-awareness inexplicably. However, I think for most humans, it doesn’t need to reach an extreme level of pain, loss, and suffering to help us see that what we had was what we wanted. What we had was enough. And to use that realization when we introspectively assess how we are living and experiencing our world.
It’s never something I would wish upon someone, to have to go through dealing with losing something or someone they love. Yet, what you see over and over again is that a traumatic event where a loved one is lost or a lifestyle is dramatically changed is often the catalyst for a change in mindset. You can see a shift along the spectrum, where people genuinely become more aware of their own life and they begin to make an assessment on themselves. It’s similar to a mid-life crisis but it’s a gratitude-induced crisis and can happen to you at any age. It shouldn’t be called a crisis by the way. To continue living a life you aren’t happy with without being bold enough to make a change is a crisis.
What ends up happening is that you start to live with a little more gratitude for the time you have left with what you have now. That’s a really powerful way to live. You know what you have now and you might make a gratitude list of the things that are most important to you. Knowing that they aren’t permanent, you begin to really focus your energy on those. It can be at a core level that you spend more quality time with friends and family. You might dive into a passion that you’ve been putting off for years. You might trave more because you can’t be sure how long you will be able to see. You might simply enjoy walking down the street without pain because you know that it isn’t a right and won’t be forever. Don’t wait for your traumatic event to look yourself in the mirror and ask the hard questions. Ask them now and don’t be afraid to answer yourself even if you don’t like what you hear. Be bold.
To know what you have, to be grateful that you still have it and to live every single day knowing that you may never see it ever again. It’s to live.