A sun sets in the rearview mirror of a car

A Little Perspective Goes a Long Way

I’m probably not the only person who ever spaced out while driving. It happens when I’m intensely listening to the radio, or a podcast, or occasionally, though I don’t do it too much for this very reason, a book. Your mind is so far away that you don’t even notice where you’re going, and chances are you might have taken a wrong turn that you have to correct.

After my first stem cell transplant, when I got in the car to go visit a friend in Vermont, I was so happy to be driving that I went past an important turn. I was almost in Canada when I realized it! I stopped at a little farm stand where the incredulous farmer told me how to cut across instead of going back around. A drive that should have been a little over three hours was probably closer to four.

Remembering how far I've come

It’s not too bad when it happens in a car. But recently it happened on a bicycle. No, I was not listening to anything, but I was daydreaming. Back home, I had been working on a story. In my mind, on the bike, I was playing with the beginning, or in the news business what we call the lede. Suddenly I realized I was nowhere near where I wanted to be.

I had already gone seven or eight hilly miles. The way back was up and down more hills. I was wobbling, going up a super big hill, when I went past an old boyfriend’s house. I thought, “Don’t let me fall off here.”

Back home, I still had to walk my dog. Just a short walk to the corner was so hard, I could not believe it. My legs hurt. I had no energy. And it occurred to me that this was how I felt for quite a while after each of my four transplants. And it also occurred to me that in light of how far I had come, maybe I was too hard on myself for things like having a bad tennis day.

Nice to forget, beneficial to remember

It’s good to forget how bad it felt to be sick. It’s probably nature’s way of promoting healing. If every woman thought about her difficult labor all the time, there would only be one child in the family.

But it’s also beneficial to remember. Because then we can give ourselves a little more credit for the things we do. Anything is an accomplishment compared to a time when I could barely sit on the edge of the bed and had to struggle to walk to the corner.

If you are years away from a transplant, as I am, it’s not really natural to say, “Yay, I walked to the store to get milk (or the newspaper, or whatever) and I’m so proud of myself.”

But when I make a bad shot, or when you, the reader, maybe don’t complete an exercise goal, a little perspective would go a long way towards ironing out the mental wrinkles. If we remember the distance we’ve traveled – even when it’s not objectively very far, our accomplishments can be a little sweeter.

This applies to anything that is easier now: folding laundry, concentrating on reading, making dinner, or even keeping a meal down when you couldn’t do it before.

Next time, though, maybe I won’t have to take a crazy bike ride to get that perspective.

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