Recently I asked two of my good friends to read the first draft of my memoir. I knew they each would read with a critical eye and be able to provide honest feedback. I was looking for general impressions, areas where they thought I could improve or change the story. But they each treated the project with a level of care and seriousness that I could never have imagined. They provided thoughts and suggestions that were immensely helpful!
Now I am to the task of editing, adding and changing the book. It means re-living moments and days that were painful, scary and difficult. I realized in this re-living and re-writing there was a pivotal time in which I made a decision that completely altered my experience of living with a chronic condition.
There was a period about three years ago in which I re-framed my focus from why to how.
For a long time after having a heart attack and then being diagnosed with a rare and relatively non-researched vascular disease (FMD), I wondered why very often. And other people asked me why. Why did it happen? What could be the reason?
I think other people wanted to know why because they cared, number one, but also because if there was a why for me that wasn’t the same for them, they likely would not end up in the same boat. If there’s a why, there is a way out, a solution or a way to avoid the situation.
Realizing that no one could tell me why was like hitting a brick wall. With the reason unknown, there was nothing for me to do. I could have no impact to change it. But rather than fall stuck on this question, stuck searching for reasons, I chose to start asking how.
How do I accommodate a new lifestyle? How will I remember to take medications twice per day? How will it work to work full-time? How do I best cope with the anxiety and fear?
In order to feel like I had some control and some say over my life I needed to change the question.
I believe we each have a choice in these questions. We don’t all have the same circumstances, certainly. Medical, financial, relational, spiritual — there are many issues to go around. But I venture to guess that in each case we have much more power and influence over an issue if we decide to ask how to deal with it rather than why it happened.
I hope you are not in a season where things are going wrong and you are asking why. But if you are, I encourage you to consider the other question. How can you move forward?
Make it a good week!