My staff, patients, and I suffered a great loss last week.
Our dear friend Ed Dugan died last week after suffering a stroke.
Ed was a friend to all who came to the Wellness Center and will be remembered by the Wellness Center family as a man who always was genuinely happy to see you and had a smile that twinkled in his eyes.
I will miss Ed and always will feel grateful for the pleasure of having known him.
The week before he died, Ed reminded me of why overall Wellness is so important.
He told me that for him, coming to the Wellness Center was, "as good for me mentally as it is physically."
This has been playing in my mind ever since.
Our psychological outlook shapes the way we see the world and affects our ability to be well.
Each of us will encounter obstacles that come in the form of physical, emotional/psychological, and spiritual events.
I have come to see that these events are opportunities to examine our lives.
Loss, whether it is physical, mental or spiritual, stands out in contrast to the normalcy of our days.
And it is through the examination of our difficult times that we gain perspective and shape how we view the rest of our lives.
It is in the tough times that we need our many life experiences to help guide us through the transitions we encounter.
With the passing of my friend, I am immediately reminded of the loved ones who have gone before me.
I am struck by how deeply I was affected by these individuals.
In some cases, our meetings were decades ago and in other cases I knew them only briefly.
We never forget those who mattered most to us.
And it is my understanding that we don't need to even try.
Sometimes the sadness lingers for years, and rightfully so - the person we miss is someone who helped shape the very person we are.
Life is filled with events that stop us in our tracks.
I believe that these moments are not meant to be forgotten, but to be remembered and to be cherished.
Death has a way of shaking us so we stop and take notice.
This is the examination that allows us to gain perspective, to find the gift that the event has to offer.
I understand we have some memories that are so difficult that it is hard to find the gift in them. Sometimes the tragedy is so great that we simply can't find it.
I understand this and in no way am I trying to discount the pain people feel.
My intention is to open up the possibility that there is a gift to come even from the worst possible tragedies.
I have lost several people very close to me, from my grandmother when I was 10 years old, to my close friend when I was in college and family, patients and friends in the last year.
As each death comes, I find myself appreciating life that much more.
Each time I stop and shake off my thoughts of fear, doubt and anger.
It is not about where I think I should be or want to be; it is about where I am now.
There was a time in the recent past that my view on life was distorted.
I, like many of my patients, saw the world through doubt-filled eyes.
When I was confronted with any event, I immediately looked for its problems.
This was my story that I told about myself: I would claim that I tried to find problems because I wanted to find "solutions."
Looking back on my life, I realize that the truth was I found problems because that is what I was looking for period.
The more I noticed problems in my life, the easier it became to find more.
In reality, the so-called "solutions" were typically "mistakes" that I mislabeled as solutions.
I have mentioned before how we tend to make poor decisions when we are under stress and then have two problems to fix instead of just the original problem.
It wasn't that I literally created my reality.
It was more that as my life unfolded, I saw the world through "problem-oriented" eyes.
My view of the world was tainted. I had been so focused on identifying all the problems I faced that I literally missed the fact that my life was mostly beautiful.
My attention was so focused on problems that I had a hard time enjoying life.
I found myself frustrated, sad, angry and, at times, hopeless.
This is a hard pill to swallow. I wasn't intentionally looking for problems per se, it was more that I had developed a pattern, a story I called my life.
It was familiar or comfortable so I kept looking through eyes that saw problems everywhere I looked.
A story that changed my life happened when I was taking a class on business.
The teacher turned around with these silly giant clown sunglasses and said, "Every time I look through these glasses I see despair, regret and problems!"
Then he turned around and put on these really cool looking sunglasses and said, "Ah, but when I have these glasses on I see opportunity, abundance and hope."
His point was obvious the more ridiculous our perspective, the more we see exactly what we are accustomed to seeing. When we stop step out of our story and examine how we view the world we can change the course of our life forever.
These difficult events in our life are the exact thing we need to gain perspective. When we find ourselves experiencing the same difficult life situations again and again, it is only to help us gain perspective. It is not a curse; it is a gift.
Every event that comes our way becomes an opportunity. Now when the phone rings, we expect the best.
The neutral situation we once called a problem becomes the greatest gift of our life.
We thank God for how fortunate we are and how blessed we are.
The more we wear these cool glasses, the more we understand that in the past, our perceptions were distorted.
When we wore the clown glasses, we were actually not looking at the truth, and because of that, we got stuck.
The difficult events of our life, whether physical, emotional/psychological or spiritual become the very foundation we build our lives around.
This is why words matter. Listen to yourself talk and hear what you really think.
If you find fault in yourself or others, maybe it is because you're calling a situation a problem, instead of an opportunity.
Maybe you have on clown glasses and need to step back and examine your view of the world.
Some common examples are:
"I can't lose weight," or "it's so hard to lose weight."
"I hurt all over," even though the tip of your nose feels fine.
"I'm too busy to exercise/eat right/go to bed early/call a friend/say my prayers."
Maybe you notice what everyone else is doing wrong and how lazy they are, or how inconsiderate they are, or rude they are.
Your story defines who you really are.
What you see in others is a mirror reflecting back to you the way you see the world. The sunglasses you wear distort your view of the world.
The events from my past that really stick out are the ones that taught me the most.
Losing loved ones has helped me learn that sadness is important and most definitely needs to be felt all the way for as long as it lasts.
Physical ailments or injury also taught me the value of health.
My spiritual struggles brought me to know a peace far greater than I ever dreamed possible.
I continue to learn as I go and I continue to seek guidance in every event that stands out in my life.
I set my problematic glasses down a few years ago.
Every now and then I accidentally put them back on, but now they just don't seem to fit.
Now I am learning to put down all my sunglasses and see the world for the reality that it is, a miracle.
When Ed looked at you it was obvious he had put down any glasses, because as those of us who knew him remember, his eyes smiled when he looked at you what a gift.
The opportunity is available for you to set down your sunglasses and let your smile come through.
Matthew Goodemote, a Gloversville native, owns Community Physical Therapy & Wellness. His Health & Wellness column will answer your questions and discuss topics that are relevant to your everyday way of life. If you would like to ask a question, e-mail Matthew at firstname.lastname@example.org.