Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Personal Story about being Wrong

There's more to what I was trying to say yesterday. As I read it over today, I realized that I wasn't very elegant in what I was trying to get across. Perhaps I should forgo elegance and just tell you a story. Actually, it's a very personal story. After the story, we'll revisit the whole bit I was trying to convey yesterday about  being wrong.

Nearly four years ago, I became suddenly very ill. Just out of nowhere it hit me. It seemed like maybe it was just the ghost of vertigo come to haunt me again, as it does every now and then. And then it seemed like I had just picked up a bad virus. A trip to the emergency room landed me IV fluids and the pronouncement of a viral infection. No big deal. But then, I wasn't getting better. In fact, I was getting markedly worse by the day. In the end, they plunked me in the hospital for five days while they poked about trying to figure out what ailed me. Eventually, they named the devil and it seemed I would recover, but it would take a great deal of time. I was told  to expect about a year of trouble as my body gradually got stronger and recovered. I was not a happy camper.

So, I went home to recover. First staying with some friends who cared for me and then returning home on my own. I was in a horrible state. Getting up to get a drink of water would literally take me an hour from the time I decided to do so as I had to muster all of my strength just to walk to the kitchen and back. Friends who came to visit would sometimes find me just gazing off into space and my brain was incredibly foggy.

Sitting at home, day after day took its toll. I became angry. Very, very angry. Now understand, people who know me say that generally, I'm pretty tolerant. I'm slow to anger and prior to being ill, had not actually been angry for a very long time. But I felt it boiling up inside of me. I was angry and becoming depressed. Something had to be done.

It seemed therapy was in order. After finding a therapist very close to my home, I began weekly visits with her. Together, we talked about my illness and about the undeniable anger beginning to rage inside of me. Honestly, I didn't know what I was angry about, just that I was. Looking back, I've come to realize that the anger was about my helplessness. It was about being ill, being in the hospital, and feeling like a non-entity. Being ill and in the hospital seems to take on a life of its own. A momentum builds as medical professionals try to sort out the puzzle and very often, patients don't feel in control. Well, I didn't feel in control, anyway.

The therapist I was seeing said something very simple, but very profound, about feelings and thoughts: A feeling is borne of a thought, and you can change your thoughts. Who knew? I mean, d'oh! Really? As I began to play with that idea and work to consciously mold my thoughts, I found she was largely right! Slowly, she began to introduce me to other concepts like positive thinking and the power of intention and using affirmations for strength and growth.

I was skeptical. It all sounded a lot like a bunch of new age quackery to me. And on top of it, I was/am a Christian! I had, and to this day still have, a strong belief in God. I was supposed to keep far away from all that seemed new age. But with all that time on my hands, home recovering, I had time to think. And I did.

Slowly, I began to dissect my beliefs and those of this new way of thinking. I refused to dismiss something just because I'd been taught to do so. The therapist talked about quantum physics, and Masaru Emoto's experiment with water. She introduced me to Louise Hay and affirmations.  The more I read and learned, the more it dawned on me. Learning about the laws of the universe and the way we are designed and work doesn't necessarily exclude God. In fact, if there is a belief in God, it's yet another reason to be grateful to Him for designing such a magnificent universe.

Here's the thing though. I've said it before and will repeat it here. I'm not in any way pushing upon you my belief in God. I have a belief in and a relationship with God. Whether that is your belief system is of no consequence to me in this context. But I'm making a point here. The point is that I could have simply chosen to dismiss some of the best information of my life because someone taught me once in Sunday School to stay away from "new age."

Who decides what "new age" is anyway? Heck if I know. I actually loathe labels.  What I do know is this: I was willing to be wrong. I was not so incredibly and ignorantly tied to something that I had to cling to it in spite of what my brain was telling me. That's my point.

With the willingness to be wrong, though, comes the responsibility to be discerning and wise. In the end, I determined that I simply could not subscribe to some of the beliefs the therapist offered. But that's okay. In fact, that's the way life works. It's like a smorgasbord of information, beliefs, and experiences. We get to pick and choose what we wish from the table, largely by how it sits with us.

See where I'm going with this? Just because we've not been exposed to something before, or we don't understand how it works doesn't mean it's not valid. Be willing to be wrong. Be strong enough to say, "I once thought this was right, but turns out, I was wrong. Now, I believe *this* is right." To be willing to let go of the ego and willing to let go of old beliefs that no longer work is to be willing to grow. To cling to old beliefs in spite of new information is to stagnate. What's your choice?

Turns out, I'm okay. I recovered and got back to something that resembles my prior normal self. And actually? As miserable as it was, I'm grateful for that whole experience. I was humbled and learned so much that I don't think was accessible to me before my illness. Funny how things work out.

So there you have it. Not particularly elegant or well-written, but hopefully it passes along to you something of value; the recognition that being wrong is often an amazing gift.

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