So, my voice is sounding a little bit funky right now and I'm pretty sure it's because I've had to repeat myself so many times today with my kids. But my voice is basically ready to hibernate right now, it's late in the evening, everyone else is asleep, the house is quiet, which is a fantastic opportunity to record, however, my voice and body are like, 'Uh, we're done now right?', and I'm like, 'No we're recording a podcast now.'. So that's why I sound like I've taken up smoking but I actually have not. I just have two kids.
Now that you're up to speed I want to take you back a couple of years and share a story from my past quick. 2016 was a completely crazy life-changing year for me. I want to set the scene for you. In January of that year, so at the beginning of the year, I had back surgery and that back surgery completely 180-ed my life, because I had been struggling for a long time with chronic pain, and I was like a new person after I had that surgery.
Then in December of that year, so the beginning of the year is back surgery, end of the year I gave birth to my older son Zane. So a lot of big moments happened in 2016 for me and my family. I ended up having back surgery, well let me say this, it was a long process. There were a lot of experiences and smaller decisions that led up to surgery. But the reason was that I had a relatively severe disc herniation in my lumbar spine, my low back.
In 2014 when I was first starting to experience symptoms and I didn't know what was going on. The symptoms were actually occurring in my hip. I had pain in my hip that would show up every night as I was trying to fall asleep, whenever I would lay down I would feel this discomfort. And it was starting to get more pronounced as time went on, so my husband was like, 'You need to get this checked out we need to figure out what's going on.'.
So I went to an orthopedic specialist and based on my description of my symptoms being in my hip I was actually misdiagnosed at first with something called hip bursitis. Something that you need to know before we progress further in this story is that a lot of times when people have herniated discs in their spine, it can cause inflammation in that region and that inflammation impacts all the nerves that run through that area. And as a result of that inflammation impacting those nerves, it can lead to what we call referred pain, pain elsewhere in the body.
So, if someone has a herniated disc they may not experience any pain in that local region within the back itself, but they may have a lot of pain in other places of their body where you wouldn't necessarily expect. And it leads us to this principle that I want to highlight before we move on is this idea that the location of our pain is not always the source of our pain, in fact very rarely is the location of pain the source of the pain.
This is certainly true when it comes to herniated discs. It's actually true in a lot of cases when we're looking at the human body and trying to understand the cause of pain, or this even applies to muscular tightness. Sometimes it really pays off to zoom out and look at the bigger picture because there's often more involved than just that specific location that is hurting or feeling tight. So that was certainly true for me. However, when I first went to that orthopedic specialist I had pain in my hip, I was diagnosed with a hip problem and I was sent to physical therapy to help with my hip. Which by the way I didn't have a hip problem I had a low back problem, but we didn't know that at the time.
So over the course of my time with these physical therapists, their treatment plan was based on a misdiagnosis. And it actually worsened my symptoms. By the time I stopped working with the physical therapist, I could barely walk. I was in so much pain. Things were very clearly getting worse rather than improving. Later on, an MRI revealed the disc herniation, and from there we were able to develop treatment plans that were actually suited for what my body was needing, which is of course better.
But I want to go back to this idea that the location of pain is rarely the source of the pain, which is the point of the story. And I think this is a really powerful metaphor beyond just what our physical bodies experience, but what we experience in life. You know we assume that because we're experiencing resistance or frustration or any kind of discomfort in a specific area of our lives, that it's that area that needs to be quote-unquote 'fixed'.
Right. So just for a couple of quick examples like maybe we say, 'Well my body's appearance is a source of frustration for me so my body needs to be improved. I need to eat better, I need to exercise more. My body needs improvement since it's causing this discomfort or frustration.', or 'Hey, my marriage is a source of frustration for me, so my husband needs to improve.' How about this one, 'My job is a source of frustration for me, so I need to find a better job.'.
But much like my hip and my back I want to suggest to you that these are misplaced treatment plans, because maybe actually very likely that resistance or frustration discomfort or discontentment, whatever word it is, whatever it is that you're experiencing, it has less to do with our environment, or the directly related physical variables that our mind automatically goes to you know the obvious places that our mind immediately jumps to like, 'Oh you're experiencing pain in your hip, it's your hip.'. Like, 'Oh, you're annoyed by your body's appearance, it's your body. You're bothered by your marriage, it's your marriage. You're bothered by your job, it's your job.
Often, it's not so much those really obvious things and it has much more to do with other less obvious factors. Like our perspective, or our beliefs about what our life is supposed to look like and the perceived gap that exists between what it's supposed to be and what it is.
And then, of course, there's the topic of this episode which is our gratitude, that can be a factor too. Now, I don't want to make light of your circumstances and your experiences at all by saying, 'Just be more grateful.'. I don't think that's helpful.
Have you ever seen the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Please say you have, it's pretty much a classic. But, regardless of whether you've seen it or not, the dad in that movie has a solution for every problem under the sun. If you have seen the movie you know what it is and if not I'll let you in on it. It's, 'Spray some Windex on it.'. 'Oh, your elbow is not feeling quite right? Spray some Windex on it. Oh, the car door is not working right? Spray some Windex on it. Solution for everything. Sometimes I feel like that's the way we approach gratitude. Like, 'Oh, you're feeling a little down, a little overwhelmed, a little frustrated? Hey, just spray some gratitude on it, you'll be good to go.'.
So what I'd like to do instead is offer a potentially new perspective on gratitude if that's cool with you. All right, so if you have ever taken a physics class you know that in very simplified terms the colors that you and I see are the results of light. But specifically, light of varying wavelengths. The visible colors that you and I are able to see, assuming that we don't have an impairment that prevents us from doing so, those physical colors that we can see comprise a portion of something that's called the electromagnetic spectrum.
Now get this, the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that you and I, as humans, are able to see is less than a fraction of the whole thing. So in fact, scientists estimate that we can only see about .0035 percent of the electromagnetic spectrum. I mean, that is tiny just this little tiny, itsy bitsy, sliver of the full spectrum that exists.
And yet, it's with that tiny fraction that we experience our world. That we see color that comprises our reality. So here's how I think of gratitude. Gratitude is like the mechanism that allows us to see more of that electromagnetic spectrum. It's like as we hone our gratitude practice we progressively start to see a greater and greater percentage of that electromagnetic spectrum and suddenly we're seeing beyond what would normally meet the eye, to see the world around us in an entirely new way with incredible mind-blowing color, beyond what we can currently imagine, and beyond what our naked eye can see and perceive
It's like figuratively gratitude is making it possible for us to see colors we've never seen before. And with gratitude, then we can access an entirely new perspective of the same experience because we're tapping into a larger fraction of that figurative electromagnetic spectrum. And again, as we hone our practice of gratitude, we expand the visible portion of that electromagnetic spectrum further and further. And we start to see more and more and more colors everywhere.
You know what, I think that part of gratitude is having the wisdom to know that the circumstance that we're encountering right now, that we're walking through, there's more to it than what meets the eye. It's the wisdom of knowing there's more to this than what I see right now. And recognizing, I'm only seeing a fraction of a percent of what actually is, a tiny glimpse, when there are vibrant mind-blowing astonishing colors that for sure exist, but I can't see them yet. Like my eye does not yet have the mechanism or capacities see to see them, and gratitude is us expanding our capacity training our eye to look for and see the invisible colors.
Have you ever had a situation with your spouse where you're sitting there thinking yourself, 'I do you not have loving feelings for this man right now.', but of course you still love him. Have you ever had that, where it's like maybe you're having a little tift, a disagreement, it's been a very stressful day and communication is hard? It's like there's not a lot of loving feelings. It's not very romantic. 'Oh my goodness, he's amazing and she's amazing and we're just like so caught up in the lovey-doveyness.' like there's not that happening, but you still love each other right?
So there are times when we are gonna feel the emotions of gratitude. And then there's gonna be times when we don't. And I'm going to suggest that's not wrong. I'm gonna suggest that that's human. And the point that I really want to raise here is that you don't have to feel it, choose it, in the same way that you don't have to feel love in order to choose love. You don't have to feel the emotions of gratitude in order to choose to be grateful, wherever you are.
And, I don't think that gratitude is about pretending to be happy with your circumstances. If you're struggling, it's okay to acknowledge the struggle. It doesn't make you ungrateful. It makes you real, like, 'Hey, this is really hard.'. But you know, there is a big difference between acknowledging the struggle and wallowing in our struggle. I think that gratitude is really one of the primary distinctions between those two tendencies or those two behaviors, acknowledging versus wallowing.
So it's here now, that I want to propose to you that practicing gratitude is a form of self-care, and it's not just any form of self-care. It's actually one of the most effective, most life-changing forms of self-care that we can practice. Now, gratitude doesn't often get categorized as self-care does it? But don't you think it's kind of a powerful reframe. I mean the reality is that gratitude has the unique profound ability to elevate and transform our perspective, our lives, even our physical bodies respond to gratitude studies have shown.
You know, right now in our society, in our culture, it's really common to hear things like you know something doesn't quote-unquote serve you, which is, of course, a very subjective designation, but if something doesn't serve you it's not good for you. It probably doesn't belong in your life you need to get it out of there. You need to unfollow, unsubscribe, get it out, and that that is a form of self-care. And I just wonder what it looks like when we start to think about, instead of saying that it doesn't serve us, and trying to get out of the situation, to be in that situation, and in that place, practice gratitude. And for that to be our self-care practice, rather than trying to press the eject button.
Because there are things that have happened in my life. I'm sure that there are things that you can think of in your own life as well where it's like, 'I never would have chosen that path. I never would have chosen that for myself. I would have been crazy to have chosen that, but my life looks so different because of that experience. It radically, profoundly, changed me for the better. I would have missed out on that trajectory altering growth inciting opportunity if I was given the choice, and if I had clicked unsubscribe.'. You know what I mean?
So let me take you back to the story that I started with, which is that herniation in my little back that led to surgery. For over a year I suffered and it was a physical suffering, I literally dreaded nighttime every single night because I could not sleep. It was at night time when I would lay down to rest, exhausted completely exhausted, but utterly unable to find rest because I was in so much pain every time I laid down. And it's that constant exhaustion, but not being able to find rest that just really wears on a person.
So I was barely sleeping in the evening, feeling so, so utterly alone at night. And unsurprisingly, that was affecting every area of my life. My marriage, I was a newlywed, and there I was with a severe back problem that was making marriage really hard. I was a new graduate with a new job, and I could barely function in my job because I was in so much pain, and without so much sleep. I felt like a prisoner in my body in those early months, before I started to get some relief from chiropractic work and from changing my diet. Things like this. Initially, it was hell, it was hell on earth. And, I felt completely broken.
You know what happened as a result of that whole experience, is my empathy grew. It expanded beyond what it ever had been or what it ever could be. I understand better now than ever before, that just because you can't see someone's pain doesn't make it extremely real, and that everyone is carrying burdens that we're unaware of, that we don't see. That there are people who are struggling through lone, dark nights, and we're unaware of it.
So giving people the benefit of the doubt, being kind and compassionate to those who are not kind and compassionate back, I started to see that through entirely different eyes, with an entirely new portion of the spectrum. You guys, if I could have gotten out of that situation sooner, if I didn't have to experience it at all, you better believe I would have opted out. Of course, that's an example of a situation where I didn't really have the choice to opt-out. I suppose I could have gotten back surgery sooner, but the point remains. Sometimes when we walk through these things that feel like immense burdens, more than the fact that they refine us, there's this divine purpose that we can realize as we walk through that and come out of that.
It's like we have the opportunity to assign purpose to that. And how much different would my life be? How much different would I be as a person without some of those hard experiences in my life? Honestly, I don't think I would really be pleased with who I would be.
I have found so much of my purpose from the hard things. Actually, it's that experience with my back pain as well as the experience with diastasis that I had with my second pregnancy that led me to where I am today, as a prenatal and postnatal fitness specialist. That came out of some really hard circumstances and experiences. I would be such a different person, and in such a different spot in my life without those hard things. So I think there's a lot of maturity and a lot of wisdom and gratitude and it takes this grit.
I want to leave you with one thought that has been really profound and helpful for me. I hope it'll be helpful for you too. So as I'm sure you're aware, gratitude journaling is really popular right now, but I recently came across an idea that I really like because I'm a big fan of practicality and breaking things down into smaller parts to make them easily understandable and easy to act upon.
So the idea is this, you take something that you don't really enjoy, or around which you have a lot of resistance, discomfort, struggle, you know whatever word you want to use. So as a really basic example, I'm going to use grocery shopping. I do not like grocery shopping. So I have some resistance there, okay. So with that as my example, I start to think about what it means that I get to grocery shop, and that's one of the key things right there. You don't say, 'I have to.', you say, 'I get to.' So I get to go grocery shopping. What does that mean?
Okay, well, it means that I have a family of mouths to feed. It means that I have money to spend on groceries. It means that I have a grocery store to go to where just about any food that I can think of is available to me. I can go there and shop in safety, and then bring that food home to my house, where I can prepare it for my family. It means that the grocery store isn't unreasonably far from my house, I can get there relatively easily with my car.
See, and very soon, as you do this, you start to dig up some very precious gems for which you have the opportunity to express gratitude. So now, I'm not having to force myself to say, 'Yeah yeah, I'm grateful to be able to go grocery shopping.', which just still feels very unnatural and inauthentic. Now I can genuinely say, 'Gosh, I sure am thankful for all these mouths that I get to feed, like my babies and my husband. I sure am thankful that I live in a country where I can safely shop for food and I don't have to toil or work hard to obtain that food that's just waiting for me on shelves. I can easily pick it out and buy it. I'm so thankful for the money that I have to buy what my family needs to get this food in our bellies.'. You see how special that is?
So I wanted to share that with you in case you find that valuable. And if you currently practice journaling, your gratitude that might be a great thing to add. And if you don't currently journal, if you've found that to be tedious or difficult, I am willing to bet that this is gonna be helpful for you too. So, happy Thanksgiving friend. And, hey if you enjoyed our conversation don't forget to subscribe, rate, review, whatever you feel like to do for this podcast. I am so grateful for you, and all of those things are so helpful and so deeply appreciated. All right. Until next time.