The piano you see above is one of the things I love about our city. Each Spring, these lovely painted pianos show up all over town and just beg to be played by anyone who wants to play them.
The pianos are donated and taken to local schools, where they’re given new life. Students, under the supervision of their art teachers, paint them in whatever theme they choose. After they’re painted the pianos are tuned and delivered to their temporary homes on the sidewalks of our city. You never know when you might be treated to a beautiful concert as you’re out doing your errands.
For me, these pianos are a reminder that we can make something beautiful out of even the most rundown things. They certainly weren’t in the best shape of their lives or they probably wouldn’t have been donated. With a little work and care, though, they’ve become something beautiful and useful again.
Sometimes, life with Fibromyalgia or another chronic illness can be like those old pianos. We may feel our bodies are failing us, that we are no longer useful, that we’re out of key…. BUT with a little work and care, our lives can take on a new look, we can gain a new sense of purpose, and we can ‘make beautiful music.’
It really all comes down to choice.
We can choose to be the old, worn-out piano that plays discordant notes (choosing negativity, allowing ourselves to take on a ‘victim’ mindset, or becoming perpetually angry because of our circumstances).
We can accept that we have a new normal now, and work within that new normal. We can get a fresh coat of paint (choose a ‘victor’ mentality) and a tune-up (learning to work with our bodies) and become a new version of our old selves.
I’m not saying life with chronic illness is going to be easy, or that we can just ‘positive think’ our pain away. What I’m saying is that we have a choice about how we’re going to respond to it.
Our attitude makes all the difference in whether we are able to flourish or whether we fail to thrive.
Let’s be realistic here and realize that with a chronic illness we’re not going to have a positive attitude all the time, and that’s okay. We also need to realize, though, that if we adopt a perpetually negative attitude, it has the ability to completely incapacitate us.
So how do we fight this negative attitude when our bodies are making it hard not to be negative? Here are a few things I’ve found helpful:
- Try not to focus on the negative. It’s important to process the negative emotions that are a part of the chronic illness experience. We need to allow those feelings and work our way through them, but we know that what we give most of our attention to is what grows. Negativity breeds negativity.
- Look at what you can do. Concentrating on what we can do rather than what we can’t can help us keep moving forward and keep us from dwelling on our limitations.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Taking the time each evening to write down three things we’re thankful for can help us realize how much we really do have to be thankful for.
- Ask “What can I learn from this?” We can choose to learn from our experiences, which can often help us reframe them. We can then use those lessons to help improve our lives.
- Find a way to help others. It’s hard to feel sorry for ourselves when we’re helping other people, and being a blessing to others often ends up blessing us as well.
- Work within your strengths. Figuring out what we’re good at and are able to consistently do can help us achieve small victories that build on each other. This can help us feel better about ourselves and about our lives as a whole.
When we live with Fibromyalgia or another chronic illness, we don’t have a choice about how we feel physically. A positive attitude is not going to make our illness go away.
We do get to choose our attitudes about what happens. Are we going to choose to be that old, discordant piano, or are we going to choose to make beautiful music with our lives? It’s all up to us.
Have you found attitude to be important in living well with a chronic illness? What are your tips for avoiding a negative mindset? Please share!