I’m back from Christmas with my in-laws in Southern Virginia. As much as I enjoy the annual visit from the jolly fat man, this year he left us a rather unsavory gift – the stomach flu. Fortunately, he was nice about it and left us the kind that has the courtesy to wait until the stroke of midnight on December 26 before inflicting damage. It managed to hit nearly everyone of us (eighteen in number) within a 48 hour period. The only two to escape the bug’s wrath were my daughters who stayed well only because they had had it the week before.
Unlike most of my family, I didn’t spend most of the time in the bathroom throwing up. I was nauseous, but I have the kind of stomach that selfishly wants to keep whatever it has. The real kick in the pants for me was the body aches, particularly in my knees and back. So, it was a welcome relief to feel 85% better the next day. As I was enjoying a cup of early morning coffee (after I slept most of the previous day away, I was more than happy to wake up at 5am), it struck me how appreciative I was to be feeling healthy. It’s like the old song line: “You don’t know what you got until its gone.”
And it’s also a main principle of my personal philosophy: to know one thing, we must know its opposite. It’s the natural yin and yang of our humanity. Too often, though, we only want to know what the sunny side of the hill looks like and deny that there is the darkness of the shaded side. It’s natural to want to avoid pain, sorrow, even our inclinations toward our less noble qualities. But does this truly honor ourselves? Does this avoidance lead to a better life?
I think back to those moments in my own life which are painful: getting the emotional crap kicked out of me in high school, getting rejected by a job which I thought I had “in the bag,” suffering a debilitating anxiety attack at a relative’s wedding. Would I want to relive any of these moments? I’d be a liar if I said I would. Yet, each one has offered me an opportunity to experience my own humanity and to better recognize love, joy, and success. Sometimes bad things happen to good people so they can be better people.