On First Anniversaries, Break-ups, and Why I’m Actually Grateful I Got the Flu

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”
~ Erich Fromm

Last week marked the one year anniversary of opening my own acupuncture practice and being in business for myself. I wanted to quietly celebrate this milestone with close friends over a glass of wine (or two), expressing gratitude for year one and setting clear intentions for the year ahead.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, I came down with the flu. Big time. Like a four-full-days-in-bed-wanting-to-die kind of flu. Headache, bodyaches, fever, chills, sinus congestion, ear pressure, sore throat, nausea, vomiting – I had it all. And it was ugly.

At the tail end of that loveliness, I broke things off with the person I’ve been dating off-and-on since April. Rad.

To say that last week was not my favorite week ever would be a gross understatement. And yet, I feel an immense amount of gratitude for the experience – both that of being sick and that of breaking up – because of the lessons I’ve learned (or relearned) as a result.

The past several days have reminded me that I have absolute control over only one thing in this life – namely, the way I choose to respond to the events of said life as they unfold.

Do my attitude and efforts and actions all influence the people and places and opportunities I ultimately encounter along the way? Of course. But do I have any real say over how or when exactly this all happens? Nope.

What I’m left with is me. Sometimes that’s a welcome truth. And other times, it’s kind of terrifying.

Mostly, I like me and sincerely enjoy my own company. But there are certainly days when I welcome (and, admittedly, even seek out) distraction whenever possible in order to avoid getting intimate with my own feelings and the thoughts and beliefs that underlie them.

But I’m trying to do that less often. (Lose myself in distractions, that is.)

Having the flu forced me into a standstill – and into a smallish apartment with only myself for multiple days in a row. In that situation, I had no choice but to get comfortable (or comfortable with the discomfort, at least) with me, in all my sickness and (non)glory. In doing so, I saw a lot of things I’d been trying days or weeks not to see – specifically, feelings and beliefs and behaviors related to a certain relationship with a certain man(child) that made clear the inevitability of that relationship’s necessary end.

Getting real with yourself sucks sometimes.

(And so does the flu, for the record.)

But relinquishing your illusion of control over external events or other people and acknowledging your own truth in the process – even when that truth means breaking up with someone you love – is profoundly liberating if you allow it to be.

Because heartache and freedom are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they often give birth to one another – which is an exceedingly beautiful thing to consider but also an immensely frustrating reality when you’re actually living it.

This post has now gotten a bit off topic – if ever there was a clear theme here at all. Admittedly, my powers of coherent cognition and eloquent self-expression are still recovering from last week’s plague condition. That said, I promise I had a point when I started.

And that point is this:

Sometimes not getting what you want is actually in your best interest.

Most of the time, it’s still going to be really difficult and you’re still going to feel sad and cry and wish things were different. And that’s okay.

But also, you eventually just have to surrender to what is, because – as much as you might hate to hear this – so much of what happens in this life is outside of your control. Your job is simply to feel what you feel, become aware of those feelings, and then respond to them with love – for yourself, for others, for the world as a whole.

View life through the lens of love, act in accordance with this perspective, and watch how everything changes. Even when nothing at all has actually changed. Does this advice register super high on the cheese meter? Yes. But experience tells me it’s also full of truth.

And never forget that you have absolute jurisdiction over yourself and that you are ultimately your own responsibility. One hundred percent. Because once you get over the potentially overwhelming weight of that fact, you’ll realize it’s actually kind of awesome.

And so are you. Awesome, that is.