For the past three days, I have been living on the couch with my dog. I claimed the living room as my territory and covered it with cough drops, tissues, and medicine. I have lived almost entirely on canned soup and water. It has not been a glamorous existence. Despite a complete lack of energy or motivation to move, there are a few achievements I can boast. I managed to not worry about my job for more than a day, I read about 450 pages in a novel, and I reflected on my life. When stuck at home with no pressing obligations other than feeding the dog, there is a lot of time to think.
For the first day I was mostly miserable, wondering if there was any possible upside to my situation. My fiance once told me that frustration is futile: becoming annoyed with situations outside of my control only leads to unnecessary negativity. I forget those words almost daily but when I do remember, they always bring a sense of peace. If I was going to be confined to the house, I might as well make some positive use of my time. I snuggled with Huxley until he eventually groaned and went to lie down in the corner. I came very close to being halfway done reading Atlas Shrugged, yet I feel like I am no closer to finding out “Who is John Galt?” Then, as I entered the third day of my couch life, I realized something that changed the way I felt entirely.
People often say that it is impossible to appreciate the good in life without the bad there for comparison. This applies to more than I thought. For 95% of every year, I am well. I don’t notice every day that I am not ill, but maybe I should. Instead of waking up healthy and going straight into stressing or complaining about the day, maybe I could spend a few moments being grateful for an able body and mind. When I am sick I think of all the things I cannot do, but if I am honest with myself I know that on a normal day I wouldn’t do most of those things anyway. What if I did? What if I lived every day to its fullest potential? Then maybe those 10-15 days per year when I am too sick to do everything, I could just relax without feeling like I am missing out on something.
What could I accomplish if I spent more time working toward my goals than I do watching television or fighting off boredom? How can I be bored when I have things to learn, words to write, and dreams to follow? It is easy to get caught up in the defeating belief that life is a rut made up of miserable jobs and meaningless interactions, but it isn’t true. Life can be an adventure, a story to be written and read and relived by millions of people. It can be a story of self-discovery or service to others. It can be beautiful with ugly painful streaks scattered among the years. It can be so much more than 40 hours, frozen pizzas, and season finales. I intend to write a story for myself and for the world. I hope you will read it when you’re living on your couch with your dog for three days in winter.