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Happiness is Like a Pillow

(This is a bit of a long post, but bear with me — I reach a point eventually).

When I was in my early 20s I was in a pretty bad car accident. The kind where you see the wreckage afterwards and are amazed that the people involved walked away from it. I suffered from a major case of whiplash and unfortunately it’s one of those situations where I’ve “never been the same since”. I haven’t really felt “normal” when it comes to my neck and upper back since then.

Over the years I tried different things and found that some things seemed to help a bit. Getting regular exercise certainly made a difference. I tried heating pads and popping Advil regularly. In recent years I started seeing a chiropractor and a massage therapist. And while all of these things certainly helped, I would still experience some level of discomfort on a daily basis.

The one thing that I always relied on was my pillow. I’d tried other pillows in the past but with no success. This particular pillow I’d dragged around with me for years, convinced that this was the thing preventing me from being completely debilitated. Over the past few months, however, I started to notice that my neck and upper back were progressively getting worse. It seemed to me that maybe it was *finally* time to throw in the towel on this pillow of mine, which was easily 15+ years old (I know, right??!!)

So we headed out to the mall and I (rather reluctantly, I might add) found myself a new bamboo filled pillow. It certainly seemed like it might be something that could do the trick. I was nervous, but convinced that perhaps this might be something that would help; after all, my old pillow certainly wasn’t working for me anymore. The first week or so was a bit sketchy, I’ll be honest. I woke up every morning with a soreness in my upper back and neck that I hadn’t experienced before. But then…as the day wore on, the soreness always vanished, and my body always felt better. And then as time wore on, as my body adjusted to the new-ness of it all, the daily soreness disappeared completely.

I realized last week that although not 100% “cured” (and I will never be), my neck and upper back feel better than I can ever remember them feeling. All those years that I tried all those things to treat my neck issues, I realized that I was focusing on the wrong thing. I was looking everywhere else for the solution to my problem, and missed entirely what was at the root of my problem: a scratty old pillow that I’d been desperately clinging to, for so long that it had almost become part of who I was.

I’ve been thinking a lot about CBG’s blog post yesterday about finding inner happiness. I’m convinced that he’s been looking for happiness in all kinds of places — in a job, in money, in weight loss, even in our marriage. He’s like me desperately trying all those things to cure my neck pain, hoping that maybe “this” would finally be it, but still never fixing the source of the problem. The one thing that I was convinced was helping me, was actually the one thing that was hurting me the most.

Honey, it’s time to sit down, say goodbye to that scratty old pillow you’ve been desperately hanging on to, and throw it out for good. I promise it will feel like a huge weight has been lifted off you. And sure, you can still pursue all those things that are a part of being happy — finding a great job, making more money, getting in shape and losing weight, hell, maybe even improving the state of our marriage. But none of those things are doing to mean a damn thing if you’re still laying your head down at night on a smelly old pillow.

It’s time to help yourself, instead of hurting yourself.

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