I find myself both defeated and excited; as my feeble attempts at convincing my body and mind to succumb to sleep means I am currently not asleep (which is a nuisance) but also means I am awake (which is exciting because I am looking forward to writing to you). In this post I want to unpack a situation that really tested my attitude this week and the revelation that it brought to me.
To contextualise the situation for those who are new to reading my blog I was diagnosed with a rare and debilitating auto-immune disease called Still’s Disease at the end of February this year. As a result, I have been house-bound and unable to work and study for close to three months. Given the uncertainty and unpredictability of my condition the convenor of my degree and I decided midway through the semester that it would be wisest for me to withdraw and apply for special consideration given my circumstance (which would make me eligible for a refund and no academic penalty). The application process takes 20 days or so, and a few nights ago I received notice that my application had been declined. It was after hours when I read the notice so I couldn’t call student services for further information. I had had a shocking day, I was feeling really sick and this felt like another curve ball I just wasn’t ready to handle. I had submitted numerous medical certificates and a letter from my doctor. I had made it clear that I was undergoing chemotherapy and that the situation was beyond my control. So why had my application been declined!?
That evening I had two responses to choose from. I could lose it and become a fountain of unmerited accusations. I could construct and recite a speech during the night (I had insomnia on my side!) to the point of ravaging eloquence so that in the morning I could unleash my wrath against the student services representative who was unfortunate enough to pick up the phone (even though they had no involvement in the decision).
Alternatively, I could slow down and give the situation the ‘benefit of the doubt’. I could stop and appreciate that maybe I didn’t have all the facts or maybe I didn’t understand the entire situation yet. Maybe I just needed to approach this situation with a gracious and kind heart. Instead of calling student services the next morning talking, I could call student services the next morning listening to gain greater clarity before presenting my perceived case of injustice.
Fortunately, I kept challenging myself to live out option two, and with the support of my convenor we were able to resolve the issue in less than 24 hours. Turns out my medical certificates and letter hadn’t uploaded correctly.
How often do we get caught out choosing the wrong response in these situations? Something doesn’t go our way and in our frustration we build a situation in our mind, grounded firmly on unmerited conclusions, that we use to feed our selfish and destructive attitude thinking we are justified to tear the people down around us because of how we feel!
Option one, losing it, is natural. It is easy. Option two, slowing down, is unnatural. It is difficult. But it is so worth it. Slowing down and seeking clarity removes speculation and allows for positive resolution to come about. So I urge you desperately, before jumping to conclusions, approach all situations with the desire to communicate with your ears. Give people the benefit of the doubt and seek clarification with a gentle spirit. This approach builds and maintains whilst the alternative destroys and breaks. We need more enablers and less disablers.