“When I have a toothache, I discover that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing. That is peace. I had to have a toothache in order to be enlightened, to know that not having one is wonderful.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
I had lunch with a friend of mine today who had his knee replaced last year. For as long as he could remember he has dealt with knee pain. He had put the surgery off for years because he knew it was a very evasive procedure that would require a long recovery and in his mind he simply couldn’t afford the time it would take to rehab. But the pain continued and his quality of life began to suffer.
I asked him when he decided to have the surgery and he said when it was easier sleeping in his La-Z-Boy at night rather than standing up and walking to the bedroom. His wife told him that they didn’t own a truck to cart his La-Z-Boy on trips to the beach or to visit their son so………. it was time, time while he was still young enough to handle the surgery, young enough to do the hard work of rehab.
I commented when I saw him that he looked good and he fired back that he felt good. After years of knee braces, and Advil he was no longer in pain and honestly, he remarked, it felt weird. The one downside was that he could no longer play the “my knee hurts” card to get out of working in the yard or going to some event he didn’t want to attend.
We all take the small, normal stuff of living for granted. When we turn a faucet on we expect water, and when we open the refrigerator a gallon of milk to pour on our cereal in the morning. Several years ago we had a terrible ice storm that knocked out our power for a week. For the first couple of days it was an “adventure” for the women in my household but that “adventure” wore thin after day three. I, on the other hand, embraced the challenge of keeping the house warm, food on the table and the light on at night.
This inconvenience reminded me of how dependent we are on simple things that we take for granted. We don’t think about them when we have them but take them away. That includes the people we love too, family and friends we have known our whole life, that we just expect to be there.
Thich Nhat Hanh would tell us that when twist the faucet on to thank the water for coming to us, to thank the people who make the water possible, to thank mother nature for the rain that fills our lakes. He would tell us to be thankful for the big and the small, and thankful for the obvious and the obscure. Why wait for a toothache to be enlightened?