Gratitude – An introspective inquiry

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by Simon Matthews
Wellcoaches Australia

In the middle of 2019, I experienced a medical event which could have changed my life considerably. Ultimately it didn’t. I suffered a torn and detached retina in my left eye. By the time I was having surgery, my vision was severely affected. The skill and experience of my surgeon (who has conducted this repair procedure over 5000 times!) along with his dedication and passion for his work meant that the surgery was successful and my vision was restored.

If you don’t know much about retinal detachment, I won’t bore you except to say this: the condition itself is painless, the surgical treatment is painless and the after effects are mild soreness for a day or so and the development of a cataract around 12 months later. If you experience any sudden change in your vision, get to a hospital, physician or optometrist straight away! Time matters here.

Fast forward from July 2019 to late February 2020. I woke up one morning, thought something looked odd in my right eye vision and went straight to an optometrist. After insisting he dilate my pupil and gaze into my eye, he exclaimed “Oh wow – there’s a big horseshoe shaped tear there!”

I arranged to go straight to my surgeon who confirmed the diagnosis and I was having surgery within hours. While it’s not the point of the story, the surgery was successful and my vision was restored again. Thankfully, we only have two eyes!

A friend of over 30 years collected me from the hospital (my wife was working out of town and had arranged to return earlier than planned but not before I was discharged). He then drove me to my surgical post-op appointment the following day. After the Surgeon confirmed that everything was looking good in my eye, I had coffee with my friend. We got to talking about education and skill and technology and incredible advances in health care and friendship.

And in an instant I felt overwhelmed with gratitude – that my sight had been saved not once but twice; that I live in a country with excellent health and medical care; that I live close to the centres of excellence for that care; that I have friends who I can call on and who change their own plans to accommodate me; that my Surgeon has the education, technical skill, experience and passion to do what he does. The restoration of my vision enabled me to capture and hold another vision – a life imbued with gratitude.

Gratitude, of course, sits front and centre both in coaching and in health and wellness. Practices of gratitude appear linked to optimism, improved mental health, stress management, sleep quality, self-efficacy and even heart health! Supporting others to experience gratitude is a great gift! If you’re not familiar with the recent literature on gratitude, here’s a great white paper published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

So…all of this has left me pondering a question that I invite you to consider:  Is it possible for a person to be sufficiently grateful?

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