How long has it been since you’ve been to Disneyland or Disney World? Let’s take a trip. Well, let us at least watch a Disney movie together. They always make me feel better, especially when the bad guy/gal is vanquished. Walt’s films are so much like our lives. There is tension, love, laughs and resolution after struggle.
There’s always a villain. I’m certain each of us has memories of these particular fictional characters. Some of us hid behind our box of buttered popcorn at the movies when villainous characters like Cruella appeared on the screen and others who read the original book by Dodie Smith, published in 1956, titled The Hundred and One Dalmatians, shivered beneath their sheets.
They say the secret to any good work of fiction is conflict. That may provide an interesting read or view, but in real life it’s a bit tiresome, often maddening and always exasperating. Quite often my youngest two grandchildren and I watch movies. The other day I asked my 7 year-old granddaughter, who had already seen the film we were going to watch, “Who is the Cruella de Vil in this movie?” She knew exactly what I meant and pointed out the “conflict inflictor” to me. That minor incident made me wonder how many Cruella’s each of us have in our lives. These villains often masquerade as harmless individuals, hiding their identities, quite unlike Cruella, Captain Hook, the wicked step-mothers scattered in the films or those deadly yet beautiful queens. Those beautiful faces and costumes make it a bit more difficult to unveil their true identities. If you watch closely, however, their eyes always reveal an evil heart.
These particular individuals must be cold-hearted, self-centered and devoid of understanding. I hate to realize how many of these individuals exist off the screen, in real life. I’m usually a positive person but have become cautiously so after a long life, half of it lived with chronic pain. I have discovered some medical folks fill this description as they believe they must retain a certain amount of distance from you or your problems. Others may be friends who have grown tired of your problems or even family members who just don’t like the way you appear, explain what you’re going through or even resent your achievements made all the better by your ability to overcome. There are thousands of reasons others become insensitive. Not all of them are out to kill Dalmatian puppies to get their soft fur for a fur coat, but here in the real world, their motives are varied. Some of the individuals who hurt us do so out of pure ignorance. Others do it out of their own self-centered view of life. I know, few are mad puppy chasing freaks with half white hair and half black, but exaggerations do make the point. In the real world, many of the villains we meet come in plain, ordinary “wrapping.”
Most of us who live with chronic pain or illness have experienced the painful remark of a friend, the loss of others because they simply thought we were faking. I thought it would be enlightening to look at some possible solutions for those of us who have run into or been run over by others who simply don’t get it, this way of life that has been thrust upon us.
1. How do we deal with self-centered individuals who simply aren’t interested in having their lives disrupted by the grim realities which affect many of us? Yes, I realize each of us will respond differently in this situation but there are some safeguards we can each use to protect ourselves. I have often had long talks with myself, sternly reprimanding my own hurt feelings and saying, “Hey, I’ve got enough to deal with without putting up with extra crap.” This is no time to be a door mat; don’t allow it.
That’s when the gate is closed and you have to limit your exposure to certain individuals. Think of it as quarantine for your protection. You can hope they will eventually learn to be wiser but also realize it may be hard won for them. Just be there for them if their lives change and understanding is discovered. Everyone can change and not all relationships are forever. When this individual is a relative, it’s more difficult to distance yourself, for instance on holidays, but it can be done. Thanks to mean old Cruella, I must add one codicil to this one: never forgive them if they have ever stolen a puppy from you. After all, we have to draw the line somewhere.
2. Some of the people in our lives are just shallow, thoughtless goofballs. They don’t have malice; they’re just stupid. These folks can be educated if you find the relationship worth the trouble and effort it would take. Perhaps you could see them as a challenge and help to wise them up. This one is very individualized based on their age of maturity, your affection for them and their nuisance level. Many people in this world haven’t gone through anything as difficult as you and I have.
3. The Captain Hooks of this world want to get you. After all, taking a hook to small, innocent little boys? This is not a pretty sight. Since you can’t fly away like Peter Pan, you have to flee as best you can. Sometimes these captains take the form of doctors who must prove they are right and you are wrong. They can also disguise themselves as well-meaning neighbors who show up with weird herbs, left over drugs or homemade potions for you to try. Now that last one does sound more like the wicked witch, so beware. Don’t borrow their medicine or take their advice until you check it out or study about it for yourself. The internet makes this so much easier than in the days of thatched cottages and morphing forms. Stay away from those black caldrons. This category would also include those individuals who are simply jealous because they perceive you are getting attention for being ill. I know it’s twisted but each of us know at least one of these individuals. They are the folks who must “one up” you. If you have a broken leg, they have a cracked skull. Their mirror on the wall definitely tells them, “You are the sickest one of all.” Run, limp or crawl away from these individuals. They’re in a contest that cannot be won.
4. Beware the mind benders. These are the often well-meaning relatives or friends who are convinced it’s all in your imagination, this whole pain issue. They say cruel yet kind sounding things like, “Oh my dear, you just have to think a bit more positively.” “You simply need to get out more.” My personal favorite is, “Well, you look just great.” They are really thinking, “She can’t have anything wrong with her…she’s smiling.”
This type of villain is, I believe, afraid of you. They are the type of individuals who don’t even want to think about disease, pain or misery. They are afraid you will change their life in some way, spoil a good time or maybe, just maybe be infectious.
I’m reminded of a night many years ago when my husband, Jim, was doing the night shift at a local prison when we lived in California. A famous murderer (a real life villain) was brought to him for nursing care when he kept complaining to the guards. Mr. Infamous told Jim he had a hernia and it needed to be repaired. In the middle of the night? Jim explained the facts to him after examining him and told the guards to take him back to his isolated cell. As he was leaving, this mad murderer said, “Oh, that’s all right. I’ll just heal it with my mind.” Jim replied, “Okay. Good luck with that.” Don’t misunderstand. I do believe in divine healing but not when it comes to hideous mass murderers.
5. There is always a lesson to be learned in these merry films, in spite of the conflict. We must all work on ourselves, our attitudes and our daily struggles. We can’t focus too much attention on all the negative forces that are pulling on us. We already have disease and pain and don’t need to pick up another burden, whatever hideous form it takes. We would probably hurt ourselves even more in the process. Let’s lift only that which we must. For most of us, life offers plenty, an abundance of plentiful expectations just to live a seemingly normal existence.
Fear, frustration, worry and regret are very powerful forces. They are forces made worse by those evil doers. We need all the sunshine we can get, not darkness. Look for the joy, turn off the madness. Whistle while you work, hum a happy tune or look for laughter from a child, a pet or any source that works for you. How about popping a Disney movie into the DVD player?