Those of us who live with chronic pain or disease, we know about losing treasure but far less about finding it. Some of us have lost so much for so many years; we have actually forgotten some of what life used to be. Yes, you can forget. Pain comes in many forms and all of them can be forgotten or at least put in the backseat of life. Like any kind of pain, for instance the pain of childbirth, kidney stones, and large rocks falling on our heads cartoon style, the agony of loss and the old life can be forgotten. It may stay there, coiled and ready to strike you again when triggered by a memory, a song or word but it is 90% erased. The memory loss is controlled by you, as in “Let it go.” For many years after I became disabled, I missed my life as an RN so much I couldn’t watch any medical shows on TV. Gradually that sense of loss faded but it still drew breath within me.
Self-pity is part of who we are because we’ve earned the right to feel it. Part of the self-pity we are familiar with involves all we used to have, be and do. For a period of time, we replay it all in our heads and hearts. It is part of the grieving self and it’s okay…for a while. I’m a great advocate of memories. Sweet, sour and recycled, they form the foundation for life, the building blocks for who we have become, as well as who we once were. We have cameras and load our drawers, computers and photo albums with pictures of what is gone. Our brains and memories don’t have to work nearly as hard if we have a picture. Unfortunately, the losses that hit us the hardest cannot be photographed. How do you photograph a broken heart, a lost career or a relationship that’s gone “south”? Actually, I think sign language would work best for some of those but alas, some of those signs are not considered polite and this isn’t a video. You should be grateful.
Life travels in a forward motion, dragging us along behind it and it can be a joyride or a trip over the railroad tracks, feeling every bump as we go. Some of us look back and life is like a bad cartoon, with TNT, explosions and body parts going hither and yon. In other words, some parts of you stayed close and some have flown the coop.
It’s a funny thing about losing parts of life. Complaining can become a habit; just as grieving can also become one. Like the widow who wore her “widow’s weeds” of black mourning for fifty years, we often turn our backs on life which still has substance and multiple colors in it. We often complain so much about our losses we forget what we still have. Perhaps, it is time to take inventory of all we have remaining in our lives. Taking inventory can be a very good thing. It can help us find those bits and pieces of our lives we have stuck back into a corner of our hearts and minds. We might be surprised what we can find, locked away in a closet or in a shady, dank corner of the basement. Did you know your mind and heart can have a closet or a basement? Well, they can.
There are treasures still within you and me. We often forget that. We usually get so caught up in surviving the “shipwreck”; we forget to look for the “hidden treasure.” Perhaps it is time to rent Disney’s SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON. The author of the book, John Rudolph Wyss states profoundly, “The morning dawned upon us without a prospect of hope.”
How often have you and I gone to sleep believing we are without a prospect of hope? That famous old tale of a Swiss family lost and stranded due to shipwreck, devoid of all they held dear except for some sea salt soaked trappings, made a disaster into an adventure. They built a life out of some boards and flotsam on a windswept island, including a remarkable tree house which most of us have seen at one of the Disney parks. Although a work of fiction, that brave, industrious family has much to teach us about loss and discovery. A tragedy turned into an adventure is a wondrous thing to watch. Are you a tragedy or an adventure? Am I kidding? No, I’m not, because my life is a peculiar mix of the two. Your personal text of life is for you to write.
There was a short article tucked away in the back of our newspaper a few days ago about an art find in Germany. It seems the authorities found 1400 works of art tucked away in an apartment bedroom in an upscale Munich apartment. Only 121 of them were framed which explains why they could fit so many works into one bedroom, and all professionally preserved. Art historians all over the world are abuzz about this miraculous find. Seized by the Nazi regime during WWll, these works of art include those by Chagall, Matisse, Picasso and hundreds of others. The source of all of these treasures is believed to be varied. Some were confiscated by the Nazi’s from German museums before the war began by declaring modern art “decadent” and later, they pillaged museums all over Europe. Many were purchased for a pittance of their worth or with threats of violence toward the owners, many of them wealthy Jewish families. The work now begins, to find where they belong, how to return them to their owners’ ancestors and putting all the puzzle pieces back into place. Many are lost works found only in textbooks. It’s truly amazing for this to occur 70 years after the war; lost treasures looking for their homes. Hidden away for years, fate has determined they should be exposed at long last.
You and I may not be unframed, famous works of art but we do have value. We have not been nearly as well preserved but we do represent treasure. They are the creative expression of someone’s mind and talent that has been brought to life with brush strokes, diligence and color choices. Art appreciation is in the eyes of the beholder. Let’s open our eyes to see our value, our beauty and all that we have to work with.
In Norman Cousins’ brilliant book, ANATOMY OF AN ILLNESS, he shares his comparisons upon meeting two great men; Pablo Casals and Albert Schweitzer. Mr. Cousins explains, during his own illness, how these two elderly men taught him a vital lesson of life. That lesson was two-fold. He shares that both men had a highly developed sense of purpose and each had an intense will to live. He states, “I became convinced that these materials may represent the most potent force within human reach.”
I know from my own experiences that we often have to search to find that intense will to live. We are burdened by our daily efforts, pain and loss of energies. I found the best way to find a highly developed sense of purpose was to discover what I loved in the present and in the past and to delve into the treasures of my mind and heart. Each of us has hidden treasures, perhaps disguised as dreams, desires long hidden and “if ever I get the chance,” remarks. Few of us were able to fully pursue our passions and talents, interests and dreams while we were laden down with the duties of life like work, family and maintenance of our homes. We have been given a sabbatical from our planned lives and been thrust into a “shipwreck” of pain and loss.
I loved Mr. Cousins’ comments about spending a day with Pablo Casals. He gives a beautifully detailed description of how he began the day as a bent over, pain wracked human struggling to breath, struggling with gnarled frozen fingers and through the magic transformation brought on by his talents allowed the music to infuse him with wellness. In the instance Cousins describes, Casals is playing Bach on the piano, being proficient with many instruments. “His entire body seemed fused with the music; it was no longer stiff and shrunken but supple and graceful and completely freed of its arthritic coil. Having finished the piece, he stood up by himself, far straighter and taller than when he had come into the room.”
I recommend his book to anyone who is facing a life with pain. He proves over and over again the natural medications of life from experiencing life, not from swallowing a pill. Why not try both types of medication. I know from my own experiences as I lie here tonight, my laptop resting on my stomach, preparing this blog for tomorrow. Three hours have passed, the dogs are asleep, Jake in bed between us, little George in his kennel beside the bed with his special little blanket. My husband has been asleep the entire time and I have been escaping by using creativity. I even forgot to take a pain pill until I found I couldn’t move and it served as a reminder…the resounding alarm of my pain clock.
The hidden treasure which can be found by each of us often comes in strange forms as we paint, write, sing, play music or dig a hole in the dirt for a new plant to thrive. Treasure is buried everywhere within our hearts, our lives and our minds. There is a key. That key is to love life enough to begin a search. There’s treasure to be found for each of us. Now I have the overwhelming impulse to say, “Dig it,” start looking and never believe you are without treasure.