But you are still uniquely you.
One of the beautiful elements about our chatting over these many years is how much we have in common. Figuring out what that is has not been difficult. We all live with chronic pain or love someone who does. One of the elements of being an RN that I love is how one can cut through so much small talk and truly get to know their fellow humans when health issues are involved. The vulnerability of someone ill in a doctor’s office or lying in a hospital bed in one of those dreadful print, tie-back gowns, well, what can I say; we’ve each been there. Most social decorum is dissolved along with modesty and it takes a sensitive, caring individual, whatever role they’re in to handle the situation correctly.
There are certain subjects that cut to the heart and health is one of those issues. Often it is a relief for patients to be able to “unload” on someone other than a relative or close friend. As we all know, we often act as if everything is fine with our loved ones because we don’t want to worry them; either that or we talk about our health issues constantly. When I first became ill, I couldn’t shut up. You know me, Mrs. Loquacious. I talked about my health problems constantly in the early years. It was partly because I couldn’t get any answers from the doctors. I believe it was also because I felt guilty because I couldn’t manage to work because of the pain in my sitter.
When I was able to work, the first few years I began having pain, staggering pain would unload on me after working a shift and even when I worked as a House supervisor, I had to walk all the time to keep from sitting and my legs and ankles were becoming a problem. I constantly had this mental image of parts of my body falling off and landing in the hospital corridors, although it is more difficult to imagine when it’s your posterior that’s hurting. I can’t imagine what a spare buttock looks like lying on the ground all by itself…legs and arms, more easily envisioned. I would crawl into my car and cry all the way home after a shift of duty.
Unfortunately, as we’ve learned from all politicians, talk show hosts and gossips; talk is cheap and seldom changes anything. Good communication is quite another matter because it is purposeful. Constant niggling and repetition does little for anyone after the first hundred times it’s said and possibly heard. Good communication doesn’t change things or situations but it does change people and their attitudes. It’s often helpful, just as time can be a balm during troubled, painful periods.
The writer Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “Any man more right than his neighbors, constitutes a majority of one.”
I love that bit of wisdom and think it’s a good one to recall and repeat when I feel isolated from others. As each of you have experienced, this feeling lousy so much of the time can leave us alone much of the time. When we are able to reach out to others, simply touching a hand or touching a mind or spirit, a bond is formed that can be very sustaining. For all those thousands of times over the years when I have felt terribly disillusioned, tomorrow would always arrive and bring along new hope and new opportunity.
Beginning each new day and simply facing it is a start. I had to learn to forget the sadness, particularly at the beginning and ending of a day, and look forward to what was coming. The beginning, the morning is difficult because so many times, my body would come out of the night’s dreams and face the stark reality of the pain which was always waiting. The end of the day is rough because I always overdo and simply make no apology for it because I learned long ago, two very important facts. One was that life went on with or without me and if I wanted my home and life to be even approaching clean, normal and cheerful, I had to keep up. Secondly, I learned that joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments really want to move; they just don’t know it. Without movement I am convinced I would end up in some corner somewhere with a sign around my neck that read, “Sue, the Human Pretzel.”
It is never and I repeat, never too late to develop this approach. Each day is new even if you and I are stuck with the same old bodies. We may not know where we’re going or what we’re going to do but I find it always helps to at least put the proverbial key in my engine and rev it up to prepare for the day.
Daily habits can help in this regard. Once we realize there may not be a magic answer out there, we look forward to whatever comes along. It may be a life of compromise but is it really not compromise if we learn something along the way, either about life or about ourselves? Life can be wasted but it is always lived; otherwise you’re kaput! The sun rises and sets, the old hall clock ticks and chimes away the hours and we each age as life passes. We choose if we are going to be in the fray or sitting on the sidelines, wishing, longing and, oh yes, occasionally moaning. Moaning, groaning and self-pity are deserved and often yours to claim BUT they lead down an empty, rocky dead end street. Just don’t like the idea of that and I guess I never will.
I love the books of Dr. Benjamin Carson and am currently reading one of his books titled, THINK BIG. I would like to quote briefly from one paragraph he wrote. “Remaining a victim of circumstance is a state of being that we choose, a choice that
—allows us to blame other people
—lets us blame circumstances
—permits us to avoid responsibility for our lives
—encourages us to feel sorry for ourselves, and
—guarantees that we will stay victims.
No one has to be a victim!”
Aren’t those wonderfully, uplifting words for those of us who live with chronic pain?. Once we are able to abandon the idea of full relief, we learn to believe in some relief but more importantly, we believe in life all over again. Let us learn from the children in our lives who go from drama to drama in about 90 seconds and see joy in the smallest incidents of life: a crawling ladybug, a fresh bowl of popcorn or an “A” on a math test. They appreciate the gifts life offers but often, we who suffer daily, forget and get caught up in our rapture of pain.
Sometimes folks ask me what I do when I’m discouraged and there are several ideas and acts I perform. I make a point of turning off the news and watching an uplifting film in our large collection of DVD’s. I also grab one of my uplifting books including the Holy Bible, Dr. Ben Carson, and Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, any of his works or the works of C.S. Lewis, J.B. Phillips, Glenn Clark, Dr. Bernie Siegel, and the poetry of many authors. I love to read or watch history unfolding because we can learn so much about what others have endured and obtained victory over. Let us learn from the past as a society and as individuals.
I also like to walk, even if it hurts. Walking down by the banks of the mighty Columbia River can be wonderful and refreshing, even with pain. (It gets easier. Truly it does.) I enjoy some stores but find it awfully hard on the old checkbook, especially when a loved one is having a birthday. I must admit I like shopping but do more than my share online for the convenience. I also save much lifting for some of the daily things like dog food, cases of juice, etc.
I love to play with our dogs, call a friend or just hang out with a work of fiction. Picking off the spent blossoms, watering a potted plant or pulling a weed, anything to move and get out of the house for a change of view. I love hearing about a small child’s day at school, watching our Yorkie chase a ball or even cleaning a dirty window to let the glorious beauty of our blue skies and waters to be make itself visible inside our home. I even get pleasure out of washing a lovely old collectible. Wish I had the energy to do it more often.
Even though I’ve listed many of my strategies for coping and enjoying my life, I saved the best for last. Giving something to someone else is the best treatment of all. To aid a friend, love a child, encourage a neighbor or paint a picture. Taking photos and sharing them, writing an encouraging article or phoning a friend or relative, these are the jewels in life that keep on giving. We each can give of our treasure, however large or small the amount, but to give of oneself…that is the most valuable gift of all because it blesses both in the transaction.
Do not comprise a majority of one. You and I are each our own unique selves but through our heart strings we are tied to all we meet, know and love.