Our beaches here in Oregon are so naturally beautiful and expansive. We are still able to drive out onto them although that is only for those who hopefully know what they’re doing. One young woman got caught a few years back with a baby and a toddler in her car while a sneaker wave surrounded her. She had to be rescued by a big truck and a lifeguard. While walking on our beaches which have lustiness about them due to such sneaker waves the maxim is, “Don’t turn your back on the ocean.” Huge logs often roll in after one of our great storms and have been known to trap curious individuals who want to walk on them. Guess they’re pretending to walk a tightrope only those logs can roll and crush a person in an instant. Even the flying Wallendas would have a challenge with those logs.
As individuals who live with chronic pain we are walking along the shores of our own lives and need to be aware of sneaker waves and sharks. No, we don’t usually have sharks in Oregon as they prefer warmer bathing but in our personal lives we still need to be on the alert. Sneaker waves for us can rush upon us in many forms as we traverse the rocky soil of chronic pain. There are daily aspects we must be careful to never turn our backs on. As all of us know, there are certain days we are not at our best and actually are far from it. We can be distracted by chronic pain as well as the side effects of some of the medications we are taking. There are days we have to take extra precaution in driving a car, walking down a flight of stairs or maneuvering our way through paying our bills or shopping.
Pain alone can be very diverting and distracting and cause us to look away and in that moment, we are at risk, whether driving, walking or speaking. I confess on some days I carry a phone in my pocket around the house, just in case. We live in an old Victorian with stairs everywhere. Simply coping with chronic pain can burn energy and interfere with clear thought. We also have to stop being so judgmental toward ourselves. We are not who we once were and that is okay. It has to be. Acceptance of change is difficult but we need to develop new habits, i.e. check the stovetop, the oven, and the medications we’re taking and when we take them. We need to check for slippery rugs, objects that stick out and can obstruct a walkway or lifting that plant that needs water. Remember once you’ve put that dry beauty into the sink and watered it, she will be twice as heavy as in the drought stage. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of watching where some little four footed rascal has gone. Don’t want to splatter him/her nor do we want to practice our sprat falls. Don’t we have enough pain already? We are accosted all day long by those sneaker waves which can come up and grab us and we’re on dry land.
Shoes and the kind we wear can take on a whole new importance in our lives. We want to be fashionable but need to be smart, cautious and comfortable. They don’t have to be ugly, just sensible. This chore is often easier said than, well, you know. For instance some of us with foot problems have to wear special inserts or a wider size. Always, the bottoms and the traction control have to be considered. No, not your bottom; the bottom of the shoes, although…
A powerful sneaker wave we have to beware of is that old undertow, addiction. There are some patients and even some physicians who would say, “Who cares if you take this addictive drug all the time? You’re going to have pain the rest of your life anyway.” I actually had an internist who said that to me after telling me it was okay to take six Zanax each day. He’s dead now. I didn’t do it.
It is appealing, just the thought of being totally free of pain, I must admit. If only there were a pain pill which had no side effects, was not addictive and made us feel heavenly but also down to earth. The unfortunate truth is there are always side effects to addictive behavior, sink holes, both psychologically and physically. They run the gamut from constipation and gastrointestinal bleeding to personality changes and disruptive behavior. I can’t speak for you, although I do occasionally try to, but I want to be me. I don’t want to be someone else, some robotic human, goose stepping my way along the shore of life. That’s why I am always flapping my sail about other forms of therapy such as physical therapy, water therapy, TENS units and other alternative therapies. I know each of us is an individual and we will each ultimately reach our own conclusions in our lives with the help of our physicians but I do caution you about those massive holes that can make escape difficult such as taking your pain medications too often, mixing them with others or with alcohol. For the sake of your liver, your gut, your social behavior, do be cautious. Save the strong drugs you have on hand for those truly bad days when you must face a trip, a chore or a quarrelsome relative. Just think about it, please.
Thus far we’ve chatted about sneaker waves which we may not totally avoid but at least we can try by never turning our back on the ocean which represents our lives. Now I’d like to talk about those nasty sharks. I know, they’re God’s gorgeous creatures but we don’t want one in the living room. Sharks represent those events over which we have no warning, no way to watch out for them and yet, here they are.
One of the sharks in our lives is all those nasty or well-meaning individuals who place themselves into the middle of our business. That relative, friend or neighbor who questions the very fact you are ill or in chronic pain. They say well intentioned things like, “But, you don’t look sick,” or one of my personal favorites, “You just need to think more positively.” I think Dr. Norman Vincent Peale would be appalled if he could see how that simple phrase of his has been misused, misshapen and abused. Heaven help you if you stretch a bit and try to have some fun, go out to dinner or the worst one of all, take a vacation. In their minds you are surely not sick at all if you can go to Hawaii, the town next to you or Kalamazoo. Now please repeat after me. I DO NOT NEED JUDGMENTAL PEOPLE IN MY LIFE. I AM HARD ENOUGH ON MYSELF. Did you repeat it? Good. Sometimes this kind of behavior from others leads to separation and that is a pity. You can try to educate them yourself and occasionally that works but most of the time it takes an anvil falling from a great height to push the point and by then, who cares?
Another type of individual we have to often cope with is the “Mirror, mirror on the wall, I’m the sickest one of all” type. Whatever you are coping with they have had it not once but every Tuesday. They had it worse than you with bows on, almost died and were brought back to life at least thrice. What is it about human nature that causes these individuals to want to make a sick contest out of life? I guess it’s just another I caught a whopper story to go along with our seaside analogy and you definitely don’t want to stay around for that conversation or see the pictures. You are tempted, or perhaps I should say I am tempted, to say a few salty remarks like, “Oh good, I’m so glad you came out of it alive, now show me how fast you can run along.”
One has to wonder what kind of sick gratification one gets from putting down another with buckets of negativity, demeaning what someone else is experiencing or feeling? Do they leave the conversations with us smarter, taller or more superior? Well, that’s just sick and I don’t mean the chronic kind with physical pain.
Sometimes in this weary coastline we’re traversing, we do have to cope with a huge shark and there is very little we can do about it except to do our best to escape and seek help. Sometimes that shark snaps its giant jaws around us and tries to take us down in the form of a heart attack, a stroke or in my case breast cancer. Those sharks can come out of the blue. It is not your fault or mine if you get attacked. Is it fair? Don’t we have enough to deal with? Oh, I gave up on that one a long time ago because it leads nowhere. Is survival imminent? I sure hope so because life is good and all we can do is perform all those actions we have been doing and that is to seek the best possible medical care, follow the rules laid out and keep loving life. The human attitude can be a powerful harpoon against a shark attack. Don’t think you have a harpoon? I’ll bet you do and it will be there when or if you need it, like a magic sword.
My friends enjoy your walk along the shore of life. Beware of those sneaker waves. Enjoy the sunshine on your face and be sure to wear your sunscreen. Wiggle your toes in the sand of your life, open your eyes to experience the beauty around you and be faithful to yourself, your family and your body. Take care because we know there are dangers such as sharks lurking out there but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the walk. If you get attacked by a shark, learn from that courageous young woman surfer Bethany Hamilton who survived a shark attack with grace and most of all courage. Only a fool ignores the dangers and remains uninformed but you can’t let fear rule your world or before you know it life and time have passed and been wasted.
Enjoy yourself as best you can, but remember to wear a hat because there are seagulls out there and you know what they like to do.