Like many of you, my friends, my shell is constantly getting me into trouble. I have always fallen into conflict due to my big mouth, my thoughts and my actions, but somehow, they are easier to deal with than having this body, my shell fall into disrepair. It’s an odd feeling, is it not, to feel so vital, so strong in spirit and thought and to realize this apparatus called body is falling down on the job. It’s an extremely personal betrayal.
I have always “taken good care of myself.” Isn’t that what we say to others and are often told? I realize it’s an important lesson for us and it is basically admonishing us not to smoke, drink or screw up our lives but there is more to this than that. There is the health component that is often driven by our ancestors and our DNA or genetic linkage. Apart from the DNA there is also the fickle finger of fate which can strike with accident, mishap or even some diseases like cancer, unusual neurologic diseases, and rare contagious ones, etc. So much can happen to us, it is indeed a risky world out there for shells and they are so vulnerable we can only do so much and then, the fickle finger arrives riding an ornery pink donkey. I don’t know what that means but I like the sound of it.
A shell can be a beautiful object to behold, in fact so lovely we often forget it is or was a home to some creature who has vacated it; but when it’s broken, cracked or smashed, its beauty may be lost but its original purpose is not. I love the intrinsic beauty of a shell which is a glorious example of God’s handiwork. Even the most humble among them, the snail shell, the clam shell and the crab shell have their own beauty in striations, colors and form. They are intended and designed to protect that living creature which dwells within. Keeping that in mind, my shell has really been disappointing me lately. The real me lies within and unlike other sea creatures, we have to keep our structure and shell all of our lives. If only we could slough, change or buy a new one. Certainly we can buy accessories but the basic structure; not so much. I guess we have to admit we are among the most vulnerable of creatures and have a protective shell in name only. After all, if you put your ear up to my chest you can’t hear the sounds of the sea; or at least if you do, be sure to let me know because I’m in deep trouble and will have to go to the hospital.
We each are often guilty of taking our bodies for granted and have no idea how abusive we are toward them when we are young. We each know what that is like and look back retrospectively and in some shame for some idiotic thing we did. If we didn’t behave like that we would never learn, move forward or have compassion. It’s the price we pay.
This last two years or perhaps, even longer, this outward body of mine has changed enormously. I have lost thirty pounds, am more stooped thanks to a crushed vertebra; have rounded shoulders from the mastectomy and arthritis in the shoulder joints and every other joint I own or owns me. I guess many days I feel like a mess. At least I admit it and wallow in it, which isn’t a bad thing to do unless I get stuck in that gear; then it’s time to learn, change or move on. That might mean going in to physical therapy, changing doctors to get another opinion or just getting up and getting out of the house to look at one of God’s wonders of nature. They are never far away. We have the most beautiful trees in the world here in Oregon, a large azure blue Columbia river, birds of all kinds flying through the air and all of life is constantly moving forward. It’s difficult to see from a bed or a couch. You and I have to mix it up a bit sometimes whether we feel like it or not.
One way we get on friendlier terms with our shells is to learn to love ourselves. We don’t always have to like what’s happening to us, the pain or the disease but we can always love our true selves. We can love the better sides of our personalities and occasionally the not so good quirks that are us. We can love the kind acts we perform and forgive ourselves for those that were not so kind. We can reveal and own our talents. Yes, we each have talents and are only limited from seeing them by our false modesty or sense of inferiority. Those have to go. This is crunch time. Why not? This is the only shell we’re issued and no, botox, new boobs or artificial limbs don’t count.
Part of loving ourselves is to hang onto our personal pride. Far too many of us stick too close to home, Garfield slippers on our feet, ratty once colored now faded bathrobe hanging from our sore bodies or that old sweat suit that is more sweat than suit. You don’t have to have money to look presentable. So often it’s the little things like painting your toe nails…girls only, usually but I don’t judge; getting a haircut or in my case cutting it myself, scrubbing off all the grime, shaving, well, whatever you want to shave. Clean clothes, fresh white or colors can make us feel better. Maybe your thing is worn, comfy jeans. Those jeans don’t have to serve as a map of your activities for the last month or reflect bits of all of the food you’ve eaten. They are very washable and get more comfortable with each wash. Life does not have to be grim, grime or soil. A touch of lipstick or aftershave can perk up the inner you as well as being a favor to the outer shell.
I always find it interesting to people watch. I always wonder what individuals are dealing with, what kind of home lives they have, what type of challenges they face. It’s also interesting to sit at the doctor’s office and notice how sick individuals adorn themselves or don’t. Sometimes I think people feel they have to look truly ratty for the doctor to think and/or realize they’re truly sick.
Another thing we can do to fool these shells which follow us around is by watching the attitude. We have the basic 24 allotted hours to live each day and they are much more pleasant when we are. It’s not always easy, I do know that. It’s such a funnel or slide sometimes into self-pity we must watch for it and beware. We each have different ways of pulling ourselves back up that slide and I say, “Whatever works.” Maybe it’s a humorous movie, turning off the news or reading an interesting article. Life can get us down, those of us who have these enormous challenges. That is not a ticket down the slide of life nor is it a free ride into Bitchville. Others should not have to pay the price for our illness or pain. We may have cracked shells but that’s no excuse to stop living until we are forced to. Even though shells may live forever, eventually ground into sand by the ocean and breezes of life, the creature that lives within is here for a limited time, making each day more precious to each of us, each day.
Shine up your shells my friends and let’s take them out for a walk, a push or a ride. Push them to keep them strong, preen them for your own comfort and pride and always keep their value in mind. They are our protection, our outward impression as well as that part of us others have to see so let’s try to make ourselves environmentally friendly, shall we?
This is truly the way of the world, the cycle of life as each of us deal with what we must while we attempt to remain friends with our bodies, our shells. Remember who is the real you and enrich that inner person each day as we attempt to defeat these mortal covers or shells.