Most days I feel like that cartoon picture of Bambi on ice. If I don’t move I’m in trouble but if I do move; who knows? As we age and simultaneously watch our bodies fall apart, some of us more than others, we can become dismayed, disoriented and discouraged. Where does peace lie in all this mess of “disses” or is it even attainable? Here we are living with and in pain every day and counting the losses in all the other areas of our lives. We’ve lost our appearance, our function, our form if you count all the bodily changes and for many of us all or most of our social life. As for me, I was never a raving beauty but I did used to be attractive, stand up straight and have enough of a figure to draw a glance or two. I used to be free to socialize, sit and walk freely. So much of that is gone for me; how about you?
During this holiday season we are often wished peace on earth and that doesn’t seem too likely this year for the world but that doesn’t mean we have to give up entirely on the whole idea. We pray for the leaders of this world, both good and evil and vote according to our beliefs but much of it is out of our hands. I believe in order to find peace we have to look for it first within ourselves. Many people confuse peace with happiness or joy. I see them as two entirely different packages or gifts; although they are closely related.
Personal peace has to go all the way to your core, including your core values and beliefs. For many of us it is a sense of personal faith in a power greater than we are. For others it is in the comforting rituals of religion and for others, it is as personal a quest as finding love can be. Do you remember when you were a child in school and you’d be searching for commiseration over some math problem and your mother would say, “Put it away. It will all make more sense in the morning”? That is, I believe how it is to find joy, peace and love. You have to sow the field of yourself, rest quietly and let them come to you. Therefore, let’s talk about sowing the fields of our minds and hearts.
I know that all sounds pretty dry and cerebral but let me explain. When we are in a constant state of pain, we become agitated. Peace cannot be attained with agitation, worry and anger. It just isn’t a fertile soil for it to grow in. Life becomes a sort of confusing mess because we become so angry in our agitated pain-filled state we can’t achieve peace and around and around it goes. Each of us have to find our own answers but I can, for the sake of this blog, share some of the methods that have helped me with all of you.
In my own quest for coping with all the joint pain I live with every day, I use the power of joy. That’s one of the reasons I love animals, children and yes, even the laugh lines of Facebook, cartoons, light films. Each of us sharing a laugh can bring about a relief of that horrible tension living in pain can produce. Joy is all around us if we have the eyes to see it. It’s in films, TV, human behavior and often in ourselves and our own behavior.
In the early years of my illness I talked about my pain constantly. I was deeply frustrated by the years it took to get a diagnosis. I think I was trying to engender sympathy from others but had to eventually learn that sympathy is a shallow pool indeed for bathing and for the basis of a relationship. Understanding and true empathy can go much further to soothe a troubled soul. I also believe my constant chatter was my way of accepting these diseases that befell on me.
I also used to cry a great deal and still do but not nearly so often and not for the same reasons. I cried for myself out of self-pity and frustration but found it to be a wet and lonely place. I simply learned to prefer joy and laughter. It’s difficult to laugh and cry at the same time unless you’re laughing so hard at something it’s causing you to cry. When I cry now it is out of physical pain, because I don’t take nearly enough medication for complete relief of the pain. I cry out of frustration over some stupidity I observe has happened to me or someone I care about. I cry in sad movies, when reading sad stories or those of triumph over hardship and am totally unashamed for doing so. As far as my remark about not taking strong pain medication, I decided many years ago I would rather endure the physical pain my body can produce than to be going through life in a stupor. I just don’t like it and find it also dangerous for those of us who are in danger of falling or hurting ourselves by some clumsy act. Heavy drugs also rob us of our independence, i.e. driving, etc. I’ve seen a lot of abuse of prescribed drugs in my own family and have seen the damage they can do to the body, the mind and extended family.
At one time in my nursing career I worked as a Director of Nursing at a hospital with an alcohol rehabilitation wing and wanted to learn to do all that the rehab nurses were doing. I went on rounds with the doctors each day and vividly remember one elderly woman who was asked, “When did you start drinking?”
She replied, “Oh, I can’t remember when I didn’t. My pappy had a still outback and I used to drink what was left in the jars. I musta’ been about seven or eight years old.” All those years she went on to explain, were like fog to her. She couldn’t remember segments of her life amounting to many years in some cases. Imagine what that would be like. I also observed over the years that people who are stoned or drunk, even with good cause, don’t realize what fools they often make of themselves and never note how dangerous it is to be walking, driving and interacting with others, especially children and small animals. Life is full of so many natural “highs.”
I’ve explained that part of my life to you as an explanation for why I’m against heavy drug use but my reasons are more vast than that. Among my problems with rheumatoid diseases, I also suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and simply can’t tolerate the chronic constipation that most of the narcotic drugs induce. I’m a writer and I need a calm stomach and a clear mind. I have become adept at finding other methods for alleviating pain and use many of them such as heat, ice, stretching, etc. No, I’m not a martyr and have not come to like my pain, in fact on most days, my body and I are barely on speaking terms but my mind has to be in charge. Peace has to come from the soul, the mind and lastly, the body. As for joy, I think that starts in the brain then sort of trickles down and bubbles in the gut. I think joy is good for us and we need more of it in order to find peace. It is not possible to have more than one thought at a time. When the pain becomes my primary thought I have learned through painful days and nights to use distraction through simply thinking of something else which is more uplifting, reading, music, TV, etc. The world is full of distraction and when we gaze at our own navels too long…well, you know what happens; that’s all we see. Pain behaves like a spoiled child when given too much attention and time. It, like a spoiled child will dominate your life and steal more than it already has.
I’d like to share an anonymous poem I probably have previously shared. Please gain some peace this holy season from its words and significance.
“I asked God for strength, that I might achieve
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey…
I asked for health, that I might do greater things
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things…
I asked for riches, that I might be happy
I was given poverty, that I might be wise…
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God…
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things…
I got nothing that I asked for—but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all men, most richly blessed!”
Be blessed my friends this Christmas in spite of what life throws at you. You and I have been given life; let us enjoy all things.