A MAGIC MEDICINE CHEST FOR STRESS
What an interesting idea. Wouldn’t it be great to have a magic chest where we could go for cures or remedies for life’s stressful situations? This chest would have much in it much like Mary Poppins satchel. Remember the lamp she removed? Yes, it would have to be magic. Every one of us have a medicine chest in our bathrooms and they are filled with pills of all shapes and sizes, toothbrushes, creams of all types, but is there anything in there to make stress disappear? I know there may be a pill or two that is appealing but the stress doesn’t really go away with a prescription; it is simply numbed for a while. When the numbness and the effects of the medication or alcohol if that’s your preference leave, the stress is still there, lurking or sometimes screeching.
We seem to be surrounded by stress and as a world we are suffering from the fatigue of that stress. Politicians are blasting out their messages, the news is insane, madmen are killing and nations are dissolving and yet, here we are, those who suffer chronic pain and chronic illnesses, already stressed to the limit. It is a bit surprising the world as a whole doesn’t have hypertension, bleeding ulcers and migraines, don’t you think? Is it possible for us to have a collective nervous breakdown? Where can we go to escape the madness? Don’t we have enough challenges without adding onto the pile we already carry every day of our lives?
Speaking for myself, and I always do, I find I don’t handle stress as well as I used to. I often ask myself, after I’ve calmed down, “Why?” I believe living with chronic pain can make us so on edge we often feel like Atlas and find the world far too heavy. That’s when it’s time to put it down. I find I awaken to disappointment to find my problems are still there and have to be faced anew each day. If I could escape my body just for a little while, how grand that would be. I wish I could get this lobster that grasps my rear end all the time off of me. Now there’s an image one can find cartoonish but that is the reality of sacroiliitis and it fits, uncomfortably but fits. Perhaps I am influenced by living on the coast in my choice of a lobster claw. I could just as easily have referenced the metaphor of sitting on a pitch fork or something more pastoral but I think you get the picture.
People are usually surprised when I write or say something humorous about all the physical problems I face but I don’t see why? Having a pain in the tush is funny if it’s not your tush. When I tell someone, anyone from a doctor to a perfect stranger I have pain in my ass, they always smile; therefore, it must be humorous. I’ve lived with it for a long time and when you add a dozen other problems, many of them painful to an already painful rear, well, any stress from an ant on the floor to a mad bomber can send you over the edge. My nails are often ragged from clinging to that edge but I haven’t fallen in yet. I may be a bit grumpy, depressed or angry but I’m still holding on.
Why don’t we see if that magic medicine chest has something in it for the rigors of this way of life and the stress that is induced both inside and outside of our bodies? Since the medicine chest I envision is here at home, close at hand, we don’t have to travel far which is a thought many of us can embrace. Funny, isn’t it how the shortest and most mundane things in life can become gargantuan when you are handicapped? We just have to use stronger tools I guess, what else? Let me tell you about my magic medicine chest that I often have to reach into for the sheer joy of survival.
Sue’s magic medicine chest is full of hopes, dreams and yes, even an aspiration or two. We cannot live without something to look forward to. When your world becomes smaller and smaller and your limitations pile up like logs blocking the roadway, you often have to search a bit harder to find some light in the darkness in order to move forward. Forward is a wonderful word, isn’t it? Standing still is boring and although it may be painful, forward is our only choice for survival. We can’t go back and reclaim a healthy self, if we sit still and don’t move that is tantamount to dying, therefore, forward march, crawl, limp or scoot.
I understand darkness and despair but I don’t really care for them. I often have to walk away from them. That’s why there is always a light shining in my magic chest to dispel the darkness of depression and self-pity. It doesn’t really matter how long the list may be or the rationale for being in despair, it is a dead end street, a hole in the road and a waste of life all wrapped in a grey package. You might want to say to me, “But you don’t know how awful my life is!” Yes, my dears I do understand but you still can’t take a free ride on it because life is moving on. Hear that ticking sound? Listen carefully for it. Hear it? That’s your life and mine ticking away. Guess I’d better be sure to have a nice large clock in the chest, just as a reminder.
So many of the remedies for life are things you find around the house like the love of a worthy companion and a loving pet. There’s just something about a hug, whether it is given or received coming from a person or a pet. Life reaching out to life is always doubled or tripled in size. So much joy sitting right there in front of us. Plant life can be pretty wonderful, too. Just look, for instance, at the lowly geranium. My son gave me a beautiful red geranium this weekend. It is a wonderful candy apple red, actually the same color as my car, and I love it. Geraniums just keep blooming all spring and summer and will not be deterred as long as they have sun and water. Whenever we grab the clippers to dead head the spent blooms, there are always wonderful new, tiny hopefuls waiting to take their place. My home is full of African violets that keep reproducing. A couple of them have to sustain themselves beneath lamps for part of the day but I think it is worth it to see the white, violet or deep purple blooms with their tiny yellow hearts. They don’t question life as long as they have the basics. Oh, to have the optimism of a flowering plant. Why can’t we humans get more joy out of just being alive? I think it’s because we have regrets and we don’t like change. For many of us the change is ruthless and painful but it only wins if we forget to go forward. If we let it sit on us and beat us to death, well, that’s it.
Another vital item for the medicine chest has to be one’s own personal philosophy and faith. I happen to be a Christian and believe God has my back. I’m not always happy with His decisions but I know He will not ever let me down. He never has. I’m not always polite in my conversations with God but I know He understands just like any loving father does. For instance, one of my favorite whines is, “Gees, when are you going to give me a break?” I have not had a bolt of lightning strike me down…yet. We don’t always agree, but eventually I come around or something interesting and often wonderful happens in my life. My idea of wonderful is very personal and I think it should be for each of us. Whether we are disabled or in pain we are still individuals with talents, gifts and ideas of our own. We are each unique to this world and need to explore our own hearts and minds for answers and spend less time on the old self-pity path.
We have to look very deeply into the chest on some days to find humor but humor is to us what the sunshine is to the geraniums. We need it in order to live, to connect and to persevere. When life gets a bit too foggy and thick around here we always put in a humorous show or DVD. I got my husband some of the old Carol Burnett shows on DVD for Christmas and we’ve been watching the joy in those. Watching other human beings interact, be silly and laugh is wonderful fertilizer for the soul. Yes, we have to have joy and laughter in our magic chests to combat fatigue and sorrow.
Where are we as we gaze into our individual magic medicine chests? I can’t speak for you but I have discovered mine is filled with remedy after remedy in the form of sunshine, ticking clocks, hopes, blooming flowers, dreams and warm hugs both given and received. It is full of faith and that is a challenge these days when life inside and outside our bodies is so tense and yes, painful but it helps me to know and truly believe that good is stronger than evil, that life has healing answers for me and love is stronger than hate. Don’t give up my friends. Life is just that; life giving, nurturing and miraculous.