I’ve been at this chronic illness business for many years now. I’m still here, obviously, so I must have received some good care along the way. It hasn’t hurt, on my behalf to be an RN. Little did I know when I went to nursing school that much of my knowledge would be used on “moi.” Life is full of strange little ironic “gotcha’s.” Somebody in the great, heavenly upstairs definitely has a sense of humor, obviously loaded with irony. For instance, the other day I was having my usual IBS problem of chronic constipation and headed once more for the bathroom. My husband had left a can of WD-40 sitting beside the toilet. I don’t believe he did it intentionally but it still cracked me up.
I can’t remember the last time my life, particularly my health, was easy. When our bodies betray us more than usual, with another load to carry, along with the usual daily pain, most of us also experience many emotional ups and downs. How can we not? After all, we’re only human. We often expect too much of ourselves. It’s okay to let go and let it out when the pressure builds up. If we don’t, that little spout just may spiral and come flying off the pressure cooker. When the problems pile on, it’s a strain, an aggravation and a royal pain in the tush. On those days when joints cry out, the back is also screaming for attention and some idiot at the insurance company or pharmacy has done something stupid to screw up my medical care, I really feel that pressure building. Then the oncologist wants another CT Scan to check on the progress of my cancer and that about does it. The tears flow, I lift my arms toward heaven and screech, “That’s too much! Too much, do you hear me God?”
I was sitting in the doctor’s office one morning and two other patients who obviously knew each other were chatting. One said, of a third party they were discussing, “Boy, she’s had more than her share.”
I couldn’t help but wonder, what is one’s share? Is it pain that you rate a 5 on that less than perfect pain scale or is it a 10? Is your share one year, two or a whole lifetime? Is there some heavenly creature with a huge scale, weighing and measuring how much we each have to endure? Does that same celestial creature say, “No, stop! That person has had more than her/his share. It’s time to spread it around a bit. Check out that jolly soul driving that Lexus down there. Let’s give him a share; he hasn’t had a turn lately.” Nope, shares don’t play into this whole chronic pain business. If they did, I think I’d be due a refund.
Each of us has our own unique way of dealing with emotional overload. It’s been my experience we sometimes divide ourselves along gender lines. Of course, there are lots of crossover behavior types. As a general rule, the men I’ve known have shown their anger and frustration by pounding on a wall, hitting the gas pedal with extra vigor or just going off in a funk with a grumbling desire to be left alone. The women I have known, including me, usually go the crying route accompanied by bitching, whining and chatting away.
How much can one person be expected to take? Holy Cow, by golly, and all those dirty phrases I will try to rise above, I will confess I do swear more than I used to for a little Baptist girl who went to a Christian college. They’re just words and sometimes, they feel damn good when life has piled on top of you and you just feel you can’t take another thing. There are times I simply state, “I’m really feeling bitchy today, you may not want to be around me.” I try not to take the Lord’s name in vain, but since I’m an RN and have studied anatomy, I do get a certain amount of relief and pleasure from saying, “Oh Shit!” There, I’ve said it. I’m only human.
Another approach I usually choose is humor. Maybe, I shouldn’t say choose because it actually chooses me. My daughter and I have been known to get uncontrollable giggles at times when one of us is fatigued, when we are shopping for hats or when the situation is too ludicrous to be taken seriously. When my husband, Jim, had a particularly bad day at work at the local county jail, and believe me those felons can make you want to commit one; that’s when I would put in one of our favorite funny movies and laughter always works for both of us.
Animals always hit the button in the humor department. I don’t know how people live without at least one little four footed critter to bring joy, unconditional love and laughter into a home. All animals are the best therapy but the most common are cats and dogs. Their antics can open a sunny window on even the darkest days. A beloved Saint Bernard we had many years ago could jump up onto our bed out of pure joy when we came home, and in one crazed circle unmake the complete bed. She adopted a tiny new mini-schnauzer pup we had and he her as she walked around with him hanging onto her neck. It was a hilarious sight but we had to put a stop to it when her neck developed sores from his teeth marks. We have so many hilarious memories of her and since Jim worked nights for many years she was my constant companion. One night I was bathing her in our over-sized tub when suds flying she flew out of the tub, running through the house. It wasn’t as humorous at the time as it is now, I must confess. Why I didn’t break my neck on all the water and suds on the floor, I do not know. Large dogs and small, we have a hundred stories to tell and the humorous ones dominate as the only sad ones were rare and thankfully so. We choose to have smaller dogs as we age yet the humor and love they resonate continues.
I’ve seen individuals who have loving birds that sit on their heads or shoulders, giving love and humor. Others have cats that are such characters they are a constant source of entertainment. We had a wonderfully large, and fluffy orange and white cat who used to sleep on Jim’s head. Cats love surprises and we’ve had our share of those who love to leap out and grab your ankle or foot. Our Yorkie we have now does that with tennis shoes, bigger the better for him to chase and bark at. There is no question about it. If you want to have more joy in your life, get a pet.
Another act I love and have often fallen back on is singing. You all know the routine because I’ve shared it previously. If I am sad, discouraged or particularly full of self-pity, I belt out “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen;” always works for me. I can’t make it through all the way without cracking up. Another favorite of mine, as my body gets older and sagging sets in is an old camp song, “Do your ears hang low, can you wag them to and fro, can you tie them in a knot, can you tie them in a bow? Can you throw them o’er your shoulder like a continental soldier; do your ears hang low?” It’s not my ears I’m usually singing about. It’s everything. Gravity is a formidable enemy to physical beauty. With all of my problems, how in the world can I still be concerned about how I look? I don’t know, maybe I’m shallower than I thought I was or just maybe, it’s a good thing to want to present a good front, back and side. I just feel better when I keep my hair cut; bathe everyday; wear a dab of lipstick and yes, I confess, keep the gray away. Okay, so I’m shallow, I just know what works for me. By golly, I’m out to survive and make no apologies about it. Like the unsinkable Molly Brown, I may be down but I’m not out, by thunder. Fight the good fight my friends and we’ll suck the most out of this marrow bone of life we’ve been given. After all, we’re only human.