According to the Oxford English dictionaries, there are many uses for the word “deadhead.” It can apply to a follower of the rock group the Grateful Dead. Most days I exemplify a non-existent group called the Grateful Alive. Deadheading can identify a lazy, boring or unenterprising person. Again, many days this one applies, doesn’t it? The term is also used for a train or truck which returns to base with no money-making load. There were several more definitions for that word but today, I am most interested in the definition, “a faded flower head or to remove dead flower heads from a plant.” I do, however, see how many of the other definitions apply to those of us who have chronic pain.
I love flowers. Their colorful imaginations, their fragrance and their ever-changing status are all inspiring to me. I love the way they reach for the sun with their flowers and stems, seeking life. The first thing I do each morning when able to descend our stairs to our first floor, where our living room and kitchen are located, is to open the front door and say hello to our front porch. This time of year, I especially love to see how beautifully all my dozen plants in pots, on the front porch are blooming and, hopefully, thriving. I love to put on garden gloves and take my trusty clippers in hand and cut off any flowers that have fulfilled their bloom. I do this for two reasons. Our old, old porch is a painted surface and some of the flowers petals, when they fall onto the surface, can discolor it if they are left there for too long; especially red geranium blooms with strong natural red dye. The other, more important reason I deadhead my booming plants every few days is because it is better for the flowering plant. All of the plants energy can then go into producing new and more abundant flowers. I feel it is the plants way of saying “thank you” for my human interaction as they double up on their blooms and do it rapidly. After all, plants are living things.
I know that sounds a bit peculiar to some. Yes, I do talk to my plants, just like I talk to George, our little Yorkie. My wonderful spouse has no affinity for plants. I often get a look from him that is indescribable. He doesn’t know one from another nor does he want to. I think that’s what makes life and marriage so interesting at times; we are different creatures. His specialty and soft spot is animals. We do agree on that interest and love. There is a respect for life that seems to grow deeper, or I should say, has for me as I’ve battled my health for many years. I’ve become a sort of cheer leader for anything and all things living.
When you deadhead a flower, you are removing something that has performed what it was created to do and is now ready to go into yet another cycle of life to make room for new growth. Yes, that’s what this is all about for me. The other day, clippers in hand, I realized the importance for all of us, sick or well to acknowledge the importance of moving on, deadheading the factors, people and events in our lives which are preventing us from growing, thus moving on.
Regrets, grudges, guilt and so many other human emotions which we call “baggage” need to be deadheaded from our lives. The gentlemen who founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith understood the concept of moving on as part of their recovery program. They came up with their brilliant 12 step program which is a fine guide for many of us who are not alcoholics to follow. This is particularly true in their “suggested” requirement most alcoholics need to make amends with those in his/her past. Deadheading. Don’t we all need to do this to move on, to grow, to overcome?
Being struck with disease, for many of us at a young age, causes in all of us regret and yes, anger because no one plans to have a life of disability and limitations. We like to think we are in charge of our lives but in actuality, we cannot always be. You know that. I know that. We flail around, seeking answers and getting many, we don’t like. It would be so simple to become a “deadhead” and use drugs or alcohol to kill the pain, both physical and emotional. These are short term fixes for a long-term problem and they each bring with them even more problems. Problems piled upon problems. It’s not a pretty picture or way to live.
I have had two close relatives who became so overwhelmed by the physical pain and limitations brought on by them, they had to escape into drugs and alcohol. Many of the legal drugs we are prescribed for pain and illness are so precise in their application they are not to be “screwed” with. One of my sweet relatives liked prednisone’s effect so much she took it by the handful. Differing doctors, different pharmacies would re-supply her and if there was a problem she would say she lost the bottle of pills while traveling or spilled them into the sink by mistake. She was told but would not face what the drug was doing to her. Her bones were slowly eroding and disappearing from overdosing on the steroids. Her cervical vertebra disappeared and had to be replaced with screws, nuts and bolts. The osteoporosis in her bones was so bad she eventually lost most of her leg bones and died without a knee.
Yet another person I love very much has been taking Vicodin around the clock for years along with massive amounts of alcohol. Since we live in a state where marijuana is legalized, it has become a question for me and an honest answer to my pain and others who suffer. I do not, nor have I ever smoked, and with Sjogren’s syndrome with all its dryness, I can’t envision it. I have tried a rub on oil with THC in it but have found it no better than hemp oil, straight CBD which does not have the hallucinogenic in it. You don’t absorb enough oil through the skin to feel any high with the THC rubbing oils. Remember, hemp is legal in all states and is used for many purposes, even cooking oil. I guess for me the big standard is that of the physicians’ creed, “First do no harm.” I have had to stop some of my medications which were more harmful than helpful. Two of them caused GI bleeds and another caused me to lose my peripheral vision. I do have constant pain and no I am not a masochist. I just don’t want to miss out on this joyous experience called life. I want to see it through clear eyes, assimilate what I see with a clear mind and savor each day…don’t you?
This is a rough, hard, ugly journey many of us travel. We each find out own way of doing it and I have often wondered, if I were not a nurse, would I make unwise and dangerous choices? I don’t know. Pain is a remarkable enemy and a stubborn one. It is up to each of us to choose. Do we want to be a “deadhead,” tuning out the wonderful parts, people and aspects of life or do we want to live to our fullest, whatever that may be? Or are we going to be that empty train, traveling back to the station with an empty load, wasting the last half of our journey?
I urge you my friends who suffer, deadhead that which harms you whether it is a thing, a person or a memory. Reconcile your life and make room for that new growth which can be yours and mine. Awe, come on. We can still have fun. Find it in your spouse, your pets, your plants and all of life which is stirring around us. Find it in love as I love each of you for hanging in there with me over the years.