I have lived with multiple, serious chronic illnesses for many years. I am also a life-long Chicago Cubs fan. The two don’t necessarily have much to do with each other, however this week and, I hope, the following couple of weeks, will bring these two “states of life” together in a way that most chronic-illness-suffering-Cubs-fans have never experienced – but oh, yes, have dreamed of.
This year might be the year.
Life with a chronic health condition can be (the good Lord willing) long, blessed, but fraught with challenges. So, too, is the life of a Chicago Cubs fan. When you have a chronic illness, you look forward to those days or periods when symptoms are moderate and life can be “relatively” normal. As a Cubs fan, you have lived year after year watching other teams make the cut, move into Post-season and ease into the World Series. They make it look so easy! And you think, “Eventually…someday…”
With chronic illness as with the Cubs, you never lose hope, of course. But hope can wear thin, even fray from the emotional and physical ups and downs. Those life-altering symptoms? Those “almost” seasons? They can bring exhaustion, frustration, disappointment, and heaps of stress. If you’re reading this, you know. Yes, you know.
So, this year, which might be the year, as we move into another phase of Post-Season play, I am paying special attention to my life with chronic illness and the Cubs’ progress. I understand that even good stress can put strain on our physical conditions, so I’m going to do what I can to alleviate it. Get more and good sleep and quiet. Stretch. Pray. Keep up with my doctor-prescribed exercise.
In addition, in the midst of the action, I will try not to raise my voice (much) when the Cubs score runs. I will try not to pull a muscle or knock over anything when they win a game. I will try not to reach for snacks that hearken back to my childhood times at Wrigley…much (!). I will not verbalize my memories of watching Leo “the Lip” Durocher, er, “relate” to any of the umpires on the field (or off). And I will do my best to take a deep breath before every crucial at-bat or pitch so as to keep calm and relaxed…as much as possible.
The picture above shows a coffee mug that I’ve held onto for many, many years. It’s from the 1969 Cubs, another amazing team. Good memories. Not “The” Season…but still not shabby. It makes a fine vessel for water that I use to down my daily meds. That “spoonful of sugar” baseball-style…
So, as the next days unfold, my fellow chronic-illness-suffering-Cubs-fans, take good care. Be well. And remember, there’s always hope!
Whether I am out or at home, going through a medical test or waiting for a prescription, I pray. I might recite a prayer that I’ve memorized, or I might just carry on a more free-form conversation with God. But however I do it, prayer accompanies me everywhere I go and remains a constant activity when I’m not out in the world.
That’s the beauty of prayer: Even when we’re isolated from our church communities, friends, and family, we can always pray. The more we do it, the less lonely we feel. The less lonely we feel, the more we are conscious of God’s loving presence and grace. We don’t have to rely on those dogearred copies of old magazines in our doctors’ waiting rooms. We don’t have to worry that we’re missing out on social events or other activities beyond our ability (for the time being, at least).
Of course, prayer is not just in the words we speak or think. It is also an act of listening, another part of prayer that contains beauty and helps foster inner calm and peace. When we pause in our verbal conversation and tune our ears in to listening, we provide God with the opportunity to respond to us, imparting wisdom and perhaps direction over something that might be problematic for us. I have done this more than once when I wanted to understand how to communicate a new, unfamiliar symptom, or even when I was undiagnosed with lupus but suspected something was very wrong with my health. Then, I really lifted up a prayer of “Please give me the words to say, because I don’t know what’s going one.” And, the Holy Spirit brought inspiration and, yes, the right words to say at just the right time.
We can take prayer with us, no matter where or when. And as we do, we will be ever-more aware of the protection, comfort, and calm that faith and beautiful prayer bring.
How wonderful it is to have faith! Despite the stresses in the world and the way some denigrate those who believe, persecuting people because they turn to Jesus, my faith in the Lord is the light that makes all the trials of chronic pain and illness tolerable. When I’m felled by a flare, it is Jesus who lifts me up. When I’m saddened by unkind words from unthinking people, it is His Word that reduces my sorrow to nothing but a faint memory and fills my heart with gladness, instead.
God’s promise of heaven for those who believe brings me absolute joy and a better goal than pleasing the whims of people who might insist that faith is foolish. Indeed, when I reflect on how greatly God loves me – and you! – I cannot help but smile and lift up hearty thanks.
Today, if you are hurting, if someone has insulted you or tried to steer you from your faith, I pray that the pain from such physical or emotional infliction will dissipate as you reflect on Jesus, the love that flows from Him and into our absolute DNA. Hold on to faith, and the pain of being ostracized will soon be replaced by Someone in whom there is only joy.
P.S. The “analytics” offered by this blog program tells me my Content is “Bad.” How so like a computer!
My heart goes out to all who had to weather (no pun intended) Hurricane Matthew. From Haiti to Cuba to the U.S. East Coast, it was terrifying to watch the monster storm move and it must have been even more terrifying to live through it, even if you had to evacuate.
How well I know, though, that the challenges are not over for many people. In the aftermath, clean up, assessment and rebuilding will take months. The emotional recovery will take even longer, especially as many deal with losses of homes, communities, and loved ones.
I’ve lived through many natural disasters, even a hurricane. So, I understand this period “after,” when there is much to be done but still an inner sense of time standing still sorrow, shock, and grief. What has helped me most is, first, knowing and saying that there is only so much that can be taken care of in one day, one month, one year. In my book, Don’t Panic!: How to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough, I offer St. Francis’ words as a construct for preparing for a crisis and handling the aftermath: “Start by doing the necessary, then the possible, and soon, you are doing the impossible.” One step, one thing at a time.
Perhaps “the necessary” right now is to take care of yourself and your family. Reinforce the feeling of safety. Consult with medical professionals. Shore up love, support, and compassion. Then, perhaps the “possible” is looking at any damage (internal or external) and see what is possible to salvage, bandage, build back.
The “impossible” is often driven by hindsight. From afar, many crisis seem so terrible that we think we could never live through them. Yet, as you are on the ground now, in the aftermath of the storm, you have lived through it. You have done what you thought was impossible, thanks be to God! And He is still holding you as you move through these next days.
There is some relief in acknowledging that you are doing “the impossible.” There is some surge of energy. And there is hope, too.
After Hurricane Matthew, there is life. Love. And no matter what the damage, there is healing through the compassion of good people and the love of Our Lord.
I’m with you in prayer and thought in this “after.” May it be the beginning of bright days ahead!