If a flare or excessive pain makes it difficult to reach out to friends (or post on any of the social media sites), we can become distanced very quickly. Beyond the walls of our home, life goes on. And when we emerge from our flare, it might seem as if we’re getting to know our friends or coworkers all over again!
Rebooting relationships isn’t easy, especially with people who don’t know us really, really well (and care about us really, really well). Looking at the situation from their side, it’s hard to get used to the fits and starts of friendship with someone whose health doesn’t allow them to be consistent in communication or physical presence. Looking at it from our side, when we’re in the trenches fighting to get out of a flare, we have precious little energy for much else besides that health-centered battle.
The main way that I stay emotionally and spiritually sanguine about life with lupus during the really bad, isolating times is through faith. No matter what the health situation is, as long as I remain in conversation with God and ask for His comfort and support, I feel at peace. This helps me reconnect with good friends who I know will be there even after a long time of disconnect, and it helps me not worry about the more fragmented relationships that probably were not strong enough anyway. The ups and downs of lupus or any other chronic health condition are stark facts of life, and will not be something everyone will be able to handle. But God’s love, presence, and strength are ever present and ever active.
In a tangible way, if it is possible during a flare to just touch base briefly with good friends and other loved ones, this can help make rebooting swifter. If it is doable, asking for a weekly update from work can help keep you at least superficially in touch.
But the real connection happens when you emerge, feeling a bit better and hopeful for a time when you can enjoy the company of loved ones again. There’s nothing like a very heartfelt, “I’ve missed you! I love you! I’m so happy to be back. What’s been going on in your life?” to reboot and refresh all those relationships that make life a journey of joy.
Are there some places you just don’t go to? Some ideas or images that make you immediately close your eyes and mind? Is there something within you that’s frozen – with fear and panic.
This world can certainly bring on a sense of anxiety. And such worry can weigh heavily on us, making us heavier and heavier in spirit until, with all that weight, we lock up, frozen as we look at what’s happening and worse, what could
happen to us, our loved ones, and our “little corner” of the globe.
But still inside of us is a Spirit infused with courage and ingenuity that never leaves us. God-given, always ready, if we reflect on the potential the Spirit poses for us, we can warm to its blazing light, gain wisdom and begin to thaw. As we do this, we understand that there are tangible things we can do so that we are more effective in the world than we’d previously thought. We can take more, not less, charge of events and how they effect us. We can rise above pain and tragedy to experience God’s healing and goodness.
We can live in light, not sticking to the dark corners where we believe (erroneously) that more tragedy won’t tough us.
My new book, Don’t Panic!: How to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough, recognizes that crises will occur. There will be times when we’ll feel those fingers of iciness moving through us, threatening to freeze us from positive, practical action. But we can also act decisively to shake off the chills and thaw what’s frozen, for the better!
Last weekend’s newspaper carried a story of the annual environmental clean-up in one of the areas in Southern California. As we commemorate Earth Day on April 22, there will be many more, some along the shoreline and others in the alleys and sidestreets of more urban areas, and many will particpate. But many of us, who have chronic health conditions and/or ongoing, debilitating pain, will not be able to take part in any of these efforts.
It isn’t for lack of desire to help our Earth get cleaner and healthier. It’s because, at least for me, that these take place outdoors and I cannot be out in the sun. There is an increased risk of infection for someone on immunosuppressive drugs. The physicality of bending, picking up, carrying, and other activity on often uneven terrain is just not possible.
But this doesn’t mean I and others who suffer from health conditions cannot do some things to help the clean-up efforts. Here are some suggestions:
We can recycle our unused and expired medications responsibly. Besides regular drop-off points staffed by many municipalities, some pharmacies will accept these for recycling/responsible disposal. All we have to do is make the effort to find out what we can do in our area, and we’ll be helping, not harming, our ecology.
We can donate those things we no longer use, instead of merely discarding them. Clothing, furniture, medical assistance devices (canes, prescription eyeglasses, etc.) may not be useful to us anymore, but they might be a godsend for someone in need. Again, a little effort can make a huge difference for someone else!
We can appreciate our world and bring beauty to it. On the way to the doctor’s office, do we turn inward, musing over the pain we’re in and what lies ahead? Or, do we take the time to look around us and just appreciate the fact that we’re able to move about God’s awesome world? The more gratitude we feel, the more our hearts will fill with love. And the more love we have, the more we are able to bring comfort, joy, and grace to others. And the more we make an effort to beautify even a small corner of our home or outside world, the more we can participate in efforts to lift up this amazing Creation!
We can take good care – of ourselves. As we work with our doctors and other medical professions to be good stewards of our lives, we are also paving the way to have more time for prayer and positive thinking for those who are more able to carry out clean-up and other efforts.
Celebrate Earth Day – in whatever way you can! As your celebration continues, let joy and gratitude fill your heart and spill over into appreciation for this life and this world!
My gift for growing things, especially African Violets, is a true blessing, especially on the days when I feel low, am experiencing a lot of pain, and just need to cocoon. I’m also finding some important lessons from my plants, and one that I learned recently is quite, well, illuminating (pardon the pun!).
Turns out that one of the best ways to bring out the beauty of variegated foliage (leaves that have green, cream, white, and even pink coloring) is to put the plant in a dark place for several days! Yes, darkness can coax great – and vastly enjoyable – beauty out of an otherwise ordinary plant!
Isn’t it the same for us, too? We face so many challenges each day, many of which would ordinarily make us quite despondent. But when we approach these tough times with faith and keep God’s love foremost in our hearts, we soon see that even the darkest ordeal has glimmers of beautiful, uplifting light. A kind stranger. A turn for the better in our condition. An insight into Scripture or other aspect of our deep spiritual underpinnings. Even the taste of a savory or sweet food that makes us think, “Yum!” instead of “Yuk!” All of these and more are not confined to only the better times – we can experience them at all times, if we seek them out.
The picture above is of one of my plants that recently won a blue ribbon – and a prize for its varieagated folidage. It was a wonderful boost to my spirit to see this little plant on the “big” award table. And that boost, added to the many blessings that come even with the pain, remind me each day that God is awesome – and even darkness can bring light!
Joy and peace,