Searing. Exhausting. Oppressive.
These and other words are often used to describe the high heat of the summertime. And they’re also words that we use to describe pain, especially the kind of pain that is chronic and unrelenting.
This summer has been a very tough one for high temperatures and chronic pain, and one of the things that I’ve been trying to do to “cool off” is return a bit to my childhood, especially the fond memories I have of escaping the heat (we didn’t have air conditioning when I was growing up) by cocooning in the local library and devouring book after book. How I loved going to all those interesting places, meeting amazing characters, and diving into stories woven in different times! No “hard-hitting” novels, then, but rather “juvenile” fiction – the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis, the Wizard of Oz books, Misty of Chincoteague and the other “horsey” novels. I just last week finished reading my first “Freddy the Pig” book by Walter R. Brooks, and am now moving on to my second. What fun! And what a fun way to cool off!
These escapes are not just in the realm of youth. We adults can also cocoon in cooler climes with our favorite characters from childrens’ and young adult literature – and discover more that have been written since. We can lose ourselves in those intriguing stories, creative scenarios, and characters that seem to become friends and who beckon, “Leave your pain, the heat of suffering. Come. Linger. Read. Enjoy!”
The heat will continue to bear down, and time passes anyway. Why not spend it with an old, cool friend?
It might not seem as if we have many choices when our priority is to stave off flares, infections, and other consequences of living with a chronic illness. But there are some things over which we have control, and one of the “big” ones is how we approach each day.
I recently wrote about clothes shopping, and wnat to continue with this analogy here. I honestly can say that I’ve never shopped for clothing that will make me look terrible. On purpose, of course. Sometimes, what seems to look good in the store doesn’t translate to everyday life. But what I’m talking about here is purposefully choosing clothing that is utterly unattractive. I, and most people, I think, just don’t do it.
Why is this?
Most of us do want to look decent, at least, and good, at best. Yes, even if we have an illness that renders us unrecognizable to ourselves adn long-time family and friends!
So, why then would any one of us choose to approach our precious days with an ugly or even pessimistic attitude?
The obvious answer to this is, well, some days are difficult, if not horrible. Filled with pain, setbacks, flares, and disappointments. But while this is true, this doesn’t mean we have to internally be drawn down completely by these negatives. Although we might feel frustration, anger, and other “uglier” emotions, we can also think our way past them somewhat by deciding to be more positive. To find the silver lining. To recognize the blessing that God is giving, even in the midst of our suffering.
As with clothes shopping, each of us has a specific budget we have to work within (energy, physical resources, time in the cycle of our illness and pain). We also have finite parameters (our size, height, age, etc.). And we might even have so much pain that we have limited desire to pull ourselves out from under our burden.
But it’s important to remember that, while we have limitations, God does not. He’s actually with us as we “shop” each day, making choices that will either enhance or continue to weigh down our mood and either bolster or burden our spirit. He’s that voice that tells us “that smile looks great on you,” and “here, here is something to help you laugh/look upon the world with wonder/reach out to someone with my love.”
Think of it – God is our personal shopper! And, with him in our corner, we’ll undoubtedly look our best, no matter what our budget!
When our pain is severe, it can be difficult to sleep. Even if we’re able to doze, we often awaken with pain, and those wee hours can stretch onward, bringing more anxiety and, yes, more pain.
But some of that anxiety can be alleviated if we understand that, even while we are sleeping, God is working. He is watching over us, protecting us, ever aware that we, his beloved children, need our sleep in order to function well and to do his work.
Our bodies, too, are working while we sleep, and the more we focus on quieting our minds and hearts, the more we will enable those vital processes of rejuvenation to occur – and the more refreshed we will feel when we do awaken.
The world continues to move and shape while we sleep, and we can understand that this will occur even without our worrying about it, remaining awake at night fretting over things over which we have little control. This understanding can calm us and help us rest comfortably.
Recognizing our sleep process is important for us to know what we need to allow our bodies to rest. A good physician can help us understand our sleep patterns and whether there are any medical aspects of sleep that we need to be aware of and/or treat. A journal of what we do before we go to bed, and our patterns while snoozing, can help us and our docs assess the medical and, perhaps, psychological parts of our sleeping. But it is also important to utilize prayer – covering prayer – that accompanies us to our resting state. This prayer lifts up our cares, including those associated with sleep (or lack thereof), to the Lord, and in return, we can invite our worry and tension to dissipate so that, while we are sleeping, we are truly relaxed knowing God is working – and watching over us – all the while!
In between a “bad” day and a “good” day, there can be a “blah” day. Often, these are the kind of days where everything seems the same as every other day – same waking time, same breakfast, same closet full of the same clothes. Same work. Same school. Same meds, if you have an illness. Same exercise routine.
All of that sameness can make us detached from our lives, and potentially lead to boredom.
But, there is hope! And we have the solution at our fingertips – When we find that our days seem “blah,” instead of becoming bored, detached, and prone to complaining, how about making up something good. Change-up breakfast, your daily routine, your route to work or school. Invite someone you haven’t spoken with in a long time into your day and talk, exercise, laugh, and visit together.
Add good spice to your blah day – and taste the very good difference. You just might start something monumental that will enhance your life for days and years to come!